JUMPSCARECUT: The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

Directed by: Drew Goddard
Cast: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford

Written by Fiona Underhill

Directed by Drew Goddard (who has a film out right now which I highly recommend: Bad Times at the El Royale) and co-written by Goddard and Joss Whedon, The Cabin the Woods is a comedy-horror in a similar vein to the Scream films, in that it is a satire of conventional horror tropes and comments on them in a post-modern, self-referential way. It contains many Whedon hallmarks – including his signature style of humour which comes across in the writing, but also some of his regular actors, including Amy Acker and Fran Kranz (both of whom feature in Whedon’s lovely version of Much Ado About Nothing).

Cabin in the Woods was actually filmed three years before it was released, in 2009, which goes some way to explaining why the actors are all ten years older than their characters. It also helped that it was filmed before Chris Hemsworth made Thor, but was released in 2012, just as he was getting super famous, thanks to Thor (2011) and The Avengers (2012). Having seen Hemsworth as Thor does it make it slightly harder to buy him as a college student, however. Same with Jesse Williams, who is best known for playing a doctor on Grey’s Anatomy.

The five main characters are all college student friends and are archetypes, but audience assumptions are subverted throughout the film. Hemsworth is Curt ‘The Jock’, Williams is Holden ‘The Scholar’, Kranz is Marty ‘The Fool’, Anna Hutchison is Jules ‘The Whore’ and Kristen Connolly is Dana ‘The Virgin.’  Even as the characters are introduced, these stereotypes are played around with, picked apart and commented on. Dana, the Final Girl is introduced in her underwear, Curt is clearly a very well-read Jock, Holden has abs, Jules may be a ‘dumb blonde,’ but she’s only just dyed her hair (and this will have consequences) and Marty is clearly the wisest one amongst them. Marty is very much playing the Randy character (from the Scream series) here – he is one step ahead of the game, he can see it being played and he makes many references to ‘the puppeteers.’

Before we are introduced to this group of young people who are going to the titular cabin in the woods for the weekend, we meet Hadley (Bradley Whitford) and Sitterson (Richard Jenkins), in their corporate scenario, bitching about their boring home lives. The mundanity of their lives and jobs is constantly juxtaposed with the task they are actually doing, which is orchestrating the brutal murders of the group of young people. This is the main source of the humour in the film, particularly with Whitford’s deadpan delivery. Their rivalry with Japan is another source of amusement and seeing the ‘evil’ in Japan defeated by a bunch of 9-year-old school girls working together is one of the film’s highlights.

There is much foreshadowing that happens at the start of the film and not just from the creepy gas station harbinger. One of Marty’s first lines is (referring to himself in the third person); “they fear this man. They know he sees farther than they and he will bind them with ancient logics.”

There are two pivotal scenes in the film – the first is when the group go into the cellar of the cabin and find it stuffed full of old artefacts. Each one (apart from Marty – who warns them all against being in there) picks up an object and starts examining it. Each of these objects could summon an unspeakable horror, but Dana starts reading the Buckner diary, which summons the Zombie Redneck Torture Family. This cuts to one of the most famous scenes in the film – Hadley and Sitterson with a whiteboard, taking bets from the office on which hideous creature would be chosen; “I’m never gonna get to see a merman.”

The second pivotal scene is when Dana discovers Marty (who she believed to be dead). Marty has been hiding in what appears to be a grave, but on further inspection, is actually an elevator. This leads to one of the most ambitious and audacious scenes in any film that I’ve seen (horror or otherwise) – the elevator is made of glass and through it, other glass elevators can be viewed. Each one contains an unspeakable horror, some of which emerge slowly from the inky black darkness and others appear suddenly, without warning. It gives me thrills and chills just thinking about it now. This sequence culminates with my favourite line from the film; “good work, zombie arm!”

Once in the underground complex, Dana and Marty make two nihilistic decisions – the first being to release the contents of the elevators into this confined space, creating chaos and flushing out the ‘bad guys.’ The second is right at the very end, when they make the ultimate decision to let the ancient ones rise again; “it’s time to give someone else a chance.”

The Cabin the Woods is one of the funniest comedies of the last decade, plus has some genuinely scary moments. It manages to pull off a high concept and successfully juxtaposes two contrasting worlds until they collide in an explosion of blood and zombie vomit at the end. The inventiveness of the creatures and the way they’re revealed to the audience is one of the most original sequences in movies. It features a fantastic cast, a witty and clever script and is very well structured. The Cabin in the Woods is one of THE best horror movies and should definitely be included in your October viewing line-up.

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Watch This Space: October 26 – November 1

Welcome to your weekly go-to film guide – WatchThisSpace – where we recommend what to watch in the cinema and on the television, and remind you of those brilliant films hiding in your DVD collection. This week, it’s all about spooks and scares, as we celebrate Hallowe’en!

