Howdy loyal subjects!
Phil here with a Robot Dynasty movie review. This week I watched the newly released on blu-ray/DVD 'The Cabin in the Woods'.
The film is directed by Drew Goddard with a script credited to Goddard and the mighty Joss Whedon. It stars a pre 'Thor' Chris Hemsworth along with some Whedon-verse alums.
When the film first was released in theaters I went to great lengths to avoid any spoilers whatsoever. Being the member of Robot Dynasty that is working on building his own dynasty (AKA family) I'm not able to go out and see movies as often as I used to (which was pretty much every weekend). All I knew was that this was a Horror movie with a twist. As someone who H-A-T-E-S spoilers I'm gonna do my best to not wreck anything for you.
Right from the very first scene it becomes obvious that this will not be your dime a dozen rehash of the same old horror movie sub-genres that seem to march out every October (slasher, found footage, psycho hillbillies, etc). Instead of starting off with some gratuitous murder we're introduced to two office drones Sitterson & Hadley (excellently played by Richard Jenkins & Bradley Whitford). Looks like they're gonna have to pull some overtime and work the weekend to complete a major project for their boss. Only, their boss goes by the name 'Harbinger'. I've worked for some very standard corporations in my time and none of the big-wigs ever went by the name Harbinger (at least not openly). Clearly this is not your standard "Need you to work Saturday and finish those TPS reports, mmmmkay?" corporations.
Before we can think about it further though we're transported from the business office to a sunny neighborhood where we meet Dana (Kristen Connolly)....in her underwear....walking around a second story bedroom in front of windows....with the blinds pulled up? Okay, what female does this?! It's the middle of the afternoon with people walking around outside on the street below, but ya know, I'm just gonna flaunt my stuff in front of an open window instead of pulling the blinds down first. Anyway, along with Dana we meet the rest of the typical horror movie teen gang: Curt the jock (Chris Hemsworth), Jules the slut (Anna Hutchison - FYI, I tried to find a better term to describe her than slut, but everything else that came to mind just made her sound like a prostitute), Marty the burnout (Fran Kranz), and Holden the smart one (Jesse Williams).
Now, here's the thing. Even though we clearly see right off the bat what horror movie "role" each of them is supposed to fill, the dialogue between them shows us something incredibly refreshing. Their actually friends! The jock is not dumb, but smart! The "slut" isn't vapid and insulting to the virgin(ish) girl! The smart one isn't some frail whimp taking hits off of an inhaler! I know that for a lot of people Joss Whedon's dialogue is love/hate, but for me I think he always does a great job portraying real conversations between real people (even when those people are Avengers). Unlike a lot of other typical horror movies, this actually caused me to become attached and really care for all the teens (even though it's a horror movie and things aren't going to end well).
The gang's all here and it turns out they're taken an RV up to a... cabin in the woods! At this point I'm gonna end my review. They all go to the cabin and have a great time! They learn life lessons and things about each other that bring them closer together! The movie ends with all 5 of them doing an 80's freeze frame high-five to the classic Stevie Wonder song, 'Stay Gold' from 'The Outsiders' movie! (AKA this is where I'm going to finish my spoiler free version of the review for those who haven't seen the film or, like me, HATE spoilers). So, all I can say without spoiling the movie is this: It's incredible. One of the few horror movies in the past couple decades that brings something new and original to the table. You absolutely NEED to see this film. Some people may be turned off by the humor (i was very surprised at some of the laugh out loud moments that came up), but for me it just enhanced an already great experience. And the ending? Let's just say it's completely unexpected. I encourage those who are leaving to watch the film and then come back to finish the rest of the review.
Okay, still with me? Are you sure? Last chance. SPOILERS dead ahead! Am I happy to see you, or are those just SPOILERS in my pocket? How do I know what you're having for breakfast at my place tomorrow? Because I have SPOILERS!
So we see the gang drive through a mountain tunnel on their way to the cabin...in the woods. Oh, look! A pretty bird! Birds are good omens, right? I mean as long as their not Albatr-HOLY CRAP! The bird just flew next to the mountain and slammed into some kind of invisible force field! What is going on?!?! Here's what it starts becoming one of my FAVORITE movies of the year (if not the winner)....
Remember Sitterson & Hadley? Office managers who work for the 'Harbinger'? So it turns out they have been monitoring our gang of beloved teens from the moment they left on their ill-fated trip (and as we find out later, even earlier than that). But why? It tuns out the teens are pawns in some kind of corporate scheme that has some very dark and mystical things going on. This weekend work project is just one of many though. There are other similar projects taking place around the world (Berlin, Japan, etc). Apparently all of these other mysterious projects have failed except for Japan and the US (where Sitterson & Bradley are running the show with an assist from a scientist played by Amy Acker). We're not sure why yet, but if at least one project doesn't succeed, it means all kinds of bad news bears. Meanwhile, back at the cabin...
The gang arrives and as you would expect, the cabin is isolated, run down, and begging for victims (not literally though because this is not the, 'Evil Dead' films). Everyone gets settled in, we start partying, and BOOM! An old creepy cellar door bursts open during a game of truth or dare (do people still play that these days?). Back at corporate mission control EVERYONE who works in the place is frantically placing bets. Not your typical bets though, but bets on things like: werewolf, zombies, merman, hillbilly zombies (there is a difference!), and all other sorts of horror monsters. As they watch the gang head down into the cellar (because, you know, who just closes the cellar door and goes back to partying?) the bets end and all of the employees watch anxiously.
