Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Cabin in the Woods - Revisionist Slasher

Life is a reality TV show. Or is it?

Five friends travel to a remote cabin in the woods for some fun and relaxation. There's Dana (Kristen Connolly), the virgin; Curt (Chris Helmsworth), the jock, and his frisky cheerleader girlfriend Jules (Anna Hutchison); Holden (Jesse Williams), the brains; and Marty (Fran Kranz), the stoner. As they get closer to their destination - a cabin owned by Curt's cousin - they encounter an eccentric gas man who warns them that it's an easier predicament to get there than getting out. When they eventually find the ramshackle cabin, they find odd stuff and the diary of a young disturbed girl who wrote about gore, pain and blood curdling acts that they eventually brush off. Unknown to them, in a seemingly surrogate world, a team of workers in white lab gowns celebrate the beginning of a "project". In fact, they toast and make merry. On their screens are images that bear semblance to the five young people who have chosen their fate. The people in white robes clap. Things unravel as planned. Meanwhile, in Dana and her friends' world, little did they realize that the undead have risen from the grave and are heading their way. Will our five protagonists survive or perish?

In what could be one of modern cinema's most brilliant parodies of the horror genre and a resplendent tweaking of Wes Craven's textbook criteria of a slasher flick, Drew Goddard's "The Cabin in the Woods" takes the genre to greater heights, then swerve the narrative into detours so unpredictable, the viewers are left with gaping mouths and stoked senses.


When Marty finds a hidden camera while trying to evade from the clutches of death, he briskly concludes that they have become unwilling participants of a reality television show. But nothing could be farther from the truth. They have, in fact become pawns in a life-and-death scenario that shall purportedly save the Earth from total annihilation; i.e. forces beyond humanity's capabilities. They have become convenient sacrifices. And every monster that surrounds the psyche of every culture are caged in special cages: the ferocious beasts, zombies, vampires and wolves, goblins, savage clowns, babydoll faces, Hell Lord (from "Hell Raiser"), flesh-eating dinosaurs, "angry molesting tree" (from "The Evil Dead"), even those ashen-faced Japanese white ladies (from Nakata's "The Ring"). Monsters from the imagination of H.P. Lovecraft have supposedly been referenced as well. Each of them is released to wreck havoc and impart suffering to a chosen slice of humanity. And everything that enraptures human suffering is caused by the collusion of a few individuals who help the aforementioned individuals "choose" how they die. Like the spraying of a pheromone to hasten a scene between the hot blond cheerleader and her beau. After all, what's a slasher flick without "boobies", right?

The film also suggests that there are ways of circumventing these extirpating forces as demonstrated in scenes involving the Japanese school children fervently chanting their incantations to a Sadako-type ghoul as it floats on mid-air. There are, after all, ways of conquering the seeming unconquerable. However, Dana and her friends unwittingly find the portal that directly lead them to the "manipulators" and the cells that contain humanity's "monsters".

Joss Whedon (director of "The Avengers", "Thor", "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", "Serenity") co-wrote a winking script with first time director Drew Goddard (he wrote "Cloverfield").

The conceit of having a group of sentient people who can manipulate situations so as to exact murder and mayhem, if a tad familiar, reminds one of the all-seeing voyeuristic crowd in "Hunger Games". When the surviving protagonists eventually escape the woods and find themselves in special cages (where they also meet Sigourney Weaver), we were stumped with exquisite surprise, albeit bewilderment! Nothing about the movie is what it seems. That's all for the better!

Do not miss!

"Am I in a relaity TV?" asks Marty.

Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) and company head the team of manipulators.

Kristen Connolly as Dana

Chris Helmsworth as Curt

Chris Hemsworth

Jesse Williams as Holden

Anna Hutchison

Anna Hutchison as Jules

Fran Kranz as Marty

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