I was excited for this movie in the weeks leading up to its release. I mean really really excited. I gorged myself on any preview I could find online that did not spoil the movie at all. These only helped to fuel my excitement as I braced myself to watch the Meta Horror to beat all Meta Horrors. Reviewers talked about the genius plotline, the intricate surprises and layering and the unique breaking down of the fourth wall. Some even went so far as to claim this to be the horror movie to end all horror movies.
So I went to see the movie the day it came out and….I don’t think I’ve been as disappointed about a movie experience since Transformers 2. Actually this is worse than that because at least reviews agreed that Transformers was crap yet Cabin in The Woods continues to be praised as a genius movie and it doesn’t deserve such accolades.
The past 10-15 years has seen the horror movie genre evolve. Audiences aren’t satisfied with a few jumpy moments and a bit of blood and seek something more intellectually stimulating. Hence the birth of meta and reality horror movies. CITW has been compared a great deal to the Scream movies but it’s nothing like them. The Scream franchise was a meta horror in a semi reality environment. There were no creatures with powers, no supernatural goings on. It was a group of kids trying to survive the onslaught of the killer using the rules of a horror movie as their guide. Going back and watching them again they were very clever especially Scream 2 which goes further by with the ‘Stab’ movies that have been created on the back of the killings in Scream 1. Wes Cravens knowledge and respect of the horror genre is paramount and he demonstrated this again (although before Scream) with the highly underrated New Nightmare. Here we have a Freddy film set completely in the real world with the actors from the previous movies playing themselves. Granted it’s not a particularly scary movie but it is a bold attempt to merge reality and fantasy to create a new horror genre. The likes of the popular Paranormal Activity films does this as well in a slightly different way. By taking the hand-held camera approach they attempt to make the super-natural natural and this works very well. It places the horror in your own room. A light goes out, you hear a creaking floorboard and once again you’re that small kid again scared of the dark and what’s under the bed. My other half always needs to sleep with the light on after watching them.
The one thing I can say Cabin in the Woods excels at is fooling a whole heap of people into believing its even half as clever and groundbreaking as the films I’ve mentioned. Yes it has a fourth wall, but the wall purely exists within the realm of the movie and doesn’t break out into the audiences world so we cannot connect to it. Did I go to sleep wondering if there was a company under the ground that controlled horror and that every horror ive ever watched was just this acting out? Course I didn’t so for that reason I feel the layering of the movie is ineffective.
For me the movie missed the biggest coup ever and could of made this film the King of Meta Horror and that would have been by having genuine horror references in the film instead of the generic ones we saw. When the kids are in the cellar the jock is playing with a puzzle ball. We all know what they were alluding at but instead why not have an actual Puzzle Cube? How much deeper would the film have been to have the likes of Pinhead, Freddy, Jason, Michael Myers, Pennyworth The Clown in the vaults than some generic CGI creatures that we’d never seen before. This would have suddenly brought the films environment into our own. It would of cemented the concept that all horror served an ultimate purpose. And this is why the film fails to be a Meta Horror to me. It doesn’t reference the horror genre it only references itself and to me that’s not clever or unique, that’s just boring.
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