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Director Cameron Crowe extends his autobiographical homage to 70s rock —Risë Keller (DVD review...)

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Long-time readers know that I like a good horror film with an interesting subtext. My favorite of late: Shaun of the Dead in which zombies rise up and the self-absorbed youth don’t even notice. When the zombie apocalypse finally becomes apparent, well, the youth are prepared with dead-end jobs and mind-numbing computer games.

Enter Cabin in the Woods, in which 5 horny college students decide to stay in a creaky old cabin. And in which two middle-aged engineers banter about “the scenario” that their team is running that day, and about which department is most likely to fail — chemistry, engineering, ops, or... zoology?

It’s impossible to say much more about Cabin in the Woods without revealing a spoiler or two, but since the movie reveals a lot in the first scene, I think it’s safe to add that there is a Hunger Games component to the proceedings.

Deconstructing a Cabin

Five friends enter... how many will leave?
Five friends enter... how many will leave?

The tone of the movie is both scary and fun, with a stronger emphasis on the fun. The horror angle is completely predictable. Even the filmmakers call it “a cabin movie,” summarizing the plot in three words. But because the movie is self-aware, the predictable tropes and events never escape without comment, explanation, or flourish, which is great fun to fans of the genre.

I find it interesting that Cabin in the Woods is being released so soon after The Hunger Games (which I read but did not see). I enjoyed the books, but I felt like I was supposed to find a subtext that wasn’t quite there. For my money, Cabin in the Woods does a better job conveying the anger, dismay, and determination of a slighted generation than Suzanne Collins’ work.

... Not that I have anything against The Hunger Games. Like Cabin, it was written after a decade of needless war fought by children of the poor and middle class. Both works were completed near the worst financial downturn since the great depression, which was exacerbated by the realization that we are leaving a huge debt for the next generation. Both works are released at a time when people are taking notice of the unprecedented widening of the gap between rich and poor.

No wonder the younger generation wants to rebel. They’ve played by our rules, and look where it’s gotten them.

Not Homework

But don’t mistake Cabin in the Woods for a homework assignment (as director Drew Goddard might say). It has good dialogue — laugh-out-loud funny moments include a line about a “happy frog”, and a scene in which The Harbinger calls.

The story is well fleshed out with good writing and directing. After someone’s brutal death, there is a brief moment of sincerity, like a Catholic pausing to cross herself after a minor sin. And instead of pitting good against evil, there is a disturbing notion that the evil and horror actually can be justified in the name of good.

At least one other critic has complained that the characters in The Cabin in the Woods are one-dimensional, and I have to concede the point. I don’t think Cabin fires on quite as many cylinders as Shaun of the Dead. But for people like me who like some brains with our horror movies, Cabin is a hearty and welcome snack.