"An army of nightmares, huh? Let's get this party started." - Dana
Yeah. We’ve all got the “guilt list”. Movies that we should’ve seen in the cinema, on the big screen, but didn’t. One of mine is definitely Life of Pi which I regret to this day not seeing in 3D. Another is Cabin in the Woods.
Everything about it that I knew at the time, i.e. its title, implying that there’s a cabin, and there are woods surrounding it, suggesting a Cabin Fever/Evil Dead vibe and also Joss Whedon’s involvement put it firmly in the WILL SEE bracket.
The intriguing poster, how could I resist?
But somehow, despite my avoiding spoilers like a vampire avoids daylight, I managed to totally miss the window of opportunity, and it came and went before I got off my ass. Yes, I feel the shame of that admission to this day.
Fortunately, DVD came to the rescue before too long, and somehow or other I was still spoiler free. (I think I just ended up avoiding everybody who’d seen the film – no easy feat for a Starburst writer)
What I was expecting from the film which has the pedigree of having been co-written by the legendary Joss Whedon and Buffy/Angel alum Drew Goddard was a fresh new take on perhaps a tried and tested horror movie cliché, resulting in something new, exciting, that I had never seen before.
And I was almost right.
The film follows the conventions of several familiar teen horror movies with a devotion that’s almost slavish to begin with. (Despite an opening scene that takes place in a sterile looking hi-tech facility where a couple of technicians discuss an upcoming ritual. Apparently the Copenhagen one went wrong. )
We have five college students. The jock (Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth) his sidekick, two girls, (one on the rebound) and the stoner intellectual comedy relief. They’re headed for a weekend of sex, drugs and rock’n roll at a deserted cabin (in the woods, obviously).
Now, at this point – the film looks like any number of films, including several in the Friday the 13th series. We know from instinct that these kids aren’t all going to get out alive. They even do all the things the potential slaughter victims in all the other movies I’ve mentioned do, as if on cue. The foolishly explore the cellar when the hatch door flies open unexpectedly. (Personally, I wouldn’t stop running until I was in the next state) and there they find various artefacts. A puzzle box. A book of ancient incantations. Which will they choose. That is, are they going Hellraiser, or Evil Dead? Good question – and one that’s equally asked in the mysterious facility as their actions are being monitored.
The kids are being subtly manipulated. Had they chosen the puzzle box, it would’ve set them on one course, but they choose the book of incantations. Foolishly, an incantation is read out loud which brings the zombie Bruckner family back to life. They’re a bunch of homicidal rednecks with a penchant for slaughtering whatever they see. Just to make it easy, the two couples split up, one pair heading outside for a makeout session, the others remaining in the house.
Just to stack the odds in their favour, the staff at the facility are using psychotropic drugs and pheromones to keep the kids juiced up, horny and distracted.
The Bruckners show up causing decapitatory mayhem, just as the stoner notices some surveillance equipment and the facility get the news that the Japanese ritual has failed.
So what the hell IS going on, exactly?
In a nutshell, the reason that everything that’s happening to the kids seems familiar is that everything IS familiar. The kids (and probably every teen you’ve seen killed by slashers, madmen, demons, monsters, spirits and so on in films since the dawn of cinema) are all manipulated in to behaving as stupidly as they do, like locking themselves in the house with the killer, tripping up at the worst possible moment and so on, are doing so because they’re tricked or drugged or led in to doing so by the good folks at the facility.
Why, for God’s sake?
Well, the facility is like a holding cell for every monster, miscreant, thing that goes bump in the night that ever haunted a nightmare or a horror movie. The facility basically keeps them happy and fed, by feeding them unwitting horny teens who think with their genitalia, and the blood spilt keeps the Ancient Ones in their perpetual sleep. The demand is that certain stereotypes be sacrificed, the sports jock, the whore, the virgin, the fool and the scholar. There is a flexibility in the order they can be killed, but the whore must die first, and the virgin last. (It kind of gives you a whole new way of watching a horror movie doesn’t it?)
The ONE drawback is that the concept, original as it seems, bears a striking similarity to Whedon’s fifth season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, where a paramilitary black ops unit called the Initiative was tracking down, capturing and incarcerating monsters. This seems the next logical step of that storyline.
Sadly, no Buffy Summers to save the day.
Check it out here.
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