The Cabin in the Woods ** (out of five)
I went to see The Cabin in the Woods, in Los Angeles, on its opening day in the United States, because I was extremely excited for it, and extremely nervous, in a film geek’s way, that the huge “twist” of the film was going to be revealed to me before I saw the movie. Thus, off to one of the very first sessions I went, dragging my great mate Ian along with me. “Trust me,” I told him, “this film is going to be amazing. I’ve heard it’s got Sixth Sense-level twists, Inception-level mind-benders. I’ve heard that it’s just revolutionary, just a whole new leap forward in crazy, intricate, clever wow stuff.” And I had heard all that stuff. I’d heard it from various sources, including one of my favourite podcasters, who’d seen it at South By Southwest (a huge Festival) and was raving about it. Raving.
Of course, very few films can live up to that sort of hype, but, unfortunately, The Cabin in the Woods fell, on that Los Angeles afternoon, so far below my expectations, so far below what I had been led to believe (and what I led my poor mate Ian to believe) that it kind of bummed us out for the rest of the night.
The film was marketed – very aggressively, in the United States, but barely at all in Australia – essentially thus: “You think you know the story. You don’t.” Essentially, we were led to believe, we were going to be served a generic cabin in the woods horror film (some of the highlights of the genre being Evil Dead and Cabin Fever) that had, as mentioned above, mind-altering twists, tricks, revelations, etc. I thought about what the “big twist” might be, and came up with one solution. I was dead-on, and I suspect, if you think about it for more than a second, you’ll be able to second (pre-?) guess it too.
Not that the film cares if you do, as it “reveals” the “big twist” in the very first moment. There are more reveals to come, but they are far too banal to justify the hype this film generated – as some sort of horror movie second coming. The film spends way too long in the “cabin in the woods” generic mode, wasting our time with the conventions it argues to be reacting against. It feels like a cheat.
There is a set-piece towards the end that may be absolute heaven to some viewers, and there will definitely be some viewers who love the whole movie. If you’re a serious horror-film geek it might be your Citizen Kane, or at least your Pulp Fiction. But the thing is, I’m a serious horror-film geek, and I was alternately bored, exasperated, annoyed and ultimately extremely underwhelmed.
And I owe my mate Ian a couple of hours of his life back. I may have been extremely underwhelmed, but he hated it.