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Cabin in the Woods, The (Blu-ray Review)

14 Sep, 2012 By: John Latchem

Street 9/18/12
Horror Comedy
Box Office $42.07 million
$29.95 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray
Rated ‘R’ for strong bloody horror violence and gore, language, drug use and some sexuality/nudity.
Stars Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford.

After watching The Cabin in the Woods, you’ll never look at a horror movie the same way again.

It should come as no surprise that the guys behind “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” would manage to craft a film that deconstructs and satirizes the horror genre while existing within the very space on which it’s commenting. That’s a tricky balance to achieve but one a lot of films have been trying lately; I would put Cabin on the shelf next to Tucker and Dale vs. Evil and Rubber to form a neat little alt-horror troika. (The comedic element distinguishes these from the “Scream” movies, which coasted primarily on their self-awareness.)

The smart script by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard (who also directed) keeps the audience guessing from the beginning, introducing a pair of nerdy accountant types (Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford) working in an immense underground lab like something out of a 1960s Bond movie and staffed with hordes of scientists. Their job appears to be to orchestrate a human sacrifice to satiate the desires of an unknown viewer.

For their scheme to work, they must turn a group of ordinarily smart college kids into complete idiots (handled by chemistry), cloud the kids’ judgment further by making them completely horny (yay, chemistry), get them to go to an isolated cabin and lure them into the cellar where they can inadvertently select the plot device of their doom.

In other words, the kids are being manipulated into a real-life horror movie.

The kids are essentially real-life analogs of the Scooby-Doo gang. There’s the strapping young leader (Chris Hemsworth) and his hot blond girlfriend (Anna Hutchison), an academic redhead (Kristen Connolly), a stoner (Fran Kranz), and, well, there’s no dog, but there is a fifth guy (Jesse Williams) along for the ride. Fans of Whedon will recognize several performers from his earlier works.

The engineers (or puppeteers, as the stoner calls them after perceptively intuiting their existence) take bets on what the kids will choose, with such possibilities as zombies, a giant snake, a dragon-bat hybrid and a merman. (“I’m never going to see a merman,” says a dejected Whitford after the sea demon isn’t picked.)

When the puppeteers need two of the kids to pair off and have sex, they send in a pheromone mist, which resembles that convenient fog that always seems to hover around the ground in horror movie forests. And the old coot who runs the broken down gas station in the middle of nowhere and warns the kids of the danger? Yeah, he’s in on it too. Something about no punishment without transgression — the choice the kids make to go to the cabin anyway.

It’s all for the benefit of a greater purpose that may just keep the planet spinning for one more year (provided also that those pesky schoolgirls in Japan don’t figure out how to turn their menacing spirit into a harmless frog in another scene of great meta humor).

And, bizarrely, the set-up makes it easy for the audience to root for both sides of the equation, even through an ending where literally all hell breaks loose.

The extras are expectedly dominated by Whedon and Goddard, who pretty much explain everything that needs explaining through their commentary and a separate Q&A. Other featurettes (and a Blu-ray bonus-view mode) thoroughly cover the creative process, visual effects and set design. In one of the better videos, Fran Kranz guides viewers through his secret stash of props, including the ingenious bong that transforms into a steel coffee mug, which provides one of several great gags in the film.

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