Regular Picturenose readers will doubtless be astonished to find me banging on about yet another horror film, but The Cabin in the Woods (2012), by directorial first-timer Drew Goddard and his writing/producing partner Joss Whedon, is simply one of the most breathlessly exciting, innovative, sly and, in its own way, scary horror flicks to come out of Hollywood for quite some time, sosumi.
Apparently, Goddard and Whedon wrote the screenplay in just three days, occupying a dual-storey hotel room to do just that, and the breathless, frenetic pace that must have inspired its creation definitely shows in the finished product – it was described by the pair “as an attempt to ‘revitalize’ the slasher film genre and as a critical satire on torture porn” and, for those of us who really do appreciate the best that horror can occasionally offer, hurrah say I, because torture porn has long since outlived its sell-by date.
From its opening, you just know you’re in for something unusual – sold as a standard ‘young teens venture into the forest and bad stuff starts to happen’ slasher, the action nevertheless opens in an expansive, high-tech ‘control centre’, the operatives of which seem very concerned that ‘another operation’ has failed, but nevertheless have enough time on their hands to take a book on what will happen to their latest ‘subjects’.
And those would be Dana (Kristen Connolly), Curt (Chris Hemsworth), Jules (Anna Hutchison), Marty (Fran Kranz) and Holden (Jesse Williams), who are off for japes in the woods in the old log cabin of Curt’s cousin(?) – a weekend away from the modern world, with an overload of booze, dope and sexy-time in store.
But they are in fact under the watchful eye of control centre chiefs Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) and Hadley (Bradley Whitford) and, with the help of piped-in libido enhancers, a host of macabre, creepy memorabilia in the cabin’s cellar and assistance, well, from beyond, certain ‘choices’ are about to be presented to our happy campers, with their every move ultimately controlled. And why? That, as they say, would be telling…
Fair warning – the central characters are probably going to irritate you enormously, at least to begin with, in much the same way that Paul Verhoeven presented a group of utterly hateful teens as heroes in Starship Troopers (1997). But, I beseech you, bear with this – there are many games to be played, with genre references, expectations and execution before it’s done.
Horror fans will, I think, adore this – true, it does perhaps overplay its hand as to just how many references can be squeezed into 95 minutes, and the gore, while highly satirical, may still be off-putting for some, but it is neverthless so much fun, and has an ending that touches on themes as old as H.P. Lovecraft. I’m saying no more, only that if you go down in the woods today, you’re sure of a BIG surprise.
95 mins. In English and Japanese.