Sunday, April 15, 2012

"The Cabin in the Woods": Lionsgate sums up all possible earlier horror genres

The idea of some friends going off to a remote place and getting into trouble is hardly new. Drew Goddard’s “The Cabin in the Woods”, filmed in British Columbia, certainly adds to Lionsgate’s repertoire of genre horror, although this film takes the concept to new “heights” (or lows, as you interpret it).

Five friends do go off for a weekend to get “unplugged” and will soon regret it, even getting your typical warning from an old codger at a gas station (with manual pumps).  Well, except that they aren’t unplugged the way they thought. The story builds a bridge to “Hunger Games” and “Truman Show”, as the cabin is rigged for reality TV with some super sleuth corporation in Vancouver, where old men gather for a weekend to slobber in their own creep.  But these aging geek types have reason to think it’s up to them to save the world.

You know something’s up as the kids drive through a canyon tunnel and suddenly the film shows a plasma wall.  (Is this a reference to the late 90s thriller “The 13th Floor”?)  Later you’ll wonder if the monsters are real or just holograms.  Nevertheless, some of the friends “get it”. 

There’s some pagan mythology here, especially when the “director” Sigourney Weaver appears near the end to “explain” all of it to the surviving “fool” Marty (Fran Kranz) and “virgin” (Anna Huthcinson).  This may be “the end of the world”, except for the fact that the movie needs a sequel.  So  you don’t get the satisfaction here you might expect (as from “Knowing” or “Melancholia”).

A couple of the other friends are Holden (Jesse Williams) and the “athlete”  Curt (Chris Hemsworth), who is stereotypically smooth, like a swimmer.   Now Marty adds some other humor with his bong, which folds up into a thermos bottle, as a way to make fun of Michael Phelps.  (The film, appropriate, has another character named Truman.)

Lionsgate had a similarly named film of this genre, “Cabin Fever”, back in 2003, with Eli Roth (showing how Ebola could surface in the woods).  Other films in this mode include “Vacancy” (Screen Gems, 2007), and “Timber Falls” (Slowhand, 2007).  There is also an “In the Woods” with Terence Howard in Production, and a 1999 indie film by that name (playable on YouTube) by Lynn Drzick, available on YouTube (I haven’t seen it yet). 

Lionsgate’s site for this new film is here. According to imdb, this “B movie” cost $30 million to make. I saw it at the AMC Courthouse  (Arlington VA) on Sunday afternoon, before a small but energetic crowd.   Some of the “machinery” at the cabin resembles the gear of Lionsgate’s own trademark intro.

Picture: A "cabin in the woods" at Blackwater Falls State Park, W Va, my picture, 2010. 

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