Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon’s Cabin In The Woods has had quite a long journey getting to the big screen, having been shot back in 2009 but swiftly lost in limbo thanks to the financial woes of MGM. It’s taken three years to reach us (thanks to the canny folk at Lions Gate Entertainment) but has it been worth the wait?
First things first, ahead of the films much anticipated release you simply couldn’t avoid the hype. Following its premiere screening at the South By Southwest Festival, American critics were falling over themselves to decry Cabin In The Woods as a serious game changer in the horror scene. So with that at the front of my mind, my usually suspicious marketing savvy mind relaxed enough to let me kick back with a level of assured expectation – sadly, those expectations of ‘game changing’ horror were soon to be numbingly crushed.
Let’s not beat about the bush here, Cabin In The Woods is not a shot in the arm of the horror genre – quite simply it’s yet more mindless teen horror fun. Go into it with that in mind you’ll likely derive some pleasure from the movie. If you expect anymore then, like me, you’ll be praying for the end credits to roll.
The plot basically involves five (not so) young college pals heading off for a weekend of teen fun in the aforementioned Cabin In The Woods. And of course, in some moronically uninspired fashion, the group consists of the usual 80’s throwback stereotypes: jock and his slutty girlfriend, shy bookworm girl (the usual Hollywood hottie cast in the role), equally shy hunky college lad they want to set her up with and finally stoner bloke who crashes into the opening scenes brandishing a massive bong in his hand. Sure I know filmmakers Goddard and Whedon will say this is a loving nod and wink to the genre but given that its execution falls quickly flat it makes Scooby Doo look like a ‘game changer’ too.
Now where Cabin quickly dives head first up its own arse is when it tries to become ‘clever’. You see once the kids reach the cabin we discover that they’re all in fact pawns for a secret evil agency that use a network of captive monsters to attack teens to use as human sacrifices. So when the kids venture into the cabins basement they trigger an attack by some redneck zombies but by this point I wanted every last one of those pesky kids to die anyway.
Before anyone cries "spoiler warning man!" don’t worry, I’ve not given away half the moronic storyline and as it is the trailer for the damn movie pissed all over itself anyway! And all said, I expect following its global wide release on April 13th (Friday natch) every dumb ass teenager will have ran to their local multiplex to see this and be doggedly agreeing with Lions Gate’s marketing team that this is the new face of horror (and Cabin In The Woods 2, 3 and 4 will be getting announced soon after).
So, what is the problem with Cabin In The Woods? Well, it’s perhaps unfair to pick on the movie itself as my disappointment towards it is not entirely the films own fault. On one hand I have myself to blame for being so gullible to the marketing (and if anything, the Lions Gate marketing team deserve massive bonuses for the sterling work they’ve done seducing genre fans and critics with this one!)
Embellishing my disappointment was the susceptibility of US genre critics to blindly decry that Cabin In The Woods is a game changing horror classic. These are the same critics and websites that for some time I’ve personally placed some respect upon. But then perhaps the promise of branded collaboration screenings for the movie with those same sites can help form a marriage of commercial convenience?
In recent times we’ve seen what can be done when TV/Movie crossover genre producers put their heart into delivering mature adult horror. The success of The Walking Dead is a good example, American Horror Story is another. Fuck, if the team behind teen pop show Glee can produce a genuinely shocking deviant horror gem with American Horror Story then surely the expectation could also be that the folk behind Buffy could do something clever with horror also. Cabin’s not a horror film though, it’s a popcorn movie that skirts in the vicinity of the genre – all laughs and action with no sign of any real terror therein, this is perhaps the biggest failing of the film. Horror films should be horrific and scary or have we foregone that for mindless entertainment?
And it’s with that in mind you may find some pleasure from this vastly over rated popcorn flick. Sure I was disappointed but thanks to the marketing and susceptibility of US critics I had set my bar too high. Yes, there’s some fun to be had in there. Hell, I love mindless popcorn movies (bring on Piranha 3DD!) and once the film gets over any pretension it’s occasionally quite fun (I loved the monster mayhem in the last section of the film but kept thinking how much more fun Fred Dekker’s Monster Squad is and even had a wry smile at some of the fan boy winks to everything from Evil Dead to Bill & Ted) but all said and done, in 2 years’ time the successful marketing seduction will be long replaced with the next so-called ‘game changing’ multiplex extravaganza. Next…
Review by Alan Simpson
|Released by Lions Gate Entertainment|