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Friday, April 20, 2012

The Cabin in the Woods (Release Date: 4-13-2012)

        Stop me when you've heard this one before: Five normal (albeit, reeeeeeally old looking for their age) High Schoolers set off for a weekend getaway. Despite the fact that they're a pre-existing social circle, the youths all seem to perfectly fit into opposing stereotypes. There's the Jock (Chris Hemsworth), the Floozy (Anna Hutchison), the Stoner (Fran Kranz), the Heady Nice Guy (Jesse Williams), and, of course, the Virgin who serves as our protagonist (Kristen Connolly). Though their vacation starts as a jovial, sexually-charged affair, certain members of the group start to grow weary of their stomping grounds, the titular cabin. Yes, ladies and gents: You've just stepped into a horror flick, but The Cabin in the Woods might not be the exact movie you thought it would be. As a matter of fact, it's not even the same movie that writer/director Drew Goddard likely thought it was.

        It certainly isn't a true horror flick, that's for damn sure. Through prat-falls, soundtrack gimmickry, and a few cryptic cut-aways, The Cabin in the Woods reveals itself to be a farcical affair within its opening moments. Sure, things still pop out, and the requisite amount of blood is still spilt, but all of that seems sort of beside the point. As do the actors, for that matter, all relatively unknown, and here given character arches that ensure they remain unknown. No, The Cabin in the Woods is more focused on you, the viewer, and what you're used to in a movie, what you're comfortable with. It goes to great lengths to discuss this, piling on one meta-flick layer on top of another, and pulling of a pretty damn well-executed bait-and-switch at its finish. There's a good chance that Cabin is the most clever film of 2012 thus far, and while that might make it inherently brilliant in the eyes of some, I'll go ahead and take the stance that said shrewdness is actually the film's achilles' heel.

        Goddard's movie tries to prompt comparison to the horror flicks that it lovingly riffs on, but it's been beaten to the punch too many times for this to take place. Meta-Horror is nothing new to American audiences, who've recently seen a rag list, including Tucker & Dale vs Evil, Drag Me to Hell, and Scream 4. Cabin might be the headiest of the troupe, but in pursuit of proving its college-paper-like thesis, it forgets to provoke laughter, scares, or any real form of care. I understand that making fun of what's on screen will inherently detract from character sympathy, but there's no one on screen worth caring about at all. That's the problem of telling your audience exactly what's going to happen; Even if you're doing it to prove a point, the crowd still knows precisely what's about to go down. Some will point to the climactic twist as the film's true deviation from form, but the fact that a twist is coming is evident from a mile out. Even if you don't know what it is explicitly, doesn't anticipating a, 'gotchya!' kind of, you know, destroy the whole point of having a, 'gotchya!'? Cabin isn't a bad movie, per say. It has some fun artistic flourishes, and, like I said, it's smart stuff with an appropriately bonkers finale. But its attempts at scares feel so apathetic, its humor so phoned-in, and its actual plot so disinteresting, that no amount of smarty-pants genre-skewering can quite save it. It may be brilliant, it's just not that fun.

Grade: C+

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