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Cabin in the Woods

April 20, 2012
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I’m not one for horror movies but I wanted to see this out of sheer curiosity more than anything else.

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In truth, there isn’t much I can say about this, plot-wise, without giving the game away. Some of it, at least. Briefly, I’ve heard this film referred to as a ‘deconstruction’ or a ‘loving hate-letter’ to the horror genre, and it truly is. It is also truly brilliant. What I can say is that five friends, oddly remniscent of the Scooby Doo gang, drive out to the eponymous cabin in the woods for a weekend of fun. Once darkness falls, things start going bump in the night. I don’t think you could get a more stereotypical horror story.

There’s nothing new under the sun, they say. Largely true, I think. Apart from a few rare exceptions, we know all the stories. We may not know all of the fine details but we can see the general arc of things. More often than not, what makes a really good film these days is telling an old story well. The Pirates did a similar thing. Because this plot is so predictable, it becomes entertaining to prod and examine it, as what happens in this film.

Another facet key to telling a story well is the acting. As I said, I don’t watch much in the way of horror movies but it was my impression that the acting is pretty terrible. However, the assembled cast all give quite credible, natural performances. I was even pleasantly surprised by Chris Hemsworth – He can be quite a convincing actor, when he’s not hamming his way throughThor.

The writing for the most part avoids the worst excesses of Joss Whedon’s quasi-meaningful dialogue. Instead, it all comes across as very genuine. In fact, everything about this film strikes me as the best of Joss Whedon. When he does things right, he can be quite the auteur, but then he lets himself down with awful dialogue and shaky-camera shots. He also has a strange notion that if female characters can beat people up, that means they’re empowered women. Yeah. No.

On the whole, this is a surprisingly clever, surprisingly good corrective to the horror genre. From the way it pokes at conventions, it is as equally funny as it is scary. Even if you don’t like horror movies, it is still definitely worth a watch.

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