Review: ‘The Cabin in the Woods’ Proves Horror’s Not Dead

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It was quite some time ago, so long I can’t even remember the exact date, that I came into possession of a mini-poster for a film I hadn’t heard of. The poster was tinted red, bearing only the image of an ominous looking cabin surrounded by a forest. The title brandished across the top was therefore far from enigmatic: The Cabin in the Woods. All I knew was that geek luminary Joss Whedon was involved in this apparent horror film and that a small, but audible buzz was building. Turns out it was co-written by Whedon and Drew Goddard (the director of Cloverfield), who would also be directing Cabin. My interest was further piqued.

Then the film slithered underground like some ancient monster, a studio fell apart, and Cabin in the Woods suffered a revolving door of release dates with no end in sight. Why is this tale of commercial woe at all relevant to this review? The longer Cabin sat unreleased, languishing in industry purgatory, the longer my expectations and desire to see the film germinated in the dank darkness of disappointment…like a mushroom? Whatever plant or fungus one may decide to adopt here, the point is that by the time I actually sat down to watch this film during SxSW, I began to fear that I had somehow built it up to much. I began to fret that my intense urge to finally bear witness to the film I had built up in my head had created an impossible expectation to which this film, by no fault of its own, would not be able to live up. Somehow, The Cabin in the Woods managed to exceed a two-year gestating hype and knock me completely on my ass.

Bon Temps is not Sunnydale.

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It was true last season when I said it.  After the Season 2 premiere, the declaration still rings true: TRUE BLOOD is the best show on television.  I’m not here to gush over the recent return to television, as engaging as it was, rather to address a comment Herc at AICN made, a comment that echoes sentiments I’ve seen in comment sections across the tubes.

Specifically, in his admittedly favorable preview of the S2 premiere, Herc expressed, “Bon Temps keeps reminding me of Sunnydale, and how much more fun Sunnydale was; “Buffy’s” plotting and dialogue were sharper and more graceful.”

Firstly, each a proxy for their respective show, Bon Temps is not Sunnydale and any contrast of the two is little more than rigor mortise clutching for a TV show that will never return.  Aside from a female protagonist and vampire pro/antagonists, the two shows have nothing in common.  The comparison cannot extend beyond foundation.  It’s like saying New York City is much more fun than London, yet the only real tendon connecting the two are asphalt and sky scrappers.  Each have distinct, mutually exclusive idiosyncrasies, to pretend they’re of the same ancestry and agenda is fruitless.

Pollination aside, I still don’t get how Herc can say Sunnydale is “much more fun” or that Buffy’s cobblestones are “sharper and more graceful”.  Combined those comments imply that Alan Ball’s agenda is to be both boring and dull.  Where Whedon’s was a world of teen aged apocryphal (mis)adventures and dealing with hormones, Ball’s is a world of dark acclimation to a new norm, levity being a natural byproduct of dealing with the unknown.  BUFFY sought fun, TRUE BLOOD safety nets into fun for balance.

(Spoilers for both shows abound)

Last Week in Horror News: January 25 to February 1st

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For those keeping tabs, I’m back home.  Don’t expect my rantings about Asian movies to end, though.

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