Monday, October 29, 2012

No Bruce Campbell cameo, but still ... : "The Cabin in the Woods"

Oh, hi. Yes, I'm still around. Seen a buttload of movies, too. Not in a theater. What am I, single and childless? But still managing to catch up on the smaller screen. Just not posting much because ... I'm not single and childless.

What could break the silence, you ask? How about a clever take on an overdone genre? Not necessarily satire or parody, but rather the amusing idea of something happening behind the scenes of a story we've seen all too often. Nebulous enough? Then let's get into it.

Hold up. Let me make sure I can do this without giving anyway anything big. Our story starts somewhat oddly, with a couple of white guys making their way through a normal-looking office building. It's typical and funny -- the usual banter before the movie title slams onto the screen in big letters. Then we move to something else typical: college kids getting ready to head out to the woods for various hijinks. See, one of the kids' relatives just bought this cabin. Of course he did!

We all know what happens when kids do such a fool thing. But what if it weren't just something that "happened?" What if there were people pulling the strings and making sure the horror unfolded in a certain way? That's the premise here, with the two white guys (always solid Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins) nudging along the five youngsters (the guy who plays Thor, a guy from "Dollhouse" and a few others). Why do such a thing? Now, now ... no spoilers.

What I can say is this plot allows the movie to do a few things quite well. The juxtaposition between two guys in an office and nubile youths in the woods is entertaining, and keeps the pace brisk. And the whole idea also allows for turning some horror staples on their ear a bit, including one hilarious conversation between Whitford's character and a supporting actor out in the world. Finally, there are just some good lines, mostly from the dynamic duo in the bunker, but also a few from our cast above ground. Watch early for a riff on an old drug PSA.

If I have a quibble, it might be when things get serious in the last third. That does afford an opportunity for more terror and gore, but the dearth of humor is a drawback. Still, that might have been hard to sustain, and we *do* finally learn what this manipulation is all about. And props for a different kind of ending, which makes sense with a different kind of movie.

Oh, and don't worry. We still get to see boobs. Clever or not, some aspects of the genre are *not* optional.