By the mere fact you are perusing this website, I am assuming whoever is reading these words is familiar with possibly the most hyped up Horror movie of 2012. Indeed our very own Al Sex Gore ripped apart, I mean , reviewed Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon’s brainchild THE CABIN IN THE WOODS after its DEAD BY DAWN screening in Edinburgh. So before dissecting its UK DVD release, for the benefit of those who are unaware of the basic premise of the movie, here is the briefest of synopses.

5 young people are off on a weekend of fun at a cousin’s ‘cabin’ which, believe it or not, is located in ‘the woods’. We have Dana (Kristen Connolly) a ‘fetching minx’ with prudish overtones who is not averse however to the odd affair with married lecturers. Then there is Curt (Chris Hemsworth), an all American athlete whose jock inclinations are clearly attractive to his exhibitionist girlfriend Jules (Anna Hutchinson). Then we have the ‘stoner’ of the group, Marty (Fran Kranz) who is armed to the back teeth with bongs, pipes, cigarette papers and a trusty lighter or two! Finally, there is Holden (Jesse Williams), as studious young man who rather obviously has been invited by Jules in some kind of match making endeavour for Dana.

But their trip is not as simple as they anticipate. Not only are they being surreptitiously observed via technology NASA would be proud of, the very environment they are entering appears to have been fantastically fabricated in order to play the crew as puppets of sorts.

While the troop wind down, the observers in the military styled control room place bets and revel in our protagonist’s plight. So with the plots cards seemingly laid on the table (the disclosures thus far feature in the very first 12 minutes of the picture so don’t qualify as ‘spoilers’ per se) the question that remains is, is this simply an elaborate reality TV show, or something far more nefarious?

Ok so the negative reception TCITW received from some factions upon its initial release was no doubt due to the rather over the top hype. Accolades such as "Next level genre masterpiece" and "shot in the arm for the horror movie" fashioned boots that a 90 minute light-hearted romp featuring 5 stereo typical teens in a picture laced with CGI simply couldn’t fill.

I admit I was rather disappointed when I initially watched the movie in the cinema last spring and this was mainly due to the movies cheery atmosphere not being appropriate to the climatic unleashing of Hell on Earth as the movie progressed. Its tone simply wasn’t nasty enough to be considered a "modern classic".

But revisiting the movie via its DVD debut I knew what I was getting into and by accepting the movies structure and embracing the ambition and originality of the picture, I had a lot more fun with it.

But rather than retread ground and offer anymore superfluous opinions on the movie I am going to focus the remainder of this review on what the DVD package offers any individual who did actually like the movie or simply wants to check out an innocuous horror flick with some Hollywood gloss.

Starting with the movie itself, its presentation and audio worked well together. Considering the violence imposed by a ravenous family of ‘pain worshipping rednecks’ who have transgressed into zombies, is deemed suitable for 15 year olds, it’s no surprise to learn that most of the gore sequences were subtly diluted by occurring in the darkness of night. The rich blacks and shadowy lighting shrewdly veil anything too explicitly vicious but the picture quality is adept enough to show the viewer what is actually happening.

So while not the most visually violent movie, the intensity of these set pieces is heightened by the sudden thudding soundtrack whose Dolby Digital 5.1 audio was punchy and sharp. How much more the Blu Ray can deliver on these fronts remains to be seen.

But where the DVD really comes into its own is in the extras section which is brimming with behind the scenes features and interviews.

As is almost mandatory with special features these days we get a feature length commentary track with Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard. The detailed annotations are fun to listen to because, not only is every nook and cranny of the movie explored, but the duo obviously fancy themselves as comedians to boot! The innocence of the movie is also apparent as they make a point that they were regimented in NOT mixing any of the sexual scenes with violence. Then again they DO encourage "kids to smoke pot" so they not total dweebs!

Moving on to the actual "Extras" chapter, there is WE ARE NOT WHO WE ARE, a 30 minute behind the scenes segment which explores the movies set with certain cast members acting as tour guides. It offered a unique insight into the ideas behind the movie and (hereby I risk being sent to the ‘SGM naughty corner’ by Al!) could possibly persuade a further viewing of the movie, if only to scrutinize the detail put into the ‘basement scene’. THE SECRET STASH has a few skits including "Martys Stash". It is basically an amusing interview with Fran Kranz who plays Marty, the marijuana cosseting fool of the piece. Details on his bespoke ‘joint rolling course’ and a demonstration of the ultra-cool ‘coffee thermos bong / weapon’ are all revealed.

The 30 minute onstage Q and A at the WonderCon convention in California captured a little bit of the festival circuit magic as Goddard and Whedon faced questions from gushing fans regarding some of the more intricate aspects of the movie.

Sandwiched in between these is a 5 minute clip called "Hi my name is Joss and I’ll be your guide", whereby Whedon gives a comical tour of the actual "Cabin".

I mentioned earlier the movie contained a fair amount of CGI but I felt this was tolerably offset by more traditional makeup and mechanical simulations when conjuring the plethora of beasts in the picture. It was therefore pleasing to see that the extras section contained "AN ARMY OF NIGHTMARES – Makeup and Animatronic Effects". The 11 minute feature covers just how much effort went into creating the legion of beasts in the movie. Heather Anderson and David Leroy Anderson (both Special Makeup Effects AFX) take centre stage as they explain the process of conception through to construction of the impressive array of Monsters!

Completing the extras is another 11 or so minute piece called "PRIMAL TERROR- visual effects". Here the focus is on the CG used in the picture. Todd Shifflett (Visual Effects Supervisor) and Martin Whist (Production Designer) talk us through the balance that was struck between trying wherever possibly to use ‘real’ effects and adding elements of CG to accentuate the action sequences. I obvious prefer traditional effects over CGI but seeing just how they combined the two, was again, a very interesting watch.

I was lukewarm on the movie initially, but am a sucker for extras, so after ploughing through all the material on the DVD, I have to say, I did actually gain a little more fondness and appreciation for a movie which was primarily overrated.

Whedon and Goddard claimed they wanted to make "…Something new that honoured previous genre pictures…" To some extent they have indeed achieved this even if a sickly sweet aftertaste of popcorn was all too apparent…

Review by Marc Lissenburg

Released by Lionsgate Films
Region 2
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review