A group of young and hormonal college students, Dana (Kristen Connely), Curt (Chris Hemsworth), Jules (Anna Hutchison), Holden (Jesse Williams), and Marty (Fran Kranz), head to the usual cabin in the woods for a weekend of fun and recreation (to be read as booze, drugs and sex). As they head into the woods to a cabin presumably owned by Curt’s cousin. Meanwhile there is something going on in a facility of some with bureaucratic and scientific types seemingly overseen by a military official. Sitterson (Richard Jenkins), Hadley (Bradley Whitford), and Lin (Amy Acker) seem to be having fun and making bets that involve all departments. Truman (Brian White) is the new head of security (I think) and he does not approve.
As it turns out these scientific types are manipulating the kids in what appears to be a tightly controlled experiment of some type. It is not an experiment and unfortunately for the young folks there can be only one outcome. Unfortunately for the hundreds of workers there is never only one outcome. The story is slick, smart and takes CABIN into the realm of metafilm but the story does have to walk the razor’s edge lest it be too smart for itself. It manages to do so for about 80 or 85 minutes.
Many threads of inspiration are present in CABIN, chief among
them being H.P. Lovecraft and Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead. A cellar full of all of the horror flick tchotchkes imaginable. Puzzle ball, music box, ancient diary with latin text etc…etc… When Dana reads from the diary it summons a killer redneck zombie torture family. It may be unintentional, it may not be, but Marty ends up resembling Ash or maybe even Lionel from DEAD ALIVE by the end of the flick. Nods to all manner of horror flicks from HELLRAISER to THE STRANGERS.
Goddard and company handle the opening kill in a oddly chaste manner. After showing a bit of tit and labeling her the “whore” (where is Joss Whedon’s famous feminism there?) they cut away from the actual kill? It seems a bit prudish considering that this is a genre film especially since going to great pains to point out familiar tropes and then to hold back. Many such films kill off women of loose morals left and right in shocking and gory fashion while never out and out stating that they are whores. Maybe the point is they are calling it out like they see it but all in all Jules did not act that whorish. Most of the kills are kind of toned down for a flick like this until you get to the final act. In many places the founts, splashes and drips of the red stuff come off as CGI and may have been better served if the filmmakers had used a few more buckets of the grue.
All of the performances are pretty good with Anna Hutchison and
Tim De Zarn taking the cake. Anna is pretty fantastic as the nymph trying to sell her dare with a wolf’s head. Mordecai is probably the best character in the film. The facility folks call him The Harbinger as its his role to act crazy as shit and try to deter the kids from the cabin. He also provides much of the comic relief by playing the part of the nutter totally straight. He has one of the best lines, “Cleanse them. Cleanse the world of their ignorance and sin. Bathe them in the crimson of…Am I on speakerphone?” This tickled me to death and I’m about as jaded as they come when it comes to mixing comedy and horror.
After all of the heavy handed symbolism and meta-humor the ending goes a bit off the rails. Is it a critique of selfish and destructive individualism or a celebration of it? Either way the conclusion is infuriating. Granted the set up is just as flawed in the arbitrary nature of the selection of the five archetypes but the nihilistic joke of an ending is almost enough to put this viewer off of the rest of the film. It shifts from being fun and clever to being naval-gazing, egotistical and arrogant. Shave a few minutes off of the end, leave an ambiguous conclusion and the flick would hold up well until the deconstructionalist sheen wears off. As it stands, what follows is what must be the inevitable conclusion of the whole oeuvre of THE DOOM GENERATION and GO crowd all grown up.