This week, go see 'The Cabin in the Woods'
The movie with the unexceptional title "The Cabin in the Woods," might just be the game-changer in modern horror, a movie that so thoroughly takes horror's current tropes and conventions to their logical conclusions that filmmakers will have to look for different types of victims, psychos and catharses to keep the genre fresh.
Or it's just a smart and self-conscious but thoroughly enjoyable summer thrill ride, one that fans of Whedon and slasher flicks will geekily revel in at their computer desks while the rest of Hollywood busily focus groups out another "Resident Evil."
At the very least, I think it'll become part of the conversation when fans talk about horror. It'll be a movie you have to bring up when you're talking about the tropes and psychology behind modern American horror.
Cut to a college campus where a gaggle of young students—one hot one (Anna Hutchinson), one jock (Chris Hemsworth), one stoner (Fran Kranz), one smart guy (Jesse Williams), and one shy girl (Kristen Connolly)—all meet up in a camper full of hormones and mild narcotics to take off for the weekend to a secluded spot in a cabin in the woods. This is exactly what you expect.
"The Cabin in the Woods" exists in the juxtapositional mash-up between the two scenes, their wildly different tones, and how they both play out, one practically by the book on dismembered teens, blood-and-shrieks summer horror and the other... not so much.
And I've already said too much.
Like "Psycho" or "The Sixth Sense," this is a movie that needs to be seen pretty much prejudice free. You know you're going in for something good, something surprising, and you practically owe it to yourself to hear just about nothing more (though I did also see the trailer before going in and can report back that there are still plenty of developments and surprising unspoiled).
There's a thrill in discovering the story for the first time. There's is an almost universal Internet blackout on spoilers or giving away the ending. And for good reason. "The Cabin in the Woods" is savvy, it's clever, it goes meta on the tropes and conventions and psychological pleasures of horror but it's also an phenomenally satisfying and exceptional summer movie.
"The Cabin in the Woods" was almost never going to be seen - lost in movie vault limbo. Originally scheduled for a 2010 release, the film was delayed for a conversion to 3D (which, thankfully, never happened) and then put on indefinite hiatus as its distributing studio, Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer (MGM), filed for bankruptcy.
The movie's co-writers, Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon, who also functioned as director and producer, respectively, moved on to other things until Lionsgate swooped in, purchased and premiered the movie at South by Southwest in the beginning of 2012.
Which means this year is probably going to be a very good one for Whedon, who has a major super hero ensemble movie ("The Avengers") premiering the first Friday in May.
Whedon sits on the upper edge of the low brow mainstream. Known for such devotedly followed series as "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Angel," and "Firefly" along with the movies "Dr. Horrible's Singalong Blog" and "Serenity," his movies and TV shows on the one hand can feel pulpy and familiar, while on the other are consistently clever, funny, surprisingly heartfelt and mildly, gently subversive (particularly with his "radical" insistence on strong female leads).
No slouch himself, Drew Goddard wrote and produced for "Cloverfield," "Lost," "Alias" and Whedon's own "Buffy" and subsequent "Angel" spinoff.
That pedigree alone should call many a series devotee out to see the duo's delayed collaboration, "The Cabin in the Woods."
If you positively, absolutely can't stand a movie reminding you you're a voyeur, that you're watching something and not being magically transported to another place, I sadly withdraw my recommendation for "The Cabin in the Woods."
And for the record, it's not really all that scary. Which I know disappointed the guy walking out of the theater in front of me who loudly declared it was the dumbest movie he'd ever seen, a point to which I happily disagreed.
There's a horror movie in "The Cabin in the Woods" but it's a movie much more our contemporary enjoyment for slashers and monsters and the macabre and the grisly deaths of attractive, sexual active young people then it is about actually fulfilling your jollies for those very things. Go see it, you'll see what I mean.