SXSW is no longer just for music and digital nerds. Last year tons of great movies (including the BYT 2011 favorite “Attack the Block”) made their debut at the film festival. So we sent Jeff over to Austin and he’ll been watching movies and sending us daily missives ALL WEEK LONG. YEAH!
Today we kick off with:
After the screening for Cabin in the Woods, Joss Whedon specifically entreated the audience to not reveal what happens. Given that what sets the film apart from other horror movies is established in its first ten minutes, that makes writing a review a tad bit difficult. Whedon attributed Cabin’s delayed release to MGM’s bankruptcy, but I can see equal fault possibly lying with terrified marketing personal, staring at the film and asking “How the hell do we sell this thing?”
However, if you’ve seen the trailer that’s already out, you know enough: The movie takes the standard scenario of supernatural forces terrorizing a bunch of teenagers in a (yes) cabin in the woods, and crosses it with a good deal of high-tech corporate-bureaucratic malfeasance. As Alyssa Rosenberg points out, this kind of stuff has actually been well within Whedon’s wheelhouse for some time. And the blend probably harkens back at least as far as Alien, when Ridley Scott introduced us to the Weyland-Yutani corporation. Further reinforcing the Alien connection, Sigourney Weaver makes a much-welcome cameo at the climax, and Brad Whitford and Richard Jenkins deliver gangbuster performances as the two cynical white-collar stiffs who drive the film’s key subplot.
What really sets Cabin in the Woods apart is the courage of its convictions. It doesn’t just flirt with its gimmick like many other “high concept” films, but snatches it up and runs off into the wild blue yonder. Once the film’s rules have been laid out, and the full nature of the plot’s machinations have been revealed, there is really only way the filmmakers’ can end things with integrity — and bless their hearts, they go all the way down the rabbit hole.
The 2-hour runtime forces Whedon and Drew Goddard (the co-writer and director) to strip things down to the broadest strokes, which leaves the film feeling a bit thin. But while it is a lark in the end, there’s no half-assing going on here. Cabin in the Woods is a full-on deconstruction of the horror movie genre, and any fan of the tradition will find much here to savor.