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August 20, 2012 | by  | in Arts Film |
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Review – The Cabin In The Woods

In 1994, John Carpenter released In the Mouth of Madness, a film about a claims investigator  (Sam Neill) tasked with locating a popular Stephen King-like author who has gone AWOL. His first stop—the sleepy town of Hobbe’s End, a hamlet with a dark secret. While not a commercial success, Madness was a highly delightful exercise in postmodern horror storytelling, an anarchic reflection on the relationship between the author, their art, and their audience that consumes it.

It’s interesting that, eighteen years later, Cabin in the Woods is getting called a ‘game-changer’ for doing something very similar.

Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard’s canny horror-comedy will feel familiar to anyone with a passing interest in contemporary horror cinema—Cabin’s narrative games and thematic concerns recall Madness, Quentin Dupieux’s Rubber and Wes Craven’s Scream, among others. That said, it remains an entertaining interrogation of the state of 21st century horror storytelling and authorship. Cutting between a quintet of attractive young twenty-somethings on a weekend jaunt to the titular cabin and a trio of jaded techs working for an insidious unseen hierarchy, Cabin discusses the growing influence that the modern audience—or, at least, the system’s understanding of them—has over filmmakers and the stories they tell, and it does so with dry wit and measured cynicism (even if it isn’t as effective at that as Rubber was).

But then, the film’s greatest successes aren’t to be found in the way it articulates its themes. Cabin is a hilarious, exceptionally tight horror-comedy in the vein of Edgar Wright’s Hot Fuzz.  A plothole or two aside, the film’s narrative and comic craft is impressive. Whedon’s characteristically clever dialogue is delivered with panache by the most talented cast to ever work on a Whedon script (Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford deserve special mention, stealing the film as a pair of snarky puppetmasters), every first act set-up has a third act pay-off, and Goddard’s direction injects the film with a giddy, authentic energy. It’s the kind of film that illustrates just how fun postmodernist cinema can be when done right.

4/5

Full review available online!

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  1. Gerald Lee (Film Editor) says:

    An extended version of this review can be found here: http://salient.org.nz/arts/extended-review-cabin-in-the-woods

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