Thursday, 29 November 2018

Cabin in the Woods


(contains big spoilers)

I didn't watch this for years. Put it off whenever it was on TV. Really not a fan of Joss Whedon stuff, so the idea of a film of his really put me off. Especially if it was going to be clever and self-referential at the same time. And The Cabin in the Woods certainly is clever and self-referential.

However, its also quite good, too. 5 students travel to a the woods, owned by a relative none of them can remember. So far, so Evil Dead. But then we cut to an editing booth, with him off The West Wing, and one of the characters starts hearing narrative suggestion. Even before the zombies show up, the film has a weird and unsettling tone.

Now, this is a deconstruction of the slasher genre, and what saves the film from being too clever (as, alas, Behind the Mask wound up becoming) is our fab 5 in the woods. Kristen Connolly especially brings a likeable but somewhat crushed by events person to life, and her friendship with Fran Kranz's stoner "fool" (As in Lear, the fool is the smartest man in the play) and their acting chemistry makes for a charming and platonic relationship. The other 3 are quite good too, though we get to see less of them - spoiler - and there are some nice moments as they try to fight against the tropes that management has decided to place on them. In that way, the protective mum of the group Jules turning from the sensible and intelligent one of the group through mind control into slash fiction cannon fodder is easily more disturbing than a thousand family zombies.

And what about those Buckners? Patience by name, patience by nature. There is a bit in the film which made me laugh out loud, when Patience Buckner shows up in the lifts after the massacre. The zombie sees the mess, and seems to almost sigh: Damn it, I miss all the fun! But the moment preceding, when the survivors realise they've been used as fodder, and the Not Pinhead For Copyright Reasons seems to almost sympathise with her... is the most moving moment in the film. There is the Lovecraftian event horizon despair, and you sense the character never recovers. Meanwhile the fool is looking at the scary clown. One is superficial scary, the other gets into the soul. But then that monster sympathy might be there all along too. Three times, the survivors are saved by the zombie family after all. They might be monsters who feast on humans, but there is that subtext of sympathy with creatures equally caged.

All that's left to say is that Sigourney Weaver is the finest casting gag outside of Hot Fuzz. Oh, and the old guy Mordecai who has to give the warning to the folk before the horror film starts, only they ignore it? He sort of gives the warning to the office folk too. And they ignored him. This film was far better than I thought it'd be. Apparently there's talk of a sequel - not sure how. But if there is, hopefully Connolly and Kranz somehow live, no matter how dire the situation at film climax - after all that, the characters deserve a break.

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