Camp Crystal Fake-Out

The Cabin in the Woods is lying to you

What’s funny is that writer Joss Whedon and writer/director Drew Goddard are going to get praised for how original The Cabin in the Woods is.

It isn’t.

In fact, the entire fundamental concept of the film relies solely on existing themes and tropes, on the relentless repurposing of the same mundane series of ideas over and over again. It just gives us an excuse to devour those familiar elements like so much comfort food. And that’s precisely why it is so brilliant. Now, that may sound confusing, but considering how dumbed-down and revealing most movie marketing is these days, it’s kind of great to feel all turned around for once.

Because those who reveal spoilers are only slightly less vile than third-world dictators and people who pronounce the word “wolf” as “woof,” this review can’t cover the very things that make the film so durn fun. To talk about it without ruining it is to dance a particularly tricky jig. So let’s get to two-steppin’.

A quintet of cliches get into a Winnebago and drive to a place so reminiscent of the Friday the 13th setting, they may as well have called it “Camp Schmistal Shake.” There’s the virginal Dana (Kristen Connolly), the alpha-dog Curt (Chris Hemsworth), the trampy Jules (Anna Hutchinson), the brainy Holden (Jesse Williams) and the goofy Marty (Fran Kranz). These characters are the permanent residents of movies like this, but for once we are given a gleefully fun reason why that’s always the case.

That reason has to do with Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) and Hadley (Bradley Whitford), two mid-level managers in white shirts and ties, and has to do with the end of all reality as we know it. As the kids are tormented and tortured, the nature of this repetitive song-and-dance becomes clear. The result is a triumph of cleverness that makes this the finest horror film of the last decade. That’s practically an irrefutable fact.

By and large, horror is a tired genre. Worse than that, it’s so frequently lazy. What Whedon and Goddard have done is make that very fact their entire premise. The best part is that the trailers are underselling the scope of it all, concealing the colossally epic third act that is likely to remain among the best of the year.

It may be slight in nature, with a self-referential conceit that isn’t likely to find massive public appeal, least of all from the core horror audiences that made Paranormal Activity 3 a hit. But The Cabin in the Woods is proof that the wheel need not be reinvented so much as repurposed. Essentially, Whedon and Goddard stripped the rubber from that broken down old car, threw a rope in the middle and made us a tire swing to ride on.

Although this isn’t a Sixth Sense experience predicated on holding a reveal until the final moments, the less you know going in to this, the better. So see it now before the true movie villains, those dill-weeds who ruin things on social media, claim another victim.

Grade = A-
 

posted at 01:38 am
on Saturday, April 14th, 2012

COMMENTS

(We're testing Facebook commenting (you can login using other services, too); please let us know if you have trouble.)


 

« Previous Page


Slipping Mickey

Gather ‘round kids and hear a story from the days of yore, a time when artists drew cartoons with their actual human hands and not every children’s movie had covert sex jokes for ma and pa to...

more »


Marvel Blockbusts a Cap

With fight choreography pickpocketed from Baryshnikov and more leaping and bounding than Pooh’s friend Tigger on cocaine, Captain America (Chris Evans) makes beating the crap out of bad guys look...

more »


That Ship Cray

They gave the guy who made Requiem for a Dream $150 million to make a movie about Noah’s ark. Huh?! In Requiem, writer/director Darren Aronofsky had Jennifer Connelly connect with another woman via...

more »


Quirking on Something Different

To alter a phrase from Twain, who won’t mind because he’s dead, writer/director Wes Anderson repeated history until he figured out how to rhyme. Barring a brief foray into stop-motion animation,...

more »


Speedy and Irritable

The most important thing to know before attempting to endure the lumbering bore that is Need for Speed is this: every single character in the film is unspeakably dumb. Presumably set in a world...

more »







Advanced Search