IN THE CINEMA

It’s seemed like an eternity since the cinematic release date for ‘Spectre’ was announced, but the time is finally here! James Bond’s return to the big screen promises to be fantastic. Cast and crew have all claimed that this is the most ambitious Bond film of all time, in terms of scale and stunts. This may also be the final time that Daniel Craig will be starring as Britain’s best suave, super-spy, so we’re hoping this will be a fitting end to arguably the best Bond era there has ever been.

ON THE TV

Seeing as though it’s Hallowe’en this week (and given the fact that this is an awful week for films on television), we’ve decided to give you a run down of the best spooky films on offer on the 31st.

16:55 GMT: They’re creepy and they’re kooky, mysterious and spooky. They’re altogether ooky. The Addams Family! At least that’s all I needed to get in the mood to watch this one! Watch the playful, family friendly, ‘The Addams Family’ on Film4 this afternoon.

18:00 GMT: Simply a classic in the genre of all things ghoulish, ‘Ghostbusters’ is a must watch this Hallowe’en on Comedy Central. It will make for some pleasant family afternoon viewing before the really scary stuff starts later on at night. So make the most of it whilst you can!

21:00 GMT: One of many adaptations of Bram Stoker’s famous fictional vampire, but 1992’s ‘Dracula’ is regarded by many as one of the best. Starring Gary Oldman, Anthony Hopkins, Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves under the direction of Francis Ford Coppola, this star studded adaptation hits all the right notes for a spooky night in. Tune in to Film4 for this classic horror/romance.

22:00 GMT: Undoubtedly one of the “big three”, ‘A Nightmare On Elm Street’ is more than a match for the ‘Halloween’ and ‘Friday the 13th’ franchises, in definitively classic Halloween Horror movies, with plenty of sequels out of which to make a malicious movie marathon. Don’t miss Freddy Kruger at his filthiest on Dave and make sure to tuck in the covers extra tight! A near-perfect Halloween weekend picture.

22:25 GMT: Drew Goddard’s ‘The Cabin In The Woods’ is a film which has really divided audiences down the years. Some praise the originality, whilst others call it completely ridiculous and nonsensical. It’s a film that certainly ticks the boxes in terms of scares, gore and monsters but the plot is pretty far fetched. If you can open up your imagination and get involved in the narrative, head to Channel 5 tonight and get behind the sofa!

DIG IT OUT

This is our favourite part of the WatchThisSpace section. We delve into our own DVD collection and pick out some amazing films, that may not instantly spring to mind when you’re stuck for inspiration to make your movie night a success. Maybe you’ve never seen a film that we pick – or even heard of them for that matter – but you’re gonna have to trust us on this one, and Dig It Out.

Creep: Not the Radiohead documentary we’ve all been craving. Instead, a delightfully dark, found-footage thriller, starring the terrific two man duet of Mark Duplass and Patrick Brice. When a videographer answers a Craigslist ad for a one-day shoot in a remote mountain town, he finds his client is not at all what he initially seems. A tremendously unnerving indie picture, that debuted out of 2014’s SXSW Film Festival, ‘Creep’ is a must-watch for anybody who likes Duplass’ work, and is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat!

Phantom Of The Opera: The 2004 film adaption of the masterpiece musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber and French Novel, Le Fantôme de l’Opéra. A tremendous box-office success, ‘Phantom Of The Opera’, is delightfully mysterious, spooky, and musically inclined. Although panned by critics, this horror drama, directed by Joel Schumacher, is entertaining nonetheless for fans of the classic tale. Catch Gerard Butler in his best pre-spartan role, and dwell in the fantastic sets, magnificent costumes, great art direction, and imaginative camera work that will immerse you in such a dangerous time!

The Purge: You know the annoying guy in your office who’s always bragging about how great life is? Or the jerk that cuts you off in traffic with a stupid smirking face? Well, it’s time for payback. Release your vicious angst and vengeful thoughts with this horrifyingly wicked, mischievously original concept – for 24 hours, once every year, there is no law. Find out how truly terrifying it can be when there is no way to protect yourself and your family with this underrated hit.

Slumdog Millionaire: Danny Boyle’s new biopic, ‘Steve Jobs’, premiered in London this week, to a widely warm reception, with it already being tipped for academy awards. One of Boyle’s most celebrated films, by audiences and critics alike, was the 2008 smash hit, ‘Slumdog Millionaire’. If you’re done with frights and trick or treaters, this winner of 8 Academy Awards, is perfect. The film follows Jamal (Dev Patel), who is arrested under suspicion of cheating his way to a fortune on India’s favourite game show, Who Wants to Be A Millionaire. The film takes you on a journey through every walk of life across India, from the grand palaces and the Taj Mahal to the criminal undergrounds where human traffickers rule the cities. This moving and breathtaking film is an absolute must see if you haven’t already.

This week’s WatchThisSpace was compiled by Nick Deal and Patrick Alexander.