Movie Review: Teens with ‘Cabin’ fever
“Cabin in the Woods” doesn’t so much tweak the horror genre as it carves it up with a chain saw. And then feeds into a wood chipper. And pours in sulfuric acid.
The result is a bloody, gory, disgusting mess. And it’s a lot of fun, assuming you’re not repulsed by decapitations, eviscerations, mutilations and death by merman. No, not Ethel. The latter is a male version of a mermaid, and he won’t be confused with Ariel anytime soon.
What the filmmakers have done here is taken a concept from another film (sorry, no revelations) and applied it to the teen horror film. Appropriate enough, the movie opens on Friday the 13th. The baddies in this movie, however, make Jason look like a Boy Scout.
The setup follows the conventional placement of teen stereotypes in a remote location. In this case, it’s a cabin in the woods where the teens get picked off one by one in a grisly manner, usually by a psychopath. One teen typically escapes his clutches so a sequel or two or two dozen can be made.
In “Cabin,” the stereotypes include Jules the slut (Anna Hutchison), Curt the jock (Chris Hemsworth), Marty the stoner (Fran Hanz), Holden the brain (Jesse Williams) and Dana the virgin (Kristen Connolly). Well, she’s not really a virgin, but she’s “close.”
But the teens not only have to deal with impending doom, there are two men, Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) and Hadley (Bradley Whitford), lurking behind the scenes who seem to be up top something. And that’s all I’ll say.
Before you can say “Scream” or “Scary Movie,” a family of zombies — check that, a family of redneck, pain-worshipping zombies — arrives on the scene. Let the bloodletting begin.
Viewers know they’re in for something unusual when the opening credits showing bloodstained images of sacrificial rituals are cut short with a nonsensical quick edit to a cup of coffee. This is followed shortly afterward by a nonsensical title placement.
The film, in fact, features a lot of nonsense, which provides much of its demented charm. A trap door opens and a character blames the wind. The stoner locks his car door but leaves the window open. His bong then turns into a coffee mug.
For another stereotype, the teens encounter at a rundown gas station a grizzled old man (Tim de Zarn) who chews tobacco and spouts warnings of damnation. He is, of course, ignored.
It eventually becomes clear that “Cabin” has more on its mind that slicing and dicing teens as first-time director Drew Goddard plays a variation on “Who Let the Dogs Out?”
“Cabin” hails from the twisted mind of Joss Whedon (of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” fame), who co-wrote the film with Goddard and produced it. He likes to have his satire and savage it, too.
Unfortunately, the film suffers from an ending that appears tacked on with a stapler, or nail gun. It definitely lacks the clever spoofing that preceded it. It’s almost as of the filmmakers had run out of ideas, or time.
Acting ability has never been a priority for these types of films, and when you’re asked to play a stereotype there’s not much you can do in the dimension department. That said, Kranz breaks out of the stoner mold long enough to display some intelligence, or at least more intelligence than your standard stoner.
Action fans will recognize Hemsworth as the title character in “Thor,” which he made after this one. This rest of the cast is better known for their TV work.
Jenkins does give the film some gonzo gravitas as does a cameo appearance from a famous actress. Clue: It’s not Paris Hilton.
Just don’t go to “Cabin in the Woods” expecting to be scared. Grossed out, yes. Scared, no. This film wants to provoke laughter, not screams. And it does so consistently.
I’d like say the filmmakers had their tongues planted in their cheeks for this film, but then the redneck, pain-worshipping zombies might take offense, rip them out and use them as razor strops.
“Cabin in the Woods” opens Friday, April 13. (B+)