Monday, December 3, 2012

“The Cabin in the Woods” – What do a unicorn, zombies, and Sigourney Weaver have in common?

When I was a kid, I used to stay up late on Saturday nights to watch a show called Monsters. It was very similar to shows like Tales from the Crypt and The Outer Limits; an anthology show in which each episode was a standalone horror story featuring some kind of monster and an ending with an ironic twist. Some of the episodes were scary while others were funny and I liked all of them because every episode was a surprise. I hadn’t thought about Monsters since – until I saw The Cabin in the Woods. This film was like an extended Monsters episode with an ending that would have made Monsters’ creators proud.

A couple of days before the movie arrived in my mail, I got this message from a friend:

“Um, Cabin in the Woods. Yeah. The undead, Sigourney Weaver, bloodthirsty unicorns, the apocalypse, an evil mer-man, a Hunger-Games-like arena, human sacrifice, and a very "meta" deconstruction of both the horror genre and religion. Um. Yeah. It's as absolutely terrible and slightly amazing as it sounds. Kevin, you need to review this.”

I thought this movie was going to be just another typical slasher-in-the-woods movie. How the hell was I supposed to wait two days after reading that? The first time I read it, I’m not sure I made it past ‘bloodthirsty unicorns.’ Seriously, could you? At that point, my brain threatened to shut down; how could there possibly a unicorn in a movie about a bunch of kids being murdered in the forest? Well, the answer to that question is…I’m not going to tell you. It’s far too awesome to spoil. What I will tell you is that this movie isn’t really about a bunch of co-eds being chased through a cabin and the woods by a deranged killer. It’s about why they’re being killed.

The movie begins like you would expect – five college friends drive up to the woods and find the creepy they plan to stay in. At the same time, we’re introduced to two guys in a control room somewhere else preparing for some kind of operation; one of several operations occurring around the world. Yeah – we’re already off the tracks of normal horror movie and definitely intrigued. Soon, the two are watching monitors showing the inside of the cabin as they finish setting up whatever it is they are about to unleash on the five co-eds. They even begin to place bets on something (which is revealed a short time later) and I’m sitting there completely entranced. At this point, I paused the movie and told my wife (who does not like watching horror movies) that she had to watch this movie. Even after I explained what had happened so far and that Bradley Whitford (one of the control room guys) and Chris Hemsworth (the jock in the group of college kids) were in it, she didn’t agree to watch…until I told her that Joss Whedon wrote and produced the movie, and she was IN. (We’re both big Firefly fans). Little did we both know that this movie was just getting started.

The movie continues with the killer (or killers) showing up in the woods and picking off the group of kids, one by one. While this was expected, what wasn’t expected was that the control room guys are actively manipulating the environment in and around the cabin to make sure the action plays out exactly as it does in all horror movies. Of course, there are glitches in the plan and things don’t go as they usually do. This is where the parallels to Monsters start to become obvious and is where I stop revealing any more of this movie.

The best thing about both Monsters and The Cabin in the Woods is that you don’t know how it’s going to end. Anything can happen – and pretty much does. As the climax of the film unfolded, my wife and I were nearly in shock at what we were witnessing. It was literally like nothing we had ever seen and we couldn’t take our eyes off it, jaws hanging open. By the time it was over, we simply looked at each other with same “Holy Crap” expression on our faces. I know I sound a little over the top, especially for a horror movie, but that is the genius of Joss Whedon. Or, I really, really miss Monsters.

Rating: Worth every penny. Twice. For goodness sake – bloodthirsty unicorn!

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