The horror film genre has left much to be desired with its legacy of mindless slasher films and a seemingly endless list of genres and sub genres. Producers and filmmakers rely on the same conventions and use a formulaic plot line as if it were dogma. The genre has regressed where much of cinema has progressed into the mindless slashing of young semi-attractive actors that have led to the term “torture porn.” It seems that the genre has reached unprecedented levels of violence, in an attempt to raise the bar even higher every time.
So when you go into a horror film called “The Cabin in The Woods” where five college kids go to a remote cabin only to get slaughtered by whatever the creators have chosen to mix in the tired and degenerating formula, you think you know where the film is going, right? Wrong.
“The Cabin in The Woods” is a peculiar film, sometimes more funny than it is scary, inevitably fresh because of its absurd plot line, and always conscious of its label as a scary film- mostly all at the same time.
The film plays almost as a loving satire of everything it stands for and takes the splatter film genre only to turn it upside down. The conventions of the genre are challenged and yet the film is an homage to everything the filmmakers love about horror films. The mindless sacrifice of young people has become a “ritual” of horror films and the audience passively participate in the ritual as do the creators.
This theme echoes strongly through the film but elaborating would risk spoiling the film for audiences. Suffice to say that it challenges the conventions of a typical horror plot precisely by not shying away from them. On the contrary, the film embraces them, but also provides us with a meta-story that closely resembles and reminds us of ourselves and our role as spectators in this genre.
Though there are no abysmal performances to speak of, as is often custom with the horror genre, the acting can still have a ‘more of the same’ feel, but perhaps that is the point. The five college kids give solid but ultimately mediocre performances that may not set them apart from other films that take a similar plot line.
The real talents are the actors who contribute to the parallel storyline beyond the cabin itself and the five main actors. Their ability to convey nonchalance and an eerie focus on the mundane is what will really frighten you, more so than the actual murder on screen.
Producer Joss Whedon and director Drew Goddard have crafted a horror film that willingly falls into its worst traps but ends up criticizing them in a loving manner that feels like an inside joke to veterans. In any case, the experience of watching it is definitely worth going through if only to get a kick out of a film that is conscious of its shortcomings, making it fresh, scary, and funny, all at the same time.