Tuesday, May 29, 2012
The Cabin in the Woods is not a horror film. The anti-spoilerists have gone so radical that even knowing the film’s premise, which we discover way before Janet Leigh dies, is considered too much information for the uninitiated, the better to inform your finances, I’m sure. True, there is the story of a bunch of horror stereotypes visiting a cabin in the woods for an ostensibly frightful weekend, but there is also a bigger story that I won’t reveal, and that supernarrative is the primary focus. It’s creative, but it’s not scary. You go in expecting a horror flick, and you get an hour and a half of a horror buff talking about all his favorites instead. Why make one horror film when you can make 'em all? Whatever the cult of Whedon say, expectations matter.
Unfortunately, the story in the story isn’t scary either. Oh, there are moments, mostly of easy shock-horror, as when the title card suddenly appears, Funny Games-style. There are also sequences of genuine suspense, like the wolf-head make-out, and half the jokes land, mostly thanks to the pot cloud around Fran Kranz. The wealth of creativity on display almost compensates for the lapses of horror: The grand threat of torture is told, not shown. The night softens the terror of both the bad guys and the filmmakers. And the Haneke-style nihilism is supposed to be provocative. Scream 4 has sharper fangs.
But the worst crime of The Cabin in the Woods is that it parades around as some philosophical treatise on horror stories wherein the writers have their cake and eat it too, slaves to both the bloodlust of audience members and the “free will” of characters. Parse the storytelling allegory even a little and the cards fall down. Is death just another trope of the horror genre or the snuffing of a human life, and what then do we make of the apocalypse? The final choice is designed as allegory but the surface effect is of arbitrary self-sacrifice, a dangerous notion these days. Even if I bought the metaphor, that is one propagandistic parable. And for the record, I don't. The vengeful foaming fanboys love Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard. Even after their idols paint them in such lush monochrome.
Posted by Brandon Nowalk at 3:42 AM