Monday, April 30, 2012

#144: The Cabin in the Woods

It was a definite dilemma. My wife and I would have the afternoon to ourselves, with her mother watching over our infant son for a few precious hours. Three hours potential of silence, of not having to hold this sixteen pound bowling ball of tears, puke and drool. Part of me wanted to just lay in bed with Jennifer and take a much needed nap.

It had been so long since we'd seen a movie, though. While there wasn't much out, I missed the feeling of being in the theater... the abusively loud sound system, the gigantic seats, the gigantic sodas! Darkness! Sitting in a room with a screen so big that -- for two hours -- nothing else exists.

What, then, should we see? This may be the last movie we see in a theater for months. The planets have aligned just right to allow us this digression from the exhaustion of parenting. Shouldn't we make it count?

The intellectual in me knew that the local art house theater was showing Sweet Smell of Success, the 1957 noir classic starring Tony Curtis and Burt Lancaster. The Movie Gods would want me to go. A different part of me just wanted to have fun, and I'd heard some good and intriguing things about The Cabin in the Woods, a movie that seemed at first glance such a typical horror retread that it even had the beige title of The Cabin in the Woods.

Honestly, what sold me more than anything was the environment. Our local art house theater could stand to be a little less stuffy and austere. I mean, just because I'm going to a classic movie doesn't mean I don't want a 40 ounce soda bomb and a game of pinball.

So, the wife and I went to the genre movie, and were pleasantly rewarded for the risk we took. After the opening scene -- a Sorkin-esque back and forth between Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford (who steal scenes throughout the movie) -- ends with a jarring title screen a la Funny Games, I was hooked. Cabin was co-written by Lost writer Drew Goddard (who directs here) and geek fanboy god Joss Whedon. While I am by no means a Whedon nut, I respect his writing and ability to be clever and arch without being glib.

What we've got with Cabin is the kind of movie that almost never gets made. You can sense these two guys starting with the most basic and overused of horror movie tropes, and then spilling out ideas right and left without a though of what the studio might think. And then, a miracle happens: the studio doesn't interfere and they make the movie that no one would dream could get made. Goddard makes a whole lot out of a small budget, which is especially impressive when you think about the amount of special effects needed to pull off his finale.

And when you see where the third act of Cabin takes things, you'll know what I mean. In a (kind of made up) word: APESHIT. I like to think I have a knack of being able to see where a movie plot or a character might be heading, but if you can predict what goes down in the last 20 minutes here, my hat is off to you, liar.

I don't want to say much more. I'd read a few reviews that talked about the fact that there were a number of twists in the plot, but I honestly wanted to go in knowing as little as possible. I advise you to do the same. I decided to save Sweet Smell of Success for a home viewing, where I can really relax and savor the thing. I was right in making The Cabin in the Woods my movie theater movie; it demands to be seen with a giant sound system, a massive nacho bucket and a few dozen people laughing and lunging along with you.