Tuesday, 27 March 2012



Because in truth, the less you know the better. Even the poster artwork, which depicts the titular log cabin as some kind of giant Rubik Cube, doesn't represent what's actually behind it, and to find out in advance is like watching an Agatha Christie movie but looking it up on Wikipedia first to find out who's the killer. Go in as cold as possible. Don't even watch the trailer (a practice I've followed for about 20 years now without regret). And if, having seen the film, you then go onto Twitter or Facebook or your own review blog and blurt out what's really going on, you're a dick plain and very simple.

The Cabin In The Woods starts off in unpromising fashion with the by now almost rote template of the modern teen horror movie in which a camper van full of the requisite assortment of archetypal young people go off for a dirty weekend so far into the middle of nowhere that it doesn't even show up on their satnav. Then there's about fifteen minutes of typical teen horror movie blather before they all go down into the cellar in the time honoured manner. But intercut with all this overly familiar direct-to-rental stodge we have two middle-aged blokes in some kind of windowless control centre, and that's where it suddenly veers off into something completely unexpected. And after that...

Go and see it. Find out for yourself. Obviously the title evokes Sam Raimi's dazzling The Evil Dead and there are indeed echoes. But the last hour justifies this: it may employ the stock characters and generic setting that smack of Friday The 13th, The Evil Dead and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre but it's doing it for a very good reason. It's using these old tropes as the springboard for something far deeper, far more interesting and far more frightening. And it's also as viscerally as exciting as any of the best full-on horror movies, with a final half hour plus of genuinely eye-boggling and gory mayhem that surely pushes the BBFC's 15 rating to borderline 18. (Incidentally, don't be put off by the advertised fact that the director wrote Cloverfield - an okay movie, but still lumbered with the found footage technique where it's badly shot by idiots who have no reason for filming it in the first place. This is a proper film, not a pretend one.)

This is a smart film - smarter than you first think - that understands horror on a deeper cultural level than, say, Scream (which is essentially a slasher movie in which people quote Halloween at each other). I thought The Cabin In The Woods was absolutely terrific and I'd happily blither on for ten paragraphs about how clever, subversive and surprising it is. But I genuinely don't want to spoil it by citing "the scene where X does Y" or "the bit where A is killed by the Z". I might as well just transcribe the screenplay and be done with it. And even the moments and aspects I didn't really care for, such as some of the character details, have a valid reason for being there. If only the bottom half of the genre industry had a fraction of the wit or imagination or even the technical skill on display, it wouldn't be such a chore being a horror movie fan.

Here's how much I enjoyed it: I want to see it again. If (as I am) you're fed up with the endless run of store-brand Horror Movie photocopies that stake a claim to genre cooldom by casting Robert Englund or Brad Dourif as a shifty college professor for two scenes, or namecheck better filmmakers by having characters named Sheriff Romero and Doctor Hooper, then The Cabin In The Woods is refreshing proof that genre cinema can still be funny, intelligent and surprising. It has a kicker of a third act and an even bigger kicker of an ending, and weaves unexpected and elaborate variations on a simple and familiar theme. Go and see it, because if you don't, they'll just go back to remaking old slasher movies. It's a joy.


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