I don’t really know where to begin in reviewing this mess of a film, it’s been a long day and my mind is just about as jumbled and incoherent as the plot of Cabin in the Woods. Just about. Not since The Last Airbender have I had such an urge to flip off the screen after seeing a movie. I’m a big fan of all types of horror, and big fans of Goddard and Whedon. I had been intrigued by this film from the moment this film was announced in 2009. Which is why I was so disappointed.
A quick setup, the plot follows a group of stereotypical college students who fit the roles of those in campy horror flicks as they go to…you guessed it. A Cabin in the Woods. BUT THERE’S A TWIST. Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford are sitting in a control room monitoring the entire situation, making sure they all get killed off in a certain succession, saving the virgin of the group for last, to satisfy Cthulhu-like Ancient Ones who crave such blood(and apparently campy horror tropes) in order to keep them from destroying the world from down below. Sounds crazy right? It is, but the filmmakers have no handle on the premise they have created, and it spirals out of control in the most miserable of ways.
I guess I’ll break down why this movie was such a waste of time in sections. And I’ll save the various plot problems for last.
Acting: Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy was the acting scattered in this film or what? We’ll start with the goods. Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford. I really enjoyed watching these two play off each other, they provided some of the only glimmering moments in this misguided feature. They were of the only few who were actually able to take their terribly written lines and pull humor and emotion out of them. Had this film just featured them, I might have really liked it. They were the only characters I was actually interested in, or had any reason to even care for. There was no surprise or intrigue with what was going on with the stranded students. I had only interest in these two, but unfortunately, they were swept aside as supporting roles. One other bright spot was Chris Hemsworth. I’ve been a fan of his for a while now and he continues to prove himself in this. He seemed to be the only one of the college crew that knew how to deliver lines. Oh and Sigourney Weaver shows up, which was cool. But it’s never a good sign when somebody with 2 minutes of screen time gives a better performance then 85% of your cast. Now for the bad, and oh my was there bad: LIKE EVERYONE ELSE IN THE CAST. The two college girls were some of the worst actresses I’ve seen in a long time, and I hope I never have to see them again. The girl who played the virgin especially(can’t even remember the character’s name, it was that unmemorable of a performance), was she seriously incapable of changing the expression on her face? She seemed to have this constant look of “Did I just fart or poop?” on her face. The “whor*” was so bad I couldn’t even take any enjoyment from seeing her boobs. Yes guys, she was that bad. I won’t even talk about the “scholar” because unfortunately, there were worse crimes at hand. And now the worst. Marty. My lord….. I’ve never seen a worse impression of Dennis Hopper’s character in Apocalypse Now. Only about 1/10 of his lines was actually funny. The rest of them were forced over the top to the point where not even a laugh track could laugh at them. Now I know they aren’t solely to blame for their dialogue….
Writing: You mean to tell me that Drew Goddard, the man who wrote Cloverfield(one of my favorite films) and Joss Whedon, who brought me such classic favorites as Firefly and Serenity, that these two geniuses got together and THIS was the best they could do? Seriously? From the innumerable plotholes(wait for it, I will get to them), to the across the board lazy dialogue, I can’t believe they actually sat down and wrote this. They offered no character work at all, gave me no reason to even care for any of them to live. There were many moments throughout the film that they referenced previous horror films. I caught references of the Grudge, The Strangers, a Hellraiser one?, and several Evil Dead references. Now I love when a movie can pay some good homage to it’s forefathers, but the problem here is, it failed. When you pay homage the audience should get the sense that you love these films and this genre. I really didn’t get that from them, there was no love or inspiration behind the references, they were simply there so they could say that this film is an homage. Just so they could call themselves “meta”. Absolutely tasteless. And on the other end of paying homage to films, is the tropes of the film genre you are making fun of(Though I can’t be sure if they had any clue what they were setting out to do). They proved to me they have a somewhat underdeveloped knowledge of the tropes. They didn’t even get half of the trope characters right. I never got the sense that the scholar was actually a scholar, the only mention of him prior to the trip is that he’s the new star athlete who’s gonna win us a bowl game! You mean to tell he’s the bookworm? Where was that ever established? And oh yeah, the virgin isn’t even a virgin. Couldn’t even get that right apparently(more on the plothole that this certain development caused soon). What was the reason any of us should care whether or not the college students live or die? It was like all they did was point out that the tropes existed, and didn’t do anything interesting, clever or worthwhile with them. I think I just watched 90 minutes of Whedon and Goddard just trying to show that they know what the horror tropes are, but to what end? It’s like they were just jerking off to themselves the entire film. Was there any point to this film? Just because you know what the cliches are, doesn’t necessarily make you clever.
