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The Cabin in the Woods (Frank's take)

01/05/2012. Contributed by Frank Ochieng

Buy The Cabin in the Woods in the USA - or Buy The Cabin in the Woods in the UK

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The ultra-cheeky frightfest The Cabin in the Woods finally does justice to its overexposed genre by instilling a sci-fi/horror vibe that resonates with fresh thrills, fun-oriented freakiness and a genuine outlandishness that never seems recycled or stale. Simultaneously chilling, introspective and funny, The Cabin in the Woods is joyously off-kilter and vibrantly wicked in its cunning goose-bump gumption.

Director/co-writer Drew Goddard and producer/co-writer Joss Wheldon (director for the upcoming “The Avengers”) conjure up a shrewd, self-deprecating jittery showcase that knows how to skillfully manipulate the audience’s anxieties. Plus, the mixture of alert twitchy tendencies and cagey in-house winking regarding twisted jokes colors this three-dimensional thriller as a sleek horror-movie gag worth its weight in warped gold.

Goddard and Wheldon, known primarily for their prime time collaboration on the immensely popular supernatural television treats Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, resourcefully anchor Cabin as a calculation of kitschy-minded chaos and rekindled this hallucinatory horror show into inviting slasher cinema soundly equipped with a biting wit and subversive creativity.

Essentially, The Cabin in the Woods dares to put a fierce fire under the feet of the conventional horror movie by turning the tables upside down and allowing the moviegoer to cherish the absurdity rather than expect them to challenge the notion of its parodied puffiness. Clever-minded and crafty, The Cabin in the Woods may very well be one of the most defining scarefests to hit the screen in a long time based on its wacked-out intelligence, imagination and ball-busting bloodiness.

The premise is not all that unique but promising given Cabin’s hearty execution. Five friends/college students (yes, they are all insanely attractive which makes for some appetising prey) get together and decide to get away and spend some quality guilty pleasure downtime at a cabin deep in the woods. The frolicking group includes athletic hotshot Curt (Chris Hemsworth), his trophy girlfriend Jules (Anna Hutison), a bookworm-minded good girl Dana (Kristen Connolly), hunky tag-along pal Holden (Jesse Williams) and proud stoner Marty (Fran Kranz). Sure, they are all obligatory horror youth prototypes but they manage to transcend the usual stereotypical labels courtesy of a sharp-tongued script that paint them as interesting fodder for the mincemeat mayhem that is about to unfold.

Anyway, the bombastic bunch all head to the cabin in the woods by way of a crowded RV (what may playfully come to mind is the reminiscence of the Scooby Doo gang all piled into their Mystery Machine van—live action-style with a blood-thirsty angle of course). Naturally once the vulnerable gang arrives at their unpredictable destination at the creaky cabin the strange nuances start to emerge. From mysterious two-way mirrors to bloodstained journals, the group methodically becomes bombarded with the harried happenings that result in…you guessed it…a harsh reality of creepy comeuppance.

Another twist and turn to the deliciously sordid story is added as the party-hearty participants at the cabin are being secretly monitored by an undisclosed high-tech control room (think reality TV’s Big Brother meets The Truman Show meets the panel switchboard at NASA). As the carnage mounts for the exposed handful of collegiate guinea pigs serving as featured flesh for the wayward killings, the hidden on-lookers within this observational bunker cryptically cheer the perverse proceedings. Curiously, the frenetic film gives us permission to wonder about this caustic experimentation thus slickly raising more questions than answers. For starters, why ARE these observers eavesdropping on these hedonistic youths as they randomly meet their Maker? What is the purpose behind this bloody “peek-a-boo” pouncing?

On board to consult with the corrosive cat-and-mouse slaughtering in the woods are a bantering tongue-in-cheek tandem named Sitterson and Hadley (Richard Jenkins from “The Visitor” and “Flirting with Disaster” and Bradley Whitford from TV’s “The West Wing”). They are The Hunger Games-type gatekeepers that keep tabs on the bloodied outcome. Assisting them are no-nonsense governmental officials played by Brian White and Amy Acker.

Conversely, The Cabin in the Woods is profoundly in-depth at chopping away at the disguised commentary that begs to—much like the aforementioned The Hunger Games—spotlight a piercing reflection that penetrates the questionable conventions of sacrificial humanity and its indifference to manipulation and makeshift emotional instability.

Both Goddard (contributor to written wonderment that includes TV’s “Alias” and “Lost”) and Whedon have a vast appreciation and insatiable insight for pop cultural pageantry. They understand the delicate (not mention the demented) overtones and brilliantly indulge their robust chiller The Cabin in the Woods with a profane smartness and sassiness that is a refreshingly pulsating potboiler to finally come down the pike in such a long time.

Overall, not a bad way to catch this particular Cabin fever as the dog-days of summer approach.

The Cabin in the Woods (Lionsgate Films)
1 hr. 45 mins.
Starring: Kristen Connolly, Anna Hutchison, Chris Hemsworth, Jesse Williams, Fran Kranz, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford, Amy Acker, Brian White
Directed by: Drew Goddard
MPAA Rating: R
Genre: Horror/Mystery & Suspense/Science Fiction
Critic’s Rating: *** stars (out of 4 stars)

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