“Horror will eat itself” – Mark Kermode
What a wheeze it must have seemed at the time. You can just imagine the studio execs laughing like drains, falling off their executive leather sofas at the big joke.
“Hey Jake, get a load of this one. This one’s the daddy. Imagine a horror film, right, made from recreating bits of other horror movies. All of them. You name it, the lot. But get this, right (haaaaaaaahahaha), we’ll do it so there’s an organisation doing all this stuff. And we’ll include a total bloodbath, and an ending so ludicrous even Sigourney Weaver will look totally pants trying to keep a straight face. Oh, and we’ll make it a comedy, just in case anyone thinks we’re taking it seriously. It’ll kill them, I tell you!!! Sorry, originality did you say? Hahahahahahahahahaha”
You thought Tarantino was the master of the derivative nod towards other genres and directors, right? Think again. Acknowledge the new master, Drew Goddard. His fans would say he is exploring every horror movie cliche and exploding them with rare intelligence. Take it from me, that is not the case. He is exploiting them to his own ends, to disguise the paucity of his imagination in developing something new and different. Not homage, instead this travesty is pure plagiarism.
Were this not the case, his movie would not end in a way in which the audience’s already stretched incredulity and suspension of disbelief is taken way beyond snapping point. I mean, we are talking so totally absurd that it’s a true wonder that Sigourney Weaver (who is obviously so short of a bob or two that she needs to make a cameo in this tripe) succeeds in keeping a straight face in spite of what must be toe-curling embarrassment. But there again, she can act. So too can Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford – what on earth were they thinking of?! Maybe every major actor has at least one picture that is, with the benefit of hindsight, utterly shameful.
Much of the hackneyed cabin cliche would be acceptable were the film genuinely scary, if the director had ratcheted up the tension so the audience felt on the edge of their seats, but letting you in from the start that the events are being run by a strange group of scientists from an apparently evil organisation destroys that illusion. Neat ploy it may be, but it’s handled so clumsily that you wonder why they bother. Acting by the “kids” ensemble (more stereotypes – the athlete, the studious one, the whore, the fool and the virgin) would at times qualify them for the Woodentops – as if they can barely believe what they are doing and can’t take it seriously either. No character development, no nothing.
Even the inevitable splatter of gore section, technically brilliant though it may be, comes over with a weary cynicism. It’s there because it’s expected. It tries to shock but manifestly fails. Why? Because that only works in the context of sympathy for the characters and suspenseful anticipation. Here it is meaningless and gratuitous. It is there because an audience segment expects it.
If you want to see how spoof horror should be handled, including much wittier scripting and deliberately sending up the cliches, Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead does it with aplomb and relish. It’s odd that while there are moments of humour in Cabin in the Woods, I watched the movie last night and by this morning I’ve forgotten them all. Lines and jokes in Evil Dead I can remember vividly, 25 years on!! (eg. As the hero puts the reanimated arm in a bucket, he covers it with books to stop it escaping. On top of the pile of books is Shaw’s A Farewell To Arms. Delicious!!)
So why, you might ask, are certain critics queueing up to fête Cabin in the Woods (see here and here and here and here, for example.) I can only assume that the movie appeals to their vanity by recognising the various nods to other movies, which in the absence of meaningful content must pass for intelligence.
Don’t be fooled! This is a totally empty and vacuous experience. It adds not one whit or spark to the horror genre, and in retrospect will be seen in that light, yet is being compared for the twist in the ending to the likes of Usual Suspects, The Sixth Sense and Memento, none of which in my estimation should be mentioned in the same breath as this shocker of a shocker. It is the very cynicism that is most nasty and should be punished rather than rewarded.
So, in summary, Cabin in the Woods is hokum, nonsense, a right load of old codswallop. Don’t waste your money, save it for a good, well-acted movie with a credible plot, quality script, decent acting and direction, one that leaves you feeling “wow!” rather than utterly cheated.