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Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Cabin in the Woods: The real ‘Hunger Games’

Horror, perhaps more than any other genre, is susceptible to the latest fashion.  Whenever something new comes along, or a fresh twist is put on a familiar theme that becomes a hit with the audience, a slew of copycats is bound to follow.  The popular mask-wearing psycho slasher movies of the '80's and ‘90s, the long-haired pasty-faced Asian ghost stories and brutal ‘torture porn’ of the 2000's, and the current flood of handheld camera-style‘ found footage’ films are all cases in point.  We can hardly blame Hollywood for this lack of originality.  After all, they’re just giving us more of what we wanted, right?  And we must want more because we keep paying money to see them.
“Five friends go to a remote cabin in the woods.  Bad things happen.  If you think you know this story, think again,” so goes the tagline of 'The Cabin in the Woods,' Joss Whedon's first foray into the horror genre since ending seven seasons of one of the greatest TV series ever made.  Even before its release, the movie’s trailer and advance buzz made it clear that  ‘The Cabin in the Woods,’ notwithstanding its namesake, is anything but your typical lost-in-the-woods horror movie involving the grisly deaths of pretty young things that had been done to death many time over in such franchises as ‘Friday the 13th,’ ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,’ ‘The Hills have Eyes’ and ‘Wrong Turn.’  The trailer even gave away what many would consider a twist by showing you that it's all a set-up and that the pretty young things are purposely manipulated like so many puppets into an elaborate trap by some ‘Big Brother’ organization for unknown nefarious reasons.  With a hook like this, how can we resist?
And the fact that Joss Whedon is its co-writer and producer only made it that much more highly anticipated.  Whedon, for those of you who don’t know (and shame on you!), is the talented screenwriter/director behind such cult hits as ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer,' its spin-off ‘Angel,’ the swashbuckling fun space-western ‘Firefly,’ and the soon-to-be-released big screen superhero  ensemble extravaganza ‘The Avengers.’   Whedon is regarded as nothing less than a demi-god by Comic-con geeks around the world, and even if not everything he does strikes gold, they promise to be at the very least devilishly delicious fun.
You would think that with such high expectations, 'The Cabin in the Woods' would be something of a letdown, and you could not be more wrong. ‘The Cabin in the Woods’ has everything that you’d expect from Joss Whedon’s fertile but twisted imagination, and yet you’d never know quite what to expect. Combining elements from his previous works such as ‘Buffy’ (supernatural demonic forces and monsters galore) and ‘Dollhouse’ (shadowy pseudo-governmental agency with a mysterious agenda manipulating others) and peppered throughout with a healthy dose of his trademark wry humor, Whedon deftly draws from various horror movies from the past to make ‘The Cabin in the Woods’ entertaining as hell (no pun intended) and unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.  In many ways, ‘The Cabin in the Woods’ is a labor of love from Whedon and company, as he and director Drew Goddard called it their ‘love letter’ or homage to the horror movies they watched growing up (and it’s going to take multiple viewings to catch all the tongue-in-cheek references they made in this movie). Well, I for one hope that Joss never ‘grows up.’

Finally, a perfect 10!
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