By Jordan Hale – Sundown United // California
As some of you may have gathered by now, while I greatly enjoy the movies, I almost never write movie reviews. I don’t know if this is because on some level I feel like my critical stance lacks validity, or just because I like people to form their own opinions about something as subjective as a film. Taking a firm stance on something that has the power to move us all so differently usually just feels odd to me However, every once in a while there comes a film that moves me to want to really talk about it, and to encourage people to go out and see it. Where I’m going with this is: The Cabin in the Woods. I saw this film last weekend at my favorite Los Angeles three-screen theatre that still shows film prints, gives you the stink eye if you mention 3-D, and sells popcorn for less than 10 dollars. There’s always a little bit of interesting chatter before the film starts, and people crack open warm cans of PBR they must have carefully smuggled with them in their purses and pockets. Not that anyone at this type of theater would give a shit anyway.
I was excited about this movie for several reasons, one being that it was a Lionsgate acquisition (my former employer) and two, my first boss in L.A. and mentor, Dana, was the music supervisor. Dana’s soundtracks never disappoint, and I had yet to see her work exhibited in a horror film before. This brings me to the real reason I want to talk about this flick: I am a closet horror-film nerd. The most “fun” I ever had on an assignment in college was when I chose to write a retrospective of ’70s horror film for my Cinema of the 1970s class. I poured through books as thick as Moby Dick and watched The Last House on the Left (the original!) and Rosemary’s Baby with headphones on while on Thanksgiving vacation at my grandma’s house that year, trying not to let any young cousins peek and be scarred for life.
There is something very primal and almost ancient-human about this genre to me. The vast parameters within which violence, sex, and everything else “taboo” that can be explored within it makes for endless fun in my eyes. Within that, the best horror films to me are the ones that are consistently self-aware. Being able to make a movie genuinely scary while the characters are all the while subtly acknowledging that this is a film and that they’re following the beloved horror film “formula,” (i.e. road trip, creepy gas station stop, even creepier getaway destination, teenage debauchery, the gratuitously skanky girl dies first, you know the drill…) working within this formula while successfully pulling off a twist that explains all the self-aware behavior an an interesting and clever manner, is quite the feat. The Scream franchise pulled it off first, but I haven’t seen such a great example of tongue-in-cheek horror since, until Cabin. The film uses modern-day twists to refresh century-old horror greats like zombies, yet remains funny and relevant throughout the whole ride, even when it gets terrifying. The dialogue is sharp and current without trying to hard, direction was spot-on, casting was really great as well. The movie even touches on some very thought-provoking psychological topics, blending in a little existentialism with it’s bloodbaths. (…continued below)
Especially impressive to me was the film’s ability to blend in a supernatural element and make it fit in so seamlessly into a world that felt very close to home. These kids could be our next door neighbors, living at the end of our block. But they are sucked into something both ancient and futuristic that really throws them for a loop. Most importantly, the writing allowed these elements to work in such a way that they are able to make sense within the created world, without creating a lot of distracting questions, allowing the viewer to sit back and enjoy the ride. I don’t want to say too much about the plot of the film because the best part of the experience is solving the puzzle for the first time while you’re watching. Wouldn’t want to ruin it for anyone! What I want to communicate is that this film is great because it is sharp and original throughout, and yet also appeals to a wide audience and has done well at the box office.
Whether you’re a film extraordinaire, or someone who just likes to laugh as well as jump out of their seat enough for their popcorn to fly into the air every now and then, this movie is satisfying. It’s a very hip and edgy film, yet it isn’t trying too hard – and everything from the music to the cinematography is consistent with this. I encourage everyone who is not too squeamish to go and see this movie, and can almost guarantee that you will enjoy yourself, and leave the theater feeling like you’ve just seen something not quite like anything you’ve ever seen before – a rare sensation these days, and worth celebrating.