"Keep the customers satisfied", somebody says at some point in The Cabin in the Woods - that, in a nutshell, is the essence of Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard's meta horror movie that picks up the genre's standard-issue tropes in order to dismantle and reassemble them into an unnerving meditation on the nature of fear and man's inhumanity to man.

     Outwardly a classic "ten little niggers" scenario following five college students on a weekend outing at a remote cabin by a lake, it becomes something else as Messrs. Whedon and Goddard pour in all the genre tropes - from the typecasting of the five kids to the role each of them is playing, down to the "final girl", through the sequence in which things happen - then put us at a remove as we realise that the events they're experiencing are being manipulated in real time from an aseptic control room for - whose pleasure exactly? Ours? Somebody else's? The filmmakers'?

     It's all about storytelling, and the way said storytelling functions as a metaphor or a substitute, a need to create or find reasons within the strictly codified rules of horror movies, using the B-movie tradition of reflecting the events of its own time through a glass darkly. And reflect our time Messrs. Whedon and Goddard's endlessly inventive, occasionally snarky, yet almost respectful twists indeed do, bringing together technology, reality television, cinema history and pop culture in order to create this monster of a monster movie. A horror movie for our hyperlinked, super-connected days, using the multiplication of screens in this multi-layered tale as a translation of our need for sacrificial lambs and for the release of our baser instincts into a modern take on escapism and voyeurism.

     Sophisticated yet gory, utterly scary while incredibly funny, The Cabin in the Woods could be described pithily as the thinking man's horror movie, but instead it's just probably the best horror movie I've seen in a very long time.

Cast: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford, Sigourney Weaver

Director: Drew Goddard
Screenplay: Joss Whedon, Mr. Goddard
Cinematography: Peter Deming (colour by Deluxe, Panavision widescreen)
Music: David Julyan
Designer: Martin Whist
Costumes: Shawna Trpcic
Editor: Lisa Lassek
Visual effects: Todd Shifflett
Make-up effects: David Leroy Anderson
Producer: Mr. Whedon (Lions Gate Films, Mutant Enemy Productions)
USA, 2011, 95 minutes

Screened: distributor advance press screening, Zon Lusomundo Colombo 8, Lisbon, August 9th 2012


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