Tuesday, November 05, 2013

extending the (spooky) season

November may be here already (how did that happen?) but I'm in no mood yet to say a final goodbye to Halloween. Or the scary movies I marked to watch on Netflix and Hulu. The other night I finally got around to watching The Cabin in the Woods. I didn't get to see it when it came out last year - I don't get to see much "adult" fare first run. I'm a longtime Buffy and Angel fan. I like and respect Joss Whedon, but am the first to admit that his recent work can be hit or miss. Dollhouse? Yikes. The Avengers? Noisy fun, but not as amazing as it could have been. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.? I tried, I really did, but it's a personality-free snoozefest for me.

So for all of the rave reviews, I was still a little hesitant about The Cabin in the Woods. It's sort of a difficult film to write about, because if you haven't seen it yet, pretty much saying anything might spoil it for you. What I can say is that Whedon and Drew Goddard, who co-wrote the script (in three days) and also (first-time) directed the film, know their horror films and monsters and weren't afraid to use them.

The film follows five college students Dana, Curt, Jules, Marty, and Holden on a weekend getaway to ... you guessed it ... a cabin in the woods. What should be non-stop fun with sex, drugs, and rock and roll quickly escalates into terror, zombies, and fighting for their lives. The 95-minute film has lots of forward momentum, and plays with tons of scary movie tropes, but the real pay-off, for fans of the Whedonverse or any horror films definitely comes in the last act, when all hell literally breaks loose, to terror and comic effect.

"Do not read the Latin!" (L-R: Curt (Chris Hemsworth), Dana (Kristen Connolly), and Holden (Jesse Williams) have obviously not seen as many slasher movies as the audience.

The Cabin in the Woods has as much gore as it does humor, but like other Whedon efforts, it's the funny moments that stay with you, especially the banter between some science geeks at a place called The Facility (which is staffed by such fun folks as Amy Acker, Richard Jenkins, and Bradley Whitford) and a bit of business involving a speakerphone. Apparently Whedon & co. put a lot of thought into not just the things that go bump in the woods, but the costumes the main protagonists wear:

The first of the archetypes we meet is Dana, dancing in her knickers in front of an open window and revealed to have recently had an affair with her tutor; obviously she is the tramp or Whore (Kristen Connolly). Then we see her friend Jules in a floral dress and new blonde hair. Jules (Anna Hutchison) is in a stable relationship with boyfriend Curt (Chris Hemsworth); Jules is the innocent girl or Virgin. Curt wears a plain grey t-shirt and is evidently book-smart; he is the geek or Scholar. Curt’s friend Holden (Jesse Williams) arrives catching a football in a blue hooded sweatshirt; clearly the jock or Athlete. And finally pot smoker Marty in a shabby cardigan and shirt; Marty (Fran Kranz) is the stoner or Fool.

All but one of these characters undergoes a costume transition. ... this was absolutely intentional. — "Costume Clues Reveal All in The Cabin in the Woods", by Christopher Laverty

Do I need to see The Cabin in the Woods again anytime soon? Probably not. I really hate zombies. But did I enjoy it and did it live up to its positive buzz? Most definitely, although as I stated earlier, its humor, not splatter, was the real take-away.

And those last fifteen minutes. "Let's get the party started."


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