Thursday, November 8, 2012

Under 250: Cabin in the Woods

I'd been fairly upset about missing this in the theaters.  Then, you know, I actually saw it.  Cabin in the Woods may be directed by Cloverfield's Drew Goddard, but the Joss Whedon too-pithy meta-scripting shows through in a way that pulls it beyond the point of horror commentary towards somethings that's obnoxious in its self-awareness.  What begins as a seemingly typical "college students in the woods" slasher pic is filtered through a too-obvious conspiracy film.  We are simultaneously treated to a view of a blissfully ignorant Scooby gang of usual suspects (horny blonde, stoner, testosterone-pumped jock, wary quasi-virgin, other guy) and a glimpse at some white collar government dudes charged with clearly monitoring and engineering the horrors our unsuspecting youths are about to experience.  For my money, the film blows its load as soon as it decides to reveal its mechanism early on.  Knowing this is a conspiracy (immediately) halves the possibility of a successful climax.  Yes, there are some amusing lines here.  Yes, there are ways in which the concept is clever.  Yet, as Cabin in the Woods becomes more and more interested in deconstructing the semantic elements of the genre, it fails at effectively constructing a cinematic syntax capable of seeing it through to the conclusion.  The last chapter of the film is a calamitous exercise in WTF, mind-numbing absurdity that cancels out any intelligence displayed in its earlier moments.  Not only does it recycle a plot element from the juvenile Paul (do they really think we don't know that voice?), it throws everything it has at the wall and not a damn thing sticks.  It's a problem, I think, when a film so conscious of its genre can't manage to use that genre to its advantage.  Entertaining, but...really?

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