I’m about to break the dry spell. I haven’t written a review in a long, long time. What’s more, I haven’t covered a horror movie since last year at some point so it is with great joy that I break the trend with a movie I’m not likely to stop talking about for some time. See, horror movies suck. It’s true! Well, wait. New horror movies suck. Hollywood hates the genre but they love the money the by-the-numbers stuff rakes in at the box office so, like most movies in wide release today, they play the safe game and do nothing but release a parade of sequels to movies that were hugely successful only a couple of years prior. But every now and then something comes along that manages to slip through the cracks. Thanks to studio politics, someone owes someone a favor and the most offbeat, original genre picture, rated R, no less, manages to find its way to the megaplex where it spends a couple of weeks playing in front of a handful of savvy genre fans, drunks and people who thought they were seeing something else before it shuffles its way off to DVD where it finally finds it audience. Or, in the case of The Cabin In The Woods, your movie stars a cast member of this summer’s blockbuster season opener and happens to bear a producer credit from said blockbuster’s director. Though, I’m sure studio suits thought that they were priming the box office money pump with some goofy horror flick that has been gathering dust in the vault for a couple of years but in the process of trying to squeeze as much money out of the Avengers and Joss Whedon’s name, they inadvertently released a horror movie into the wild that is among the most original, funny and relentlessly awesome flicks I’ve seen in a very, very long time.
Now for the bad news. I have no idea how I’m going to discuss the endless list of good things about The Cabin In The Woods because the entire movie is a giant horror movie in-joke that hinges on a very basic premise that unfolds very early on, but the central gag is so important to the rest of the movie that talking about it all would spoil horror’s best idea in years. So please excuse me if I’m being vague, but I want you to like this movie as much as I liked it
A very familiar premise presents itself to you in The Cabin In The Woods. The virginal final girl, her slutty, hypersexual friend, her jock boyfriend, his nice-guy buddy and their stoner burnout friend all gather for a weekend away at a remote and extremely creepy, run-down cabin in the woods. On the way in, they encounter the backwoods hick who declares that the place they’re going to is cursed and that they’ll probably all die. When they arrive, they find the titular cabin in pretty rough shape and stocked with creepy shit, especially in the basement. When the final girl reads from a diary found among the basement’s artifacts, she recites some latin that calls the zombified corpses of the cabin’s original owners back to life, a crew of murderous maniacs who stalk the co-ed crew of horror movie stereotypes and knock them off one by one. But wait. While all this is happening, from the control board of a super secret, highly technical organization, a trio of technicians carefully orchestrate the mayhem for an even more sinister purpose and boy, is that shit fucking hilarious.
Over the last few years I’ve seen a lot of horror movie spoofs and while a few of them were utter garbage, the lion’s share of them acted as a positive affirmation of everything I love about the horror genre. Of this I mean Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil, Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, Shaun of the Dead and so on and so forth. Each one, even going back to the Scary Movie flicks which, admit it, had their moments, tagged the genre’s most common qualities, pulled them to the fore and made a spectacle of slashers and such but no spoof has ever had the sort of scope that The Cabin In The Woods reaches for. In the first half of this movie, you will see every horror movie ever made loving put on display and poked with a sharp stick. Unlike some of the more wider scoped horror spoofs, which take familiar scenarios and craft numerous vignettes out of them, The Cabin In The Woods wraps them all around the central concept that someone is behind all of these familiar scenarios, making them happen, influencing the bullshit, and coercing their casts into doing the stupid shit that they do all to serve a very dire and specific purpose.
Don’t be swayed by the word dire, though. Even if it is pretty grim and violent it’s also the horror comedy of the year. The Cabin In The Woods aims to take a very familiar scenario and make a functional movie out of it but between the cliches lies a hilarious cast of puppetmasters who take bets from the entire facility on how our co-eds will meet their ends, whether or not they’ll get to see boobs in the inevitable sex = death opening kill, they party when they think they’ve met mission accomplished status and while it’s all going down, they carry on as final girl, Dana, proves herself to be the most resilient virginal survivor of all time. Meanwhile, back in the cabin, our stoner comic relief guy, usually the most disposable asshole of the gang, turns out to be the funniest and most likable of them all. And if that’s not enough, the inter-organization competition with the crew working in Japan is tear-inducingly hysterical as their plan to kill school girls backfires in the most spectacular fashion as Japan’s own cultural horror movie cliche runs wild on a pack of 9 year olds.
We live in a world of recycled ideas and those of us who cherish the horror genre have been moaning about this more than fans of other idiosyncratic fandom as we tend to be abused most by the people who produce our beloved media. We get nothing but remakes and are expected to shut our fucking mouths and take it because Hollywood thinks we’re stupid and will buy anything with some blood and gore in it. So while they think that what they released with The Cabin In The Woods is technically a remake since it apes just about every horror movie ever made, it turned out to be the genre’s most exciting release in years by making what’s old new again and I can’t wait to see it again.