The cellar is stuffed to the walls with all manner of weird knic knacks. One of the teens grabs a conch shell, another seems fixated with a ballerina jewelry box, someone else picks up a metal ball thing with a funky design (which immediately makes you think the box from 'Hellraiser'). However, everyone forgets what they're looking at when Dana brings their attention to a creepy journal she found and begins reading from it. What's that? The journal says there was a family of creepy ass hillbillies who used to live here and were into torture? AND there's some weird Latin phrase in the journal?! I know, let's do the sensible thing and READ IT OUT LOUD FOR NO GOOD REASON! There's a great moment here where Marty feels something is not right and begs Dana not to read it...which of course doesn't happen. Dana reads the phrase and outside we see the hillbilly zombie family crawl out of the ground.
Back at mission control a whole mess of people just lost a lot of money (except for the Maintenance department and the new guy). Hmmm, so apparently these folks new the teens would be drawn to choosing one of the cellar objects and unleashing something horrific on themselves. But why would they set up this gang of super friends like this? What (awesome) company runs a successful business model by placing teenagers in this kind of closed off real life haunted house? MYSTERY!
As you would expect, our plucky teen friends start getting taken out by the hillbilly zombie family (with a little bit of help from mission control who pumps in all kinds of drug gas into the cabin to encourage they make poor survival choices). As one by one the teens fall Sitterson & Bradley say a chant and pull a lever that release some kind of blood offering to an ominous creature deep below their facility. Clearly this company makes the 'Mouse Trap' of human sacrifices. Meanwhile, some bad news. The Japan site failed in their project...to kill school girls....who are NINE. It's all on team (say it with me now) USA! USA! Everyone at mission control is celebrating. The only one of our teen heroes left alive is the virgin(ish) Dana and her sacrifice is an optional deal. Not that it matters much because as the corporate folk are drinking and patting each other on the back we can see in the background on the video screen Dana is getting her ass handed to her by one of the hillbilly zombies. Just one problem...
The red phone on the wall rings. *Side note: Someday I'm going to get a red phone and place it in my cubical and every now and again call it from my cell. When it rings I will stand up (dramatically) and tell everyone they need to quiet down before I pick it up (dramatically) and talk in hushed tones before hanging up (dramatically) and rushing out the door (heroically). End note* Turns out that one of the teens they thought was dead, actually isn't! Marty to the rescue! He saves Dana and takes her to what looks like a coffin. Inside though, it turns out to be a secret passage that leads to a clean, shiny, secret passage! Everyone at mission control goes nuts.
Uh-Ohz! The boss isn't happy. This development could tank the project and spell bad news for the whole frakin' world! They have to make sure Marty dies before Dana (cause, you know, corporate protocol and all that. Imma right?). Dana and Marty though have discovered the massive MASSIVE holding pen for all the monsters they potentially could have unleashed on themselves. They realize now they were setup from the start and they are pissed. The corporate types are still trying to salvage things though and send at least 2-3 Call of Duty squads of dudes with guns to finish the job (it's not death by hillbilly zombies, but ya gotta work with what you've got). Dana and Marty run to a (poorly) secured control booth. Oh look, these nice folks very clearly labeled this giant red button, "PRESS TO UNLEASH UNHOLY MONSTER HELL!". And friends? That's exactly what they do. : D
What follows is one of the most glorious movie massacres you will ever see. Seriously, my words cannot even do justice to the carnage that is a team of (hopefully) highly trained SWAT types with automatic weapons being P-W-N-D so, so hard by every type of monster/maniac/merman you could imagine. Epic.
Dana and Marty are forced to run through the corporate underground trying to evade...well, everything. In mission control Sitterson, Hadley, Amy Ackers scientist, and randome security guard are 'F'd in the 'A'. Some of the monsters bust in. A mob of scarecrows(!) tear security guy to pieces. Ackers is pulled to parts unknown by a giant Cuthulu looking tentacle(!!). Hadley, well, he gets what he's always wanted. Sitterson escapes....
....and runs right into Dana's sharp knife/trowel thing. Damn. Before he dies he tells Dana she has to kill Marty or the world is over. Marty and Dana find their way into a ancient stone room with giant images (and a menacing rumble voice thing below). The big bad shows up and it's SIGOURNEY WEAVER! She explains that there is some crazy ancient evil stuff that has been kept at bay for hundreds and hundreds of years by ritual sacrifice. She explains the images on the wall represent your 5 sacrifices (Athlete, Nerd, Fool, Whore, Virgin). If Dana doesn't kill Marty, the ancient evils get released and humanity is over. Dana looks at Marty, and points a gun at him!
Marty tries to talk her down. They're like best friends! The world isn't that great as it is! As Dana apologizes Marty does as well...BECAUSE A WEREWOLF JUST POPPED UP AND MAULED DANA!!! Sigourney Weaver and Marty are fighting! Dana is dying! Ahhhh! One lone hillbilly zombie girl one arm crawls her way in and axes Weaver in the head. Marty saves Dana. But....
Decision time! Should Marty die to save humanity? Dana and Marty light up a J and give the metaphorical finger to the world and the evil ancients are unleashed! FIN
Whew! Crazy, crazy stuff folks. What did you think?