Movie Review: The Cabin in the Woods

The Cabin in the Woods
The genre of horror goes through a cycle every half a decade or so. Thus, the mid-70s saw horror flicks becoming an acceptable fare of mainstream cinema (The Omen, Carrie, Halloween), while the early ‘80s saw the genre getting cheaper, saucier and even more profitable with the mushrooming of the slasher genre (Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street). The genre faded by the end of the ‘80s, relegated to direct-to-video fare, and by the mid-‘90s, horror was a genre that had begun to spoof itself (Scream, Scary Movie). Flash-forward to the Iraq war and the response to horror changed. Torture-porn (which found its birth in the early 1970s with the blockbusters Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes, The Last House on The Left) was fashionable again – what with Abu Ghraib atrocities being splashed all over tabloids. Thus, The Hills Have Eyes, The Last House on the Left and I Spit on Your Grave were remade in the late naughties. Even arthouse guru Michael Haneke was compelled to remake his German flick Funny Games into a Hollywood remake in 2008, starring Naomi Watts and Tim Roth. The stupendous success of the Saw franchise and Eli Roth’s Hostel made torture porn a genre from merely a sub-genre. How do veteran horror film fans see this trend?  The makers of The Cabin in the Woods are working hard to answer this question. Partly unsettled by the disturbing trend of horror being relegated to the torture porn genre, the makers of The Cabin in the Woods have made a self-referential genre game-changer that has won a 90 per cent approval rating on rotten tomatoes. And with right reason, one might add.

A bunch of college kids (every self-respecting slasher has college kids) head to a – duh! – Cabin in the Woods (isolated places such as lakes and log cabins are necessary to the genre) only to find themselves at the centre of a viciously programmed game. The ‘game’ is headed by a Beavis and Butthead at a sci-fi headquarters where people place bets on how they are to die, what atrocities are to be committed, the works. This Beavis and Butthead duo is in fact what makes The Cabin in the Woods an intelligent spin on the genre. They are funny, disturbing, hilarious, and insane in good measure. For those folks who are fatigued with being inundated with Bollywood The Cabin in the Woods should be a welcome change – even though a word of caution here; the film is more witty rather than scary. Die-hard fans of the horror genre, who like their horror without any inkling of humour, might want to check out our weekend crash course on Michael Haneke, who won the top honours at Cannes this week.