Based on the novel, The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay, this is M. Night Shyamalan’s newest film and he’s the co-writer of the adaptation and the director. Doing the math, will this film be a Shamalamadingdong winner or another colossal dud?
**SOME SPOILERS AHEAD!**
Ah, camping in the woods! The fresh pine air, the mighty trees, the four lunatics who take you hostage and demand a human sacrifice. Wait. . . what? So, you got a happy couple, Andrew & Eric (Jonathan Groff & Ben Aldridge) along with their little adopted Asian child, Wen (Kristen Cui) on a nice vacation in the middle of nowhere, when BOOM! Drax shows up. . . sorry, I mean, a guy named Leonard (Dave Bautista) shows up with his gang of thugs, Redmond (Rupert Grint), Adriene (Nikki Amuka-Bird), and Sabrina (Abby Quinn). They break in and then tie up Andrew & Eric and make a rather unusual demand. One of them must kill the other in order for the end of the world not to happen! Okaaaaaayyy. Are these guys seriously nuts or could they possibly be telling the truth?
First off, this film looks different as M. Night went old school. I mean, real old school using old film cameras and hard to find 90’s lens to give it that grainy, textured look. Anyway, back to the story. These latter-day Four Riders of the Apocalypse (or the Knights Who Say “Ni!”) demand a sacrifice from these three or else the Earth will face horrific disasters on a global scale one by one. But are these devasting occurrences real or somehow fixed by Leonard and his gang? And what’s with Leonard and his crew saying they’ve all had visions about this day? Could it be all this talk is convincing Eric or not? If you read the book you already know the ending but take heart, this ending isn’t like the book.
Adapted by M. Night, along with newbies Steve Desmond and Michael Sherman, they’ve written a bone-chilling suspense thriller that easily redeems M. Night from his last outing about a bunch of people rapidly aging on a beach (Old). Aside from the occasional jarring and unnecessary flashbacks that pepper several scenes, this movie is about as spine-tingling as M. Night’s underrated The Visit. And Lord! Does M. Night ever love his close-ups! Practically every shot is an up-close, straight-on face shot that gets old fast. However, the one thing that M. Night does really well is building tension and this movie has that in spades. His camera work is wonderful and he doesn’t have to rely on bloody gore effects to tell his story. I like that.
All the actors are amazing, with young Kristen Cui (her first starring role) being a stand-out! Her timing and facial expressions are excellent. And, for all of you Harry Potter fans, Rupert Grint (Ronald Weasly) is scary good and needed more screen time. Quinn and Amuka-Bird are fantastic and Dave Bautista beautifully sells it as the hulking beast with a heavy heart of responsibility. Then you have the tag-team of Jonathan Groff & Ben Aldridge who are outstanding as the bickering dads. And yes, M. Night (like Hitchcock) gives himself his usual cameo in the movie. A pretty funny one, too! This is Shyamalan at his best, taking it back to his early days of Signs and The Sixth Sense. It’s claustrophobic, intense, scary, and keeps you guessing until the end. Welcome back!
**Now showing only in theaters
Cabin in the Woods (2011)
Deceptively mischievous and irresistible in content, this horror/comedy is not what it seems and yet, everything you’d expect for a movie about a bunch of college kids who spend a horrifying weekend in the woods. It’s graphic, bloody, and yes, it’s darkly funny too!
College students Dana Polk (Kristen Connelly), Jules Louden (Anna Hutchison), Curt Vaughan (Chris Hemsworth), Holden McCrea (Jesse Williams), and Marty Mikalski (Fram Kranz) are spending their weekend at Curt’s cousin’s secluded cabin in the woods. But what they don’t know is, they’re part of a diabolical ritual; a ritual that’s taking place all over the globe. Unbeknownst to them, they’re being spied on (with bets being placed) by an underground laboratory run by jokester engineers Gary Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) and Steve Hadley (Bradley Whitford). These students have no idea that they are being subtly manipulated into choosing the way they’ll be killed.
Upon visiting the creepy basement, Dana reads from an evil diary, releasing the undead Buckner family who, one by one, are trying to murder the students. Y’see, their deaths are part of a master plan: to satisfy blood sacrifices going on all over the world in order to appease the Ancient Ones, a group of cruel subterranean deities. Problem is, these sacrifices are failing elsewhere, making this one very important! As the night goes on, each student dies in a horrible way, whether by a motorcycle jump gone wrong, or a surprise zombie attack. The only two survivors are stoner Marty and strong-willed Dana who find the secret entrance to the underground world of their assailants.
Once they figure out what’s going on, they release every creature, spirit, monster, and ghoul into the facility, causing untold bloody havoc in a third act that is a blood-soaked nightmare and occasionally hilarious. Finally, with everyone dead, Dana & Marty meet the Director (Sigourney Weaver) who insists they sacrifice themselves or else the entire world will be destroyed! And you won’t believe the ending! But what would you expect from screenwriters Joss Whedon (Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, The Avengers) and director Drew Goddard (Bad Times at the El Royale)? What makes this movie a cut above your usual humdrum slasher film is the dark humor peppered throughout the film, mostly from Jenkins and Bradford who give the movie its darkest wit.
Then you have the students who play such an important part in rounding out this wildly blood-filled fun film. A pre-Thor Hemsworth shows off his bravado side. . . until he slams into a force field; a shocking scene. And Franz steals the film away with his pot-smoking Marty, along with Connolly who is like the Energizer Bunny; she gets attacked constantly but keeps going and going and going! Many people go into this first thinking, “Meh, it’s just your typical slasher movie”, but after the first fifteen minutes, it takes a left turn into something you’ve never seen before. And for fun, watch this on a DVD and freeze-frame on all the monsters! The writers came up with a bunch of them that resemble noted film villains but changed them so they wouldn’t infringe on any trademark rights! LOL!