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The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

Lionsgate
4K UHD Released: 9/5/2017

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/31/2017

Over the years, there have been many very good movie made. But, even the best movies have flaws and there's no such thing as a perfect film. From the questionable rear-project effects in Aliens to PJ Soles tripping over the dolly track in Halloween, small flaws abound in otherwise excellent films. But, sometimes flaws can be fatal. One miscue can taint a film and throw it completely off the rails. And, no matter how hard you try, you can't look past that flaw. The Cabin in the Woods has a premise which shows promise, but from the get-go, things go wrong.

As The Cabin in the Woods opens, we meet good-girl Dana (Kristen Connolly), the flirtatious Jules (Anna Hutchison), jock Curt (Chris Hemsworth), new guy Holden (Jesse Williams), and stoner Marty (Fran Kranz). This fun group is taking a break from the stress of college in order to spend a weekend at cabin in the woods owned by Curt's cousin. Upon arrival, they check out the cabin, swim in the lake, and then get the party started, so to speak. At the same time, we meet Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) and Hadley (Bradley Whitford), two men who are working in a control room and observing the kids in the cabin. As the party progresses, Sitterson and Hadley unleash a fiendish plan which will turn a fun weekend into a bloodbath.

Taking a broad view, the goal of The Cabin in the Woods is very obvious -- it wants to take several movie stereotypes and turn them on their collective ears. As noted above, we get all of the cliched characters here and the movie really exaggerates all of their attributes, although Holden is a bit vague. Is he supposed to be the smart one? If so, it doesn't come through. These individuals are then placed in a typical "a group of young people take a trip to the country only to encounter danger" storyline. They go into the woods, where they find a cabin which looks suspiciously like the one from Evil Dead. The group parties and eventually finds themselves overwhelmed by the evil attacking them. (SPOILER ALERT!) But, for all of the film's (and the promotional material's) posturing that The Cabin in the Woods is changing things up, it really doesn't. The person who you expect to survive the onslaught does and in presenting all of the stereotypes, the movie simply reinforces them. Also, the footage that we see from Japan (which looks like a much better movie) shows us that the evil can be stopped, so that takes even more wind out of the sails. (END SPOILER ALERT!)

So, The Cabin in the Woods seeks to mock the standard get-away gone wrong movie, what else does it do that's different? The answer to that has to do with Sitterson, Hadley, and the other people who we see watching the vacationers. This is not a spoiler, for from the outset, we see these people busy in their offices and control rooms. The twist here is that the events in the cabin are being manipulated by these people and that the seemingly innocent vacation is part of a bigger plan. Is this an interesting idea? Of course it is. The problem with The Cabin in the Woods is that it tips its hat in the first scene. There is virtually no suspense here, as we know that these people are controlling the action. Why did Writers Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon think that letting the audience in on this secret from the beginning was the right move? The movie would have been so much better if we had thought that it was a simple cursed cabin movie, to only then learn that something much more evil was at work.

The Cabin in the Woods was shot in 2009, but was not released until 2012. There are always reasons for why movies are shelved, but in this case I believe that it's a simple case of a movie simply not being that good. Of course, as Whedon is involved, his legion of fans simply fawn over this movie and proclaim that it's a masterpiece. It's a well-made movie which has some nice special effects, some good ideas and an incredibly misguided gameplan. It's not really scary, but it's not really the spoof that it wants to be. The movie is simply lost in the woods.

The Cabin in the Woods shouldn't have shown us all of those more interesting monsters on 4K UHD courtesy of Lionsgate. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an HEVC 2160p transfer which runs at an average of 75 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The question is, does this look better than the Blu-ray Disc? And the answer is, not really. Yes, we get a very crisp picture here, but the level of detail and depth only show a slight improvement over previous releases. The colors look good and the many dark scenes are never too dark. The Disc carries a Dolby Atmos audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 6.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. From the outset, the surround sound and subwoofer effects are very impressive here. The audio coming from the rear channels is often detailed and we can make out individual sounds. The bass effects help to build a sense of menace and they really kick in during the finale.

The Cabin in the Woods 4K UHD contains several extra features. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Drew Goddard and Writer/ Producer Joss Whedon. "We Are Not Who We Are: Making The Cabin in the Woods" (29 minutes) begins with Goddard and Whedon discussing where the script came from. We then move to the set to see some key scenes being shot, and where we also hear from some of the cast members. "The Secret Secret Stash" offers "Marty's Stash" (8 minutes) which has Fran Kranz explaining where his character hides his marijuana, and "Hi, My Name is Joss and I'll Be Your Guide" (5 minutes) where Whedon takes us on a tour of the cabin set. "An Army of Nightmares: Make-up & Animatronic Effects" (12 minutes) gives us a behind-the-scenes look at the creation and design of the various monsters in the film. (Hey, is that Heather Langenkamp?) "Primal Terror: Visual Effects" (12 minutes) shows us how green-screen and CG was used to bring the finale to life. "Wonder-Con Q&A" (28 minutes) takes us to a screening of the film where Goddard and Whedon take questions from the audience. The final extra is the THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film.

Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long