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The Cabin in the Woods

Film Four Stars
I had feared that the trailer for The Cabin in the Woods had revealed too much of what looked like to be a major plot twist, showing us that it isn't the usual young people trapped in a deserted cabin horror story and that there is something much more to it, in fact showing us what looked like it could be the core twist in the film.

The great news is that it doesn't give the plot twist away, in fact the film's opening scenes show that this isn't the plot twist at all as what we thought was the twist came from the very opening moment, so don't panic. There is a reveal in there but it's small and hopefully will go right by you.

So what of the film that we end up seeing? Well Cabin in the Woods is an innovative idea that really does poke fun of the clichés of horror films and at the same time deliver something much better, much more interesting and indeed much more entertaining.

Plot.pngThe story sees a group of college students heading off to an old cabin in the woods for a weekend of the usual, drink, partying and plenty of sex, however they aren't long there before they discover a strange basement filled with unusual items, and when one of them reads a Latin phrase from an old journal the dead arise and begin hunting them down. It's a story that contains all the elements and plot turns of your everyday horror story, except for the fact that someone is watching and perhaps controlling their fate.

TheFilm.pngAs soon as the film opens we see that we weren't shown too much in the trailer, in fact the first scene we are treated to is not of the cabin, of the horrific creatures or of the college students who are to head to their fate in the woods, but of two men in an office bantering with each other and another member of staff. As they walk through the corridors towards their office you start to realise that this isn't an ordinary working environment and there's something rather unusual going on.

The opening sequence tells you some key things about the film firstly that this isn't a normal horror and goes straight against the conventions and what you might have been expecting, even with the trailers in the back of your mind. It also shows that the script is going to be carrying plenty of sharp wittiness and considering that we've already seen Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins and we know that Chris Hemsworth is on his way too, there are going to be some sharp deliveries too.

The script is cleverly written and it's clear that it comes from people who love the horror film genre as much as they are tired of the same old genre films. There are clichés galore in the film all of which offer moments of humour or moments for the writers to play upon, and they make every opportunity to, not only that but there are so many great references that pour through the film that horror fans will pick up on.

From the beginning the story develops well and offers plenty of mystery and uncertainty, enough to have you fascinated by where the story is going and offering just enough of a titbit to move the horror story forward and keep that interest going. There's just the right amount of focus on both of the two different threads of the story, swapping back and forth at what feels like just the right moment, often when a horror cliché is being hit or delivered and we flip over for a surprise and a strong comedic delivery.

In fact I don't think it's too far to say that sometimes the edits are nigh on perfect and pull back from the horror story to flip it over to the other thread just at the right point to break the tension a little, to ramp up the tension or to deliver a little more of the story. Even within the main horror story there are still enough self-references and amusing moments to deliver something different.

It's funny in a way that the story seems to compound the fact that the clichés of the standard horror tale are so poor and overly used these days. It is something you notice in horror films but when they are in a standalone film you accept them much more without realising it, with The Cabin in the Woods it does make you realise how formulaic the horror films have become.

One of the biggest surprises of the film is just how funny it is amongst the horror, and not just for the horror fan who is catching the references but for the average audience member too. It's also not just in the cut backs between the horror story and the second thread but also within the horror story itself, mixed amongst the scares and the horror and also the amusing moments of realisation from the characters who themselves realise the strange choices they are making and the clichés they are visiting upon themselves.

Don't think though that the film turns in to some sort of self-referencing Zucker-Abrams-Zucker film, far from it, these moments feel right within in the story and they are all explained although not overly so. Neither did I feel as though I was too focussed on understanding instead of getting down to enjoying the story and the slow building reveal of what is happening, a reveal which builds a strong desire to know more and a desire that is continually stalled as we return to the horror story, building and releasing that tension.

So far I've been praising the film but I have to point out the not so good and for me it really did take a big drop when the two threads of the story come together in rather surprising fashion. The individual reveals are clever and funny but when we see the camera pull back and we get the huge reveal I found it all a little too much, a little bit too over the top.

I mean I really like the idea and if it had been kept on a much lower level I could have accepted it and I would have kept going with the film, but it suddenly seemed to be a little bit too unwieldy and for me it pushed the concept too far. This continued through the following scenes and there is a sense of the creatives being let loose on the ideas with some of the effects in these later sequences leaving a lot to be desired, taking me back to the era of Buffy.

This over the top feeling goes on for a little bit yet and it's only when we meet the final character do things manage to start getting back on track. The ending does recover well but once again the closing scene just goes that little bit too far and it could have done with a little bit of restraint keeping it much more in the mind of the viewer.

Overall.pngThe Cabin in the Woods is a really enjoyable horror film that does manage to tread new ground and reference all that has come before in an amusing and enjoyable style, at the same time though it does offer us something new. It is surprisingly funny and not to mention well cast with Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins stealing the show for hilarious moments, great one liners and natural chemistry and performances, it really was a joy to watch them play off the events in the film.

Still, despite the cleverness of the script throughout most of the film I felt they just went too far in the closing stages and while they did try to pull it back again and return to the clever story, the final scene goes back to delivering too much rather than just enough.

I also found that the film didn't pack enough bite for me, or rather it did bite but it wasn't a full on mouth clamping and chewing experience, it delivered everything I expected and there was plenty of horror, sexiness, laughter, creatures and horrible deaths, but it needed a little more scare and a little more horror.

All that said Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard should be applauded for the idea and the script for The Cabin in the Woods and together they deliver a clever, fun and different film from the horror we're used to. Definitely worth seeing even if it doesn't quite deliver all it could.

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