The Clichés in the Woods

The Cabin in the Woods

 

Tea: Mango Sencha

 

With so many horror movies these days being either found-footage (meaning shite) or remakes of old classics, which never needed to be remade, it is hard to find anything that has the odour of originality around it. In my search for something to feed to the hungry zombies that are my horror curiosity, I stumbled upon The Cabin in the Woods and the people sitting around it and praising it as the next big step in horror. So I got it and even the box proclaimed it as “intelligent horror that turns the genre on its head”. Let’s see whether or not this bold statement can hold up.

The Cabin in the Woods kicks things off with a self-referential and smug self-aware tone of introducing the teenagers which all fill the archetypes of jock, slut, stoner, kind-of nerd, and virgin. They decide to spend the weekend at the jock’s cousin’s cabin and have some good old fashioned horror movie fun. At the same time the openly subversive tone becomes apparent as we see scientists in an underground facility who orchestrate everything around their trip to make it as cliché as possible. Why and how they are doing this does becomes clear later on. After some obligatory nudity the teens are attacked by a bunch of undead redneck’s who wield the world’s most effective bear trap as it basically functions like the devil bringer from Devil May Cry 4 or Scorpions weird dagger chain-thingy. The plot is then split between the teens trying their best to escape and the scientists doing their best to kill them off and blocking all of their escape routes.

The Cabin in the Woods

– Meet your cast, you have probably seen them 100-times by now. – 

The first thing I would do is criticise the characters for being shallow but I can already hear the ever present whispering of fans going “that’s the point! That’s why it’s smart!” except it kind of isn’t. Making fun of clichés is all fair game, but simply showing me a cliché and rolling your eyes at me while going “what a cliché. Am I right?” is not going to do the trick. I am not saying this is the case for all the clichéd moments, but it is definitely present and at some points obnoxious. My most hated one is a character breaking into an overused and dramatic speech and then being interrupted by something “whacky and hilarious”. It would have been fine one time, but it happens about three times in the movie and even the second one was painful to watch. That is not to say that poking fun at clichés can’t be fun, in fact a major enjoyment factor of the movie comes from the use of horror tropes in exciting ways. Especially during the last act of the movie the horror genre gets a thorough homage to almost every iteration ever. This is when the movie is best, even though computer-generated effects in this movie are atrocious.

Dana (Kristen Connolly) and Holden (Jesse Williams) in THE CABIN IN THE WOODS.

– Oh yes, this never ended up being important, didn’t it? –

My biggest problem with the movie stems from the overall set-up. Designing a classic horror setting as the trap that it is and playing around with well-established tropes works only so well. While some aspects fit in nicely, it is gas that is my biggest problem. Gas can do anything in this movie. When the blonde girl is unwilling to take her clothes off there is just some gas pumped into the scene and shirts just drop. Later on a character makes the smart choice of suggesting to stay together but after some Deus ex Machina gas he suggests splitting up, basically stupid-gas. Another gripe is the big revelation of the purpose behind all of this and after hearing it you will inevitably wonder how everyone can be this laid-back and bet on which monster it will be this time around. It is all serviceable while you watch, but thinking back to the beginning will raise questions the movie did not intend for.

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– Why are cabins such iconic horror locations? I can’t even think of that many horror movies with them… –

All that being said there is still fun to be had watching this movie. This is without a doubt a movie for horror-fans and it is those people it will please. Being familiar with the genre is a necessity to grasp all the little nods and references. The overall story does not hold up considering the bigger picture, but as the ride goes on it is entertaining to watch. There are some noticeable plot holes you will uncover after watching the movie but it does not break the overall experience. If anything they were probably intended to fit more in line with the genre in general. The problem I am having with this movie is the same I have with a lot of these “intelligent horror” movies: they are not. Simply uncovering a pattern within a genre is not that great an accomplishment that is why it can be labelled as a genre to begin with. Also, nothing that has jump scares can call itself intelligent. This is a new rule I am putting out right now. Reinventing horror and using the same overused loud noise while shoving something in my face is tiring and annoying.

cabin_woods_review_images_v06

– Zombie? – Check. Redneck? – Check. Religious motivation? – Check. Alright, we’re good. –

The Cabin in the Woods is defiantly a new perspective on horror but not a bold new step. It is self-aware at all times and that is the entire gimmick. Definitely a pleasant kind of self-awareness in some scenes, but an overreliance on nudge-nudge-wink-wink kind of humour none the less. This is far less a horror movie than a genre comedy which is why it is all the more baffling that the conclusion turns out as it is. Without spoiling it, it is basically a giant metaphor wrapped in a somewhat lovecraftian cloak. While I appreciate symbolism in all its forms it does come across as odd especially in this movie. It extends the metaphor to the entire movie and is a cheap device to explain all the aforementioned plot holes. It ends in a conclusive way, but not a very satisfying one. This all boils down to the penultimate scene as the movie cannot explain the entire purpose of the undertaking without a villain-monologue, if that isn’t a fresh and intelligent new step for horror…

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– Once again, all this behaviour is really out of place, taking the overall situation into account. –

While it may not live up to the boastful descriptions on the cover, I would still recommend it as a one-time watch for the darker part of the year. This is a movie you have to be in the right mind-set for. If you’re thinking about watching old horror movies then you are in the right mood and will be pleasantly surprised. However, if you need a new experience of horror to stick with you for the rest of the week, then keep looking. It is as enjoyable as the movies it parodies but does not rise beyond the level of “so cheesy it’s good”. While this may not exactly quench your thirst for bone chilling, atmosphere-heavy horror, it should still carry you over until something like that waves a bloody hand on the horizon. And who knows, maybe some truly horrific experiences await you right here in the future. I’m not telling…

 

 

Image sources in order of appearance:

 

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3 thoughts on “The Clichés in the Woods

  1. I burst into laughter when I saw the first picture you used in your article. You immediately recognise the role of the respective characters. Let me watch the first ten minutes of the movie and I´ll tell you in what order they´re going to die. It´s one of my favourite games when watching horror movies, although it has to be said that the genre doesn´t make it too difficult. Sadly.

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