The Cabin in the Woods (2012) Review

One from the re watch pile…
Cabin in the Woods (2012)

Film: Occasionally a film is made that adapts the tropes of an aspect of horror and creates a new fun way of making we, the movie fan, re-evaluate why we like those types of films, and maybe, like I do, revisit the older films of it type with not just the nostalgic affection, but with a wry reflection and a different appreciation.

Wes Craven’s Scream did it for me when it came out in the nineties, and my love of the slasher increased and made me seek out more. Cabin in the Woods is another of its ilk, but this time, we taste, obviously, the stories that take place in forbidden places (like cabins in the woodses) and teens who dally with forbidden objects d’evil.

Our film starts in a governmental research facility where two of the workers, Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) and Hadley (Bradley Whitford) are discussing the fact that only Japan and themselves are able to perform some unknown function after the failure of another institute.

We are then quickly introduced to a group of friends, Dana (Kristin Connelly), her friend, the newly blonded Jules (Anna Hutchison), her boyfriend, Curt (Chris Hemsworth), his friend, Holden (Jesse Williams) and their token stoner, Shaggy-styled buddy, Marty (Fran Kranz) who have decided to take a trip to one of Curt’s cousin’s new cabin, which happens to be in the woods.

Hence the clever name.

What they don’t realise is that conspiracy theorists are right: the government is out to get you, and in this case, the government is offering them up to… Something (which I am definitely NOt going to spoil here as its part of the fun of the film)… Something dark and evil, but why? Who is in charge… And who is REALLY in charge?

The film was written by Joss Whedon (who also produced) and Drew Goddard (who also directed), both of whom worked on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the light tone with touches of violence and cool monsters reflects that, though I find this film to be far better than any episode of Buffy ever made, mainly due to the cast of this film being totally likeable, and I thought most of the side kicks in Buffy were, well, dicks.

The monsters in this film are the real heroes, and there is a lot of them. If you really REALLY look closely (and explore the extras and rewatch repeatedly), you’ll see so many films being referenced, like Hellraiser, zombie films, The Strangers, The Blob, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, Ring, It and others. It also references heaps of more non-cinematic beasts like goblins, and unicorns, and giants. It’s like a Guillermo Del Toro wet dream!

This film is a blast to watch, especially for horror-kids, as it was written and directed and produced by horror-kids. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Score: ****1/2

Format: The Cabin in the Woods was reviewed on a region B bluray, which also came with a digital copy of the film. The film runs for 95 minutes, and is presented in a 2.35:1 image with a Dolby DTS-HD Master audio 5.1 soundtrack, both of which are immaculate, as you would expect a modern film in a modern format to be.

Score: *****

Extras: The disc opens with trailers for Piranha 3DD, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World and Lockout before taking us to the main menu, and an extravaganza of special features!

The Audio commentary is performed by Goddard and Whedon, and is a pretty thorough, fun and engaging commentary.

We Are Not Who We Are: Making The Cabin in the Woods looks at the creation and evolution of what became the film we are here to celebrate. It’s really about the process that Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard went through to get the exact look and tone for the film.

An Army of Nightmares: Makeup and Animatronic Effects looks at the monsters that feature in the film and their construction. It’s awesome to see A Nightmare on Elm Street’s Nancy, aka Heather Anderson (formally Langencamp) now well entrenched in the spfx business with her husband, David Leroy Anderson.

Primal Terror: Visual Effects flips the previous extra and now we look at all the CGI in the film.

Marty’s Stash sees actor Fran Kranz explore his character Marty’s collection of fake (one would assume) drug paraphernalia.

Hi, My Name Is Joss and I’ll Be Your Guide sees Whedon tour the set of the actual cabin in the woods, which was actually a set in a soundstage.

Wonder-con Q&A is performed with Geoff Boucher from the LA Times with Whedon and Goddard post screening of the film.

The extras are all quite thorough and go for around 20 minutes to a half hour each, so you come out of the extras line well-educated on the making of the film, and for an extras nut like me, that is well cool.

I have to also highlight just how epic the hero poster is of the film, the Rubik’s Cube Cabin, which is a striking image that really defines the film perfectly, and subliminally.

Score: *****

WISIA: You can watch this film 30 times and still not catch all the homages to other horror films, so rewatching is essential! Geoff Boucher says in the Wondercon Q and A that he wishes there were trading cards of the monsters… I agree!!!

Howl (2015) Review

One from the to watch pile…
Howl (2015)

Film: Unfortunately for werewolf movies, something happened in 1981 that spoilt it for every one before, and every one after. The definitive werewolf film, the one that every werewolf film from then on would be judged, and it’s a film you may have heard of…

An American Werewolf in London.

Practical effects that were nothing short of magical, a likeable cast and a clever, funny script with all sorts of odd characters and bad dreams make American Werewolf an unbeatable opponent, but that doesn’t stop me from seeing lots of werewolf films as they are my second favourite supernatural creature, (my first are flesh golems like Dr. Frankenstein’s creation) and if I were to pick a creature to become, it would definitely be one of them… I mean, I like meat and my back is already hairy enough!

This is one of those times that I have decided to give another werewolf film a go: director Paul Hyett previously directed The Seasoning House, and is also known for his make-up work on films like The Descent and Doomsday. In an interesting twist, the film is written by Mark Huckerby and Nick Ostler, both mainly know for work on children’s shows like Danger Mouse and Thomas the Tank Engine.

