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The Cabin in the Woods(2012)
Five friends go for a break at a remote cabin in the woods, where they get more than they bargained for. Together, they must discover the truth behind the cabin in the woods.
For more about The Cabin in the Woods and the The Cabin in the Woods Blu-ray release, see the The Cabin in the Woods Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on September 7, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Jesse Williams, Kristen Connolly
Director: Drew Goddard
» See full cast & crew
The Cabin in the Woods Blu-ray Review
Talk about your zombie apocalypses. . .
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, September 7, 2012
As the Scream franchise so brilliantly explained, the horror film genre is cobbled together out of building blocks of certain conventions, and those conventions are tried, true and largely immutable. If Scream took a long, hard look at those conventions and gave a considerable wink, The Cabin in the Woods leaves the viewer wondering if the very conventions of the horror genre, conventions which many fans know as if they had been imprinted into their collective DNA, are in fact really what's going on in the film. Brilliantly written by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, The Cabin in the Woods doesn't even start out like a traditional horror movie. Instead of a conventional setup giving us some sort of dreaded psycho killer or some such villain, we find ourselves in a high tech laboratory of some sort, with two science nerds having a water cooler discussion about baby proofing around the house. It's almost like a little moment out of The Office, replete with people not really listening to each other and throwaway lines that verge on being non sequiturs. And then just as unexpectedly the hammer blow of a blood curdling music cue underscoring the main title sequence just comes out of nowhere, literally in what seems like the middle of this scene. What exactly is going on here?
Note: It's next to impossible to discuss The Cabin in the Woods coherently without at least dancing around some major potential spoilers. Those who haven't seen the film and don't want to know something about the plot should skip down to the technical aspects of the review, below.
The first question confronting viewers of The Cabin in the Woods is what exactly do the two nerdy lab workers, Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) and Hadley (Bradley Whitford), have to do with the five young adults we meet both during and after the credits sequence. This quintet includes Dana (Kristen Connolly), a college student who is rebounding from an unfortunate affair with one of her professors; Curt (Chris Hemsworth), a genial jock who is the boyfriend of beautiful new blonde (courtesy of some hair dye) Jules (Anna Hutchison); Holden (Jesse Williams), a football buddy of Curt's whom Curt is hoping will hook up with Dana; and Marty (Fran Kranz), a serial pot smoker who walks around in his own private ecosystem generated by the copious smoke surrounding his head. Curt's cousin has just purchased a scenic little cabin in the woods, and these five are off to enjoy a weekend there. But what immediately becomes apparent is the five are being watched by some sort of high tech operation, and that their trip is not exactly one generated purely by chance.
If the five kids sound like cliché ridden types, that's one of the film's riskiest gambits, but it's also one with a reasonably plausible explanation (at least within the always shaky realism of the horror genre). Suffice it to say that the five are part of something (to quote some famous metaphysician somewhere) bigger than themselves, although in this case it's not a touchy-feely universal force promising health and happiness for everyone, but instead something distinctly more sinister. And that's where the lab rats come into play: they are orchestrating the devastation leveled upon the quintet once they arrive at the cabin, in a sort of horror tinged version of The Hunger Games. The lab has pumped their "puppets" full of mind altering drugs which make them more easily suggestible, and the lab is also able to control things like the weather, lighting and even the scent of pheromones if they want some of the "participants" to get a little frisky.
Without spoiling too much more of what The Cabin in the Woods has in store, let's just say that Whedon and Goddard reference any number of iconic literary efforts, from Shirley Jackson's The Lottery to several famous H.P. Lovecraft outings that feature nefarious gods of yore erupting into our present day world. Lest anyone think this is a heavy handed homage to other horror fests, nothing could be further from the truth. As Whedon and Goddard proved so admirably on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, they are able to almost effortlessly combine sheer terror with laugh out loud lunacy, and that proclivity is well on display throughout The Cabin in the Woods.
The Cabin in the Woods has elements that are considerably more gruesome than the Scream franchise, but it also has Scream's knowing sense of humor about this genre. It may in fact not be the self-referential wink-fest that the Kevin Williamson films are, but there is still ample hearty humor served up with equal parts menace and hilarity. Anyone who isn't laughing after an especially gruesome moment that sees the remnant of a zombie arm stroking the body of a would be law enforcement official is obviously not part of the target demographic for this film.
Now truth be told there are some logical inconsistencies on display, especially with regard to how these five, who were obviously already friends, so perfectly fit the requirements of "the game" that is being played. But little niggling qualms like this give way under the furious assault of nonstop gore and guts, not to mention a lot of lunatic humor. Given the apocalyptic denouement of The Cabin in the Woods, it will be surprising (but not impossible) if Whedon and Goddard can (pardon the term) carve out a new franchise from this very promising film.
The Cabin in the Woods Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Cabin in the Woods is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Lionsgate Films with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.40:1. As is readily apparent from the screencaps accompanying this review, a lot of the film is intentionally bathed in a murky, dark atmosphere that makes things quite hard to see at times, obviously upping the fear ante considerably when a zombie or even a gas station attendant appears out of nowhere. These darker elements seem to have had contrast considerably dialed down at times to the point where edges of apparel drift into the black background. Other than this aspect, which is no doubt purposeful, the high definition presentation here is quite sharp and well detailed. Cinematographer Peter Deming (who perhaps not so coincidentally lensed both Scream 3 and Scream 4) casts things in a slightly hazy, grainy aspect that gives the impression of overall softness, but which still delivers outstanding fine object detail in the film's many close-ups. The looney-tunes CGI elements are very well woven into the fabric of the film and look great.
The Cabin in the Woods Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Cabin in the Woods' lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix starts out innocently enough, with the commonplace sounds of an office kitchen, but once that first devastating music cue and the title screen appears, you know you're in for a whale of a good time, sonically speaking. Fidelity is outstanding and surround activity is virtually nonstop once all hell literally starts breaking loose. When the film's quintet of terrified potential zombie victims are running in panic, several fantastic sound effects pop up in individual channels, beautifully conveying the rush and horror of what's going on (some of the funny kind of "slimy" sound effect surrounding the zombies' movements are especially well done). The film's final act is just a nonstop assault of LFE and incredible surround activity, capped by one last awesome burst as the film catapults into nothingness. Dynamic range is somewhat limited, as this is a "balls out" audio mix that just goes for broke once things get going, but within the context of a crazy sound design like this film offers, things are really rather nicely nuanced.
The Cabin in the Woods Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Cabin in the Woods Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Whedon can be a little too "precious" for his own good at times (witness Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog), but here, working with longtime collaborator Drew Goddard, he manages a near perfect tightrope act balanced between horror and comedy. The film really doesn't make a lot of sense if you think about it too much, but the good news is, the gore and guffaws come with such regularity that any lapses in logic end up not really mattering all that much. This Blu-ray offers great video and superior sound and comes with some nice supplementary features. Highly recommended.
The Cabin in the Woods: Other Editions
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In September, Lionsgate Home Entertainment will bring The Cabin in the Woods to Blu-ray. Created by Drew Goddard (Cloverfield) and Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), this postmodern horror comedy focuses on a group of young people whose vacation at a secluded ...
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