Jessie’s Saturday Night Fright Flick: CABIN IN THE WOODS

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Jess

Our weekend fright flick femme fatale Jessie Robbins picks a horror movie to watch tonight.

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A trailer can make or break a movie.  When I first saw the trailer for 2011’s CABIN IN THE WOODS I was so upset.  Why, I thought, would our lord and saviour Joss Whedon waste his good name on what I can only assume is going to be a big pile of garbage.  So severe, all of the characters seemed cliche (without any indication that this was intentional), there was no levity to show that the film is not all doom and gloom and invisible electrical grids.  Obviously to show too much more would be to delve into the realm of spoilers, and no one wants another DREAM HOUSE (2011’s Daniel Craig no-twist twist ghost story) on our hands.  Obviously then when a group of friends expressed interest in seeing the film, appealing to my love of horror films, I actually had to think about it, and I never have to think about going to a movie.  But as soon as the opening credits, and laughter began, I was glad my friends dragged me kicking and screaming to the cinema.

CABIN IN THE WOODS stars Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Jesse Williams, Anna Hutchinson and Fran Kranz as a group of college students, heading to the cottage for a weekend of sex, sun, drinking, and lakeside shenanigans.  Meanwhile, somewhere in a warehouse, equipped with control room and apparently a lab, a group of people control the surroundings the students are placed in.  A spike in hormones here, a whispered suggestion there, but who are these people?  And what is their goal?  After a little Latin reading from an old journal in the basement goes awry (really, how could it have gone well) the students have to fight for survival typical slasher flick style, but while also trying to figure out what the hell is going on.

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Influenced no doubt by the rage of self-aware horror films since 1996’s SCREAM, CABIN IN THE WOODS takes pleasure in appealing to the audience’s thought process.  Marty (Kranz), the pot smoking Shaggy of this Whedon Scooby Gang, plays all of us, asking the questions only the viewer would.  While the others fall victim to the influences of the underground, Marty’s head stays relatively clear beyond the purple haze that surrounds him, not only leaving him as the audience’s connection, but also as the comic relief.

While the rest of the group, aligned to their own Scooby Doo counterparts, are all very well-casted (Jesse Williams as the ridiculously good looking nerd type, Chris Hemsworth as the jock, Connolly as the “virgin” and Hutchinson as the ditzy party girl) Franz takes the cake for me in this film.  His character has the best arc, the funniest one-liners, and is the most skillfully acted out of the bunch.

Our resident warehouse workers, Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) and Hadley (Bradley Whitford) are a well-needed break from the traditional cabin in the woods slasher motif.  Their witty back and forth and genuine personalities also lend a hand to the audience, asking for “boobies” when Jules and Kurt start fooling around in the woods, shaking their heads when the group decides the most sensible thing to do is to stay together as a group instead of splitting up, playing with them like puppets in order to get the desired results.  Their exchange with “The Harbinger” has got to be one of the best decisions Whedon and Goddard made.  To be doubled over with laughter in a theater showing a horror film is a rare thing.

Even though I was so opposed to even giving this film a chance, I now own it on blu-ray and have seen it over twenty times.  For a while, after a friend and I would come back from the club on Friday nights, we would eat burritos in bed and watch this as a ritual.  After watching it so many times, I had to go through all of the special features, not quite ready to give up the film, but not wanting to get sick of it either.  Well, I just watched it tonight again for a refresher (as if I needed it) and am pleased to say that it still holds water for me.

So with the summer heat bearing down on us, and the crystal lakes and campgrounds (see what I did there) calling our names, I suggest first, leave yourself plugged in long enough to sit yourself directly in front of your air conditioning, strip down to your bathing suit, crack open a beer and get this CABIN IN THE WOODS party started.

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