by Rich Fallat
If you haven’t watched the movie yet, read at your own peril.
For most of those yet to see The Cabin in the Woods, cat is out of the bag. This is a movie that attempts to flip the horror genre on it’s head, something you’ve never seen before, something you will never expect…etc. I’m excited for the lucky one’s who go into this movie knowing nothing, and likely leave with a brain-melting horror euphoria that sticks with them for days.
I was one of the unlucky people who knew 90% of the gags before they happened, because I created visual effects for the film about 5 years ago. At least that’s what it felt like, MGM’s bankruptcy troubles shelved the film for multiple years and left many people scratching their heads, wondering if the film would be released at all. “The movie was so bad it would never see the light of day,” was the scuttlebutt amongst colleagues, but fortunately we were dead wrong.
Let me reiterate, if you haven’t seen it yet…no turning back after this point.
The most formulaic blueprint of horror movies sets the ball rolling with a group of young good looking caricatures who fit their template genre roles. The jock (Chris Hemsworth), the prissy virgin ( Kristen Connolly), stoner dude (Fran Kranz), horny girl (Anna Hutchison), and the nice guy (Jesse Williams). They embark on a journey to a secluded cabin in the woods for a weekend of debauchery. If the film started off like this, I would have lost me too, but let’s rewind a bit.
Sitterson and Hadley, don’t remember them in the trailer?
The first scene of the film is a couple of normal Joe’s Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) and Hadley (Bradley Whitford) having a Tarantino-esque conversation about the mundane in their daily lives. As the scene progresses we discover that they are some sort of scientists, and make a remark about Japan beating they’re ‘company’ in some way year after year.
These characters are the hook that elevate Cabin in the Woods from something potentially mediocre to a spectacular film. Jenkins and Whitford deliver witty dialogue with beautiful timing, and I was engaged every time they appeared onscreen. As Goddard and Whedon left bread crumbs, It was plain fun piecing together the agency’s motive for attempting to kill off the cabin dwellers.
The filmmakers create an interesting window between two worlds of big brother and the seemingly innocent sheep being led to the slaughter. I cared about both of them. On one hand loved the way the scientists were going about exterminating the kids, and on the other, I felt an emotional investment to the characters and didn’t want them to exit the film.
You think this so-so movie is about to end, then all hell breaks loose.
For the fist few acts, Jenkins and Whitford’s acting prop up a generic horror film with some entertaining moments, but the final stretch is the reason to watch this movie.
The movie twists from a celebratory toast for killing off the final teen and takes a left turn down an elevator shaft into a “Costco of death.” A labyrinth of elevators shifting to and fro, contain what seems to be monsters from every horror story. This set up culminates into a sequence that on it’s own merit, makes the film worthy of multiple viewings.
The Cabin in the Woods VFX
It was a mixed bag in terms of realism, but the elements are all received in great fun. Some monsters were completely CGI, but most were practical, reminiscent of the 80′s Evil Dead type horror effects. Not stop-motion but stuff like puppets, practical blood squirts, and cool makeup.
We are talking about a raging unicorn, dragon bat (I helped create), molesting trees, werewolfs, zombies, giant cobra snake, and the much anticipated Mer-man. While some of the effects looked utterly fake, really didn’t bother me at all. They were more of a wink to the practical effects used in films of horror’s past.
Would I watch it again?
Without a doubt yes, and I highly recommend it. Even with knowledge of all the gags before they happened, I loved this movie and would actually check it out in the theater for a second viewing. Am I biased because I worked on it…maybe. But I didn’t like any of the previous films I worked on so take that for it it’s worth.
The final act is a spectacle for the horror ages, but wouldn’t say it’s “The horror movie to end all horror movies” as touted by the film’s marketing. Characters played by Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford are the glue that holds the film together. The Cabin in the Woods is a premium quality comedy/horror hybrid that is incredibly unique and worthy of multiple viewings.