Horror fans have had it tough over the past couple of years. Original and unique horror films are becoming fewer and fewer, particularly amongst the uninspired gore-filled trash that has begun polluting the horror genre of late. We've seeing a rise in Exorcist-like films where the demons come out to play, as well as those films that explore what else goes bump in the night.
Then there's those films with a group of stupid, sex-craved adolescences who meet their untimely demise by something pointy. The horror film's clichés are slowly being butchered. Hollywood's answer is simply to up the ante in the inevitable sequel; More blood, more scares and more boobs. It's a clear solution.
It may be a generalisation, but its a true one; Horror films are dumbing down and expecting a lot less of it's audience members.
Film Exec: "Here's a bunch of rowdy teens on a weekend retreat, a mysterious killer with a back-story worth about 2 minutes, no possible way of escape and a running time of 89 minutes. Go nuts. ... Oh by the way ... leave it open for a sequel"
Cabin is best thought of as a guide for the clichés of all horror films. It also is one of those films where knowing little about it, works in its favour. It's power comes from the deconstruction of the cliché conventions of a typical horror film. Five friends spend the weekend in a remote cabin in the woods and bad things begin to happen. Sounds pretty familiar right? It should. Well Cabin in the Woods invites you to take all that you know or all that you think you know, and pretty much reinvents it. It plays with the notions of stereotypes, particularly putting a spin on Clover's 'Final Girl' which began it's trend in the 1970′s. It's actually a tough film to review, particularly because of it's abundance of twists.
Ultimately, Cabin is as an expression of the current horror film climate we are experiencing. It plays with all the conventions that we've come so used to, and gives it a new form. This deconstruction works so well, due to the amount of comedy that is injected into the script. It almost comes to the point, particularly in the second half, where Cabin begins to feel a lot like a comedy. Not just any comedy mind you, its the trademarked self-aware, witty humour of writer/director/producer Joss Whedon. It is a grey area however, the line between comedy and horror is only just visible, and I'd probably say its more of a comedy than a horror.
One of the (many) highlights of the film is the character of Marty (Fran Kranz), who, in the most humorous ways, indirectly offers himself as the narrator to the audience. It's quite difficult to explain further, without ruining some of the 'twists' of the film. Essentially, he reflects the mindset of today's audiences: questioning the logic of splitting up, creepy basements never lead anywhere good, ... etc.
Drew Goddard, writer of Cloverfield takes the directors chair in his first feature-length film, and does a great job in showing us something different in a horror film. The first half of the film sets up a fair amount of questions and audiences are expected to pick out the conventions that are being played with. The rest of the fun comes in the film's second half, where (as with most horrors) shit hits the fan.
It's not the 'redefining' of the horror genre like most claim it to be, which I think is due to how analytical and self aware the film actually is. In its exploration of the conventions of horror films, it does limit the impact of the horror that is there; similar to Raimi's Drag me to Hell. Weirdly enough, that doesn't even matter. It's one of the most fun, thrilling 'horror' films out.
Sadly, Australia didn't receive a mainstream cinematic run of Cabin, which is odd, particularly due to how well Whedon did with the Avengers. While it looks like it might be a DVD release for most, if you do get a chance, it's definitely worth a watch.
If you've seen the film, let me know what you think. I'm dying to have a conversation where I don't have to censor what I'm saying.