Interesting credentials for writers of a werewolf movie!

Joe (Ed Spleers), is a loveable loser/ train conductor forced to do overtime by his new jerk boss on a night time run it something awful happens, well, even more awful than having the job of being a train conductor on a train full of jerks.

The train stops suddenly from hitting a deer on the tracks and when the train driver (Sean Pertwee) goes to investigate, he disappears.

So it’s left to Joe, to assist a hostile group of train passengers, to safety, but it’s hard to lead them to any sort of sanctuary when they are being pursued by something in the woods… Something horrible and dangerous…

Ok, my introduction and the name of the film suggest the issue these people have: it’s werewolves.

The film is shot quite well, even occasionally having a Hammer look to it, and all the action scenes are tense and violent, and once the creature is revealed, it’s got this weirdly cool manitou vibe to it. My best attempt to describe it would be a mid transformation David from American Werewolf and Rawhead Rex.

There is one major problem with this film though, and it’s a core element of effective horror movies.

The characters.

It’s hard to have any sort of emotional investment in a bunch of jerks, and a milksop leading man, and even though I appreciated their performances, I just didn’t give a stuff if any of them died or not… In actual fact, I wanted them all TO die as quick as possible! Even after the usual section of potential victims revealing their vulnerabilities and secrets to each other, I just didn’t care enough about them for their deaths to even matter in the slightest.

The packaging of the film also does an unforgivable sin: I second bills a cast member whose name has some cache, even though they are barely in the film for ten minutes.

The film isn’t bad, not by any means, it just doesn’t stand out, unfortunately, as I pointed out, due to the fact there is already the perfect werewolf movie made. It does have some good elements, but I couldn’t get past the fact that the characters were all such horrible people.

Score: **

Format: The reviewed copy of Howl is the Australian region B bluray release and is presented in a crisp and clear 2.40:1 image with a DTS Master HD 5.1. Unfortunately this does reveal some of the CGI to be a little subpar.

Score: *****

Extras: The disc opens with a few trailers: October Gale, How To Plan An Orgy In A Small Town, Electric Slide and Glassland. If that’s not enough extras for you than.. Well, tough, because that’s all there is!

Score: *

WISIA: Watch either American Werewolf in London or The Howling again, would be my suggestion!

They Wait (2007) Review

One from the re-watch pile…
They Wait (2007)

Film: Even though for a period everything horror felt like it was a remake of something from Japan, some pretty good films came out, and bare in mind I am not typically a ‘ghost’ horror movie fan, as I like my horror more real… Or inbred… Or angry. It would appear that the so-called j-horror stuff hasn’t completely faded away and occasionally a western film (that’s one not from Asia, rather than one with Cowboys in it) will take some of the elements of those Asian ghost stories and make them its own.

They Wait is such a film.

They Wait tells of married couple Jason (Terry Chen), his wife Sarah (Jamie King) and their son, Sam (Regan Oey) who have to return to America from their home in Shanghai to attend the funeral of Jason’s Uncle Raymond (Colin Foo). They stay in Raymond’s house, which also contained their fabric business, with Jason’s Aunt Mei (Cheng Pei Pei) but after seeing visions of a young Chinese girl with black arms, Sam falls sick and is admitted to hospital in a coma.

Sarah begins investigating the situation and finds that Jason’s Aunt and Uncle’s business may have had a much darker past, and that her and Sam have a gift which allows them to see into the spirit world, but will she be able to find a way to save her son?

There is a lot to like about this film. The three main cast are likeable and feel like they could be a real family unit with some of the issues that a family of mixed origins can face (in this case, the disapproval of older relatives in the lack of Chinese language skills being instilled in Sam). The story is solid, and a few dodgy effects aside, has some great moments.

There’s a few editing faux pas, particularly in a shower scene where a showering King is clearly supposed to be naked and vulnerable, but booby bindings can clearly be seen several times. More bizarrely, the name of a hospital on an ambulance is blurred like a criminal’s face on the news in a rush-to-hospital scene.

There is a few moments of preposterous-ness too. Picture yourself in a forest hunting with a few mates when suddenly you get left behind. You hear a noise and turn to look at a tree that has mysterious scratches appear on it before your eyes, and from those very scratches a red liquid starts to seep from it… Do you freak out and run away? Does your mind snap, Lovecraft style, and cause you to crumble in a whimpering heap?

No, in this film the person in question STICKS HIS FINGER IN THE LIQUID AND TASTES IT. 

Yeah, because that’s what you’d do.

One real disappointing aspect is Michael Biehn is given second billing, but seriously, and with little exaggeration, is in the film for no longer than 4 minutes providing little more than a backstory for King’s character (she used to work in newspapers) and doing some research (which if King used to work in newspapers, she is probably more than capable of using Google).

Anyway, I quite liked the film. It feels like you are watching a j-horror remake due to its trappings be comparable, but with an original tale. When it premiered it was lauded as some kind of amazing horror saviour; it’s not but it’s pretty good.

Score: ***1/2

Format: This film was reviewed on an Australian release DVD, and runs for 85 minutes. The film is presented in a satisfactory 1.76:1 image with a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack.

Score: ****

Extras: Only a trailer.

Score: **

WISIA: It’s a pretty good western impersonation of a Japanese ghost story, and one that I have already enjoyed several times.