New Release Review - The Cabin In The Woods

Directed by: Drew Goddard
Starring: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford, Jesse Williams, Amy Acker

A bunch of college kids, closely resembling the Scooby Doo gang, head off to the titular retreat for a weekend of fun. Little do they know that their every move is being manipulated by Whitford and Jenkins, part of an underground network who keep the world safe by sacrificing young people to subterranean Gods.
Horror and comedy are without doubt the most difficult genres to get right. When executed well they're easily the most entertaining. Attempt to combine the two and you're really setting yourself a task. Back in the eighties there was a stream of horror-coms, most downright awful ("976-EVIL", "Repossessed"), but a select few were actually hilarious ("Return Of The Living Dead"), charming ("Night Of The Creeps", "The Monster Squad"), and even scary ("An American Werewolf In London", "Evil Dead"). There's really nothing more to be added to the above lot but this being the age of the remake, we now get a postmodern horror comedy, one which certainly isn't scary or charming and is only amusing if you've never seen any of the previously mentioned films. 
Frankly every gag in this feels thirty years out of date and few, if any, are original. That great joke concerning a character's virgin status from "The Monster Squad" is ripped off shamelessly here. It seems the writers presume nobody has seen a horror movie made before the twenty-first century. At one point we see footage from similar scenarios around the world but the only action we see in any detail is from Japan where schoolgirls battle with a "Ring" type long-haired spirit. "It's always down to the US and Japan" one character remarks, as if no other nation has a horror culture. Were this made by someone like Joe Dante we might get clips from Italy featuring a black-gloved killer, a werewolf in Spain, or masked wrestlers in Mexico. But that would go over the heads of mainstream viewers, as indeed even the Japanese reference seemed to with my audience, and that's all Goddard cares about. 
As a kid, when I watched "An American Werewolf In London" I immediately wanted to see every werewolf movie that I could find (and frankly still do). That's exactly the reaction it's director John Landis wanted, because he genuinely loves the horror genre. I can't imagine any kids watching this and suddenly being filled with a desire to watch "Evil Dead". With it's condescending smarmy tone, this seems intended to be watched in place of horror movies, which is probably why so-called "respectable critics" have taken to it so favorably. 
The whole thing is so damn smug that Goddard may as well be sitting next to you whispering in your ear about how "clever" it all is. A recent phenomenon that gets my goat is the unbilled celebrity cameo, usually from someone who hasn't been a celeb for the last two decades, as is the case here. Just list them in the damn credits you pretentious smartasses!
I'm no fan of the "Scream" franchise but at least it's writer Kevin Williamson knows his genre. This feels like it was made both by and for the guy who misquotes Marshall McLuhan in the cinema line from "Annie Hall". 
If you think "Halloween" was directed by Rob Zombie and "Evil Dead" is only now being shot then you'll probably enjoy this. If you want a humorous horror movie that oozes a love of the genre go rent last year's criminally overlooked "Tucker & Dale Vs Evil" or better still any of the eighties movies mentioned above. Though I haven't seen them as I'm just not a fan of animation I suspect even "Monsters Inc" or "Monsters Vs Aliens" cover the same ground as this film but with a lot more charm and invention.
Please, no more postmodernism, a film-makers job is to make films, not comment on them. That's what geeks like me are for.

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