By William Pattison, aka Eric Morse
For Horror Bob Blog
On Friday the 13th screenwriter Victor Miller made a surprise visit to my internet radio show, The Eric Morse Project. During the show Victor presented my crew, The Wolf Pack and I a challenge. He asked us to go see the new film, The Cabin in the Woods, and review it both in print and on my show. So, loving a challenge, I went and saw the film the next day on Saturday….
The film starts out as most every modern horror film. We are introduced to five college students who are going for the weekend at a cabin owned by a relative of one of them. We are also introduced to two research scientists who seem to enjoy their work. Something big is going on, an experiment that appear to be copied all over the world. It’s a competition it appears and they want to beat the Japanese. We learn later how this connects to our group of college kids.
Driving through the woods the kids drive up to a decrepit looking gas station that appears to be closed. In typical movie fashion look in the gas station and find the typical creepy guy running the place. The guy gives them the standard warning, but the kids ignore him and continue to the cabin. On the way they enter a tunnel and come out on the other side of a deep ravine. A bird flies across the ravine and is immediately roasted on an invisible energy wall in the ravine. What the hell was that, the viewer asks. Welcome to the real movie.
The Cabin in the Woods is both a statement on modern horror and an experiment unto itself. We find out that the research scientists are monitoring the college students. We also find out that they are manipulating these kids and through drugs and suggestion turning them into the stereotypical slasher film characters. One girl they made dumber through the blond hair dye she used. One of the guys is being made more macho and aggressive through the beer he’s drinking. This is all being noticed by the druggie of the group, who brought his own bong, that transforms into a thermal mug in moments. He seems to be fighting the control.
At one point after they are well settled in the cabin (so much so that the bleach blond gets oral with a wolf’s head on the wall), and amusingly without suspicion, a trapped door opens leading to the basement of the house. There the kids find an assortment of items, including a remotely familiar puzzle device, a music box with dancing ballerina, and most importantly a diary. The supposed virgin of the group (though she has just got done having a sexual relationship with her teacher..) starts reading from the diary, including the Latin passages on resurrecting the dead, thus releasing a horde of redneck sadomasochistic zombies loose to kill them.
Now that would be enough for one horror film, but Cabin in the Woods is special. We find out that the reason the scientist have played puppet masters and put these kids in this grizzly situation is because they need the blood and the deaths of five people of a certain sort appease the ancient gods who once ruled the world. If they don’t the old ones will rise and the human race will fall.
You would think that with all this going for it I’d be blown away by this film…sorry. The problem with this film is the problem with most modern horror films, high concept, but lack of tension and uneven characterization. The problem is this film is actually two films in one, the main story and the background story. We end up getting to know the scientists better than we do the college kids, thus we end up lacking sympathy for the victims. Also, whenever there is a kill for some reason the filmmakers cut to the control room and the scientists and break the tension of the scenes.
Also screenwriter, Josh Wheaton, throws way too many references not only to his own works, but also to films like Hellraiser and Silent Hill. The final payoff is a chaos of blood and monster FX with a special cameo that really didn’t have the wow factor given everything that comes before.
As an experiment The Cabin in the Woods is interesting, but as a horror film it lacks tension and is shallow where it should be sympathetic. If you are a modern film geek you’ll love the myriad of references, including the fact that the cabin itself looked like the one in Evil Dead. Also, gore hounds will love the gore though it lacks the punch. So really in the end it will depend on the viewer as to what they do or do not get out of this film. For me I was unimpressed…Keep on Creepin' Horror Bob Blog.....