Directing: Listen Drew Goddard, I still love you and have faith in you despite this piece of artless crap, but directing is not your thing buddy. You don’t know how to compose a scene in any interesting fashion. 80% of that film was simple coverage shooting. No drive or inspiration behind the craft. No shot stood out, and no shot was ever built in any sort of way to build suspense credibly. A very bad sign considering this is a horror film. Your film couldn’t pull of scary, and it couldn’t pull off funny, which were it’s two biggest marketing hooks. So what are you left with? Pretention with no justification or point.
NitPicky stuff: Alright, let’s get this out of the way, Cinematography was lazy and had no imagination to it. It’s like the DP showed up each day and just hit record. The editing was just as much to blame. Was there any point to each cut, did any shots lead to anything meaningful or interesting? And the scene where they were in the elevator prison reminded me just how poorly green screen can still be used by Hollywood. I could easily see green lines surrounding the two characters in the elevator. The score wasn’t anything special either, though it is nice to see David Julyan is still working.
Last Rites: Now before I spit on this film’s grave(SEE WHAT I DID THERE I KNOW ABOUT HORROR FILMS SO I MUST BE SO CLEVER AND IF YOU DIDN’T CATCH IT THEN YOU’RE AN IDIOT – the exact thoughts that went through Whedon and Goddard’s heads), I will sing it’s last few praises. Watching a guy get repeatedly stabbed by a Unicorn was great, as was the merman gag with Bradley Whitford. Also Chris Hemsworth’s epic death was the exact dark humor that the rest of that film was sorely missing.
Plot(wait there was one in this film?): Now the moment you’ve all been waiting for. Where do I start? I guess with the multitudes of plotholes surrounding the Ancient Ones. This movie raised many questions without ever bothering to answer them, and instead expected me to just suspend disbelief “because you’re missing the point if you think about the plot-holes, man”. (If I wanted to see Transformers, I would go see Transformers). For one, if the ancient ones are such big fans of cult horror films, then how have we been keeping them at bay in the past? And another thing, we saw that there were many stations around the world that performed this same service, but none of them seemed to have done much to actually keep the titans at bay. Near the end, Sigourney Weaver tells them that if Marty doesn’t die before the virgin, the ancient ones will break free. So if these two are all that matters to keeping them at bay, then why bother with the rest of the world? I ask this because when we saw all the failed experiments worldwide, we didn’t see any ancient ones breaking out of those countries. Is the blood from each experiment all drained to the same place? Perhaps I don’t understand, but did the filmmakers understand either? And the blood draining. For most of the film, I was led to believe that the blood being drained into the outlines of each stereotype was that of the character, there blood being completely drained. But if that’s the case, then how the hell did Marty survive? Shouldn’t he be dead from blood loss? And also with Marty, do they really expect me to believe he was able to MacGyver the elevator to work? And when the demolitions said that the power from their console was rerouted from “upstairs”, am I supposed to believe that that also was Marty fiddling with the cables? When was it ever established that he could do ANY OF THAT. And then, the biggest unexplained plot hole of all. The Virgin being the last one to die. The thing is, when told about the ritual minutes before the apocalypse, the virgin states what the audience already knows, she’s not a virgin. To which Sigourney replies, “we take what we can get.” Isn’t logic like that going against the whole point of the ritual? If you don’t have what the ancient ones required, aren’t you already screwed? Maybe it’s just me, but the ancient ones didn’t seem to lenient about the ritual. I don’t feel I’m being nit-picky here, there are huge questions and plotholes, and I want answers.
This movies apocalyptic ending is certainly a brave one, and should be admired for that. But unfortunately, I had stopped giving a crap about the film as soon as they got to the cabin.
You’re probably sitting there going, how dare you say Wrath of the Titans was better than this? I’m not necessarily, but I am saying it was what I paid to see. Sam Worthington delivering stale lines with Liam Neeson being awesome in Imax 3D. With Cabin, I paid to see a horror throwback/twist on the genre or something that would blow my mind with all the secrecy surrounding it. I got neither. What I got was a terribly done all across the board horror film-wanking-fest.
Now if you do want to watch a movie that pays loving homage and actually does flip the tables of the tropes in an interesting and entertaining way, go watch the incredible Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil. Another honorable mention among these lines would be the underrated british film Severance. Go watch these, they actually know what they are doing.
And speaking of films rewriting the formula, there is a buzzworthy film out there called The Raid: Redemption that proves the action formula can be rewritten and be amazing. A little off-topic I know, but also a little on considering.