Is that a challenge?...
Another day, another horror/comedy riff on the Cabin in the Woods slasher flick. Considering how many of these I see on a regular basis, I was prepared for anything, except how much I was actually going to like this one…
Six friends are travelling to a cabin in the woods, in the hometown of author Stephen King, with the intention of getting the full King experience, and maybe even meeting the man himself. Well, one of them is there for that –- the other five really just want a fun romp at the lake. But, the fun is quickly cut short when they begin dying, one by one, in manners that will be familiar to fans of King’s books.
Full disclosure –- I've seen most of Stephen King’s movies, but I've never read one of his books. While I did notice quite a few subtle (and some not so subtle) references to the author, the movie strikes me as smart enough to contain a multitude of others, for King purists. In fact, I actually had to take the characters’ word for it, that the deaths were King-inspired, as I didn't recognize too many of them. But, familiarity with King’s work only adds to the experience -- the non-initiated will also have a lot of fun.
Let’s start with the characters –- the six friends are all played rather well by their respective actors (two of which are also 2/3 of the writing/directing team). Each one fits into a necessary stereotype that is introduced rather humorously, just so you know that they are in on the joke as well. There are also several well-acted local yokels that occupy the small town, adding to the atmosphere. An early diner scene, along with confrontations on the lake and at the boat rental shop, all give the sense that something is not quite right in the town, and the actors are all admirably up to the task.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of this flick is the music. There are quite a few cues, both score and soundtrack, that not only fit well with the slasher spoof atmosphere, but also get a few laughs on their own. In particular, there is a great running nod to the familiar main theme from Friday the 13th, that not only provides a couple of chuckles, but actually begins to reveal how clever it actually is, as more of the plot unfolds (I will reveal no more). The cinematography also works well, especially when early crane shots give us a nice scope of the woods that we’ll be spending the next 80 minutes in.
On to the negatives –- some of the jokes are a little forced (no black guys in Maine –- got it) and the budget is certainly limited, but these are pretty minor, as most of the jokes do land, and the effects work is admirable, for what they had to work with. Also, while it is quite cleverly done, if you pay attention, you’re going to see the ending coming from a mile away (or, does Maine use kilometers?). Lastly, slasher fans who have particular gore and nudity needs, should prepare for that quota to go unfilled -- but they shouldn't let that stop them.
Jason’s Final Thoughts:
Sure, we've all seen enough slasher spoofs to last us an entire summer at camp, but that only helps to highlight when a good one pops up. Tongue is planted firmly in cheek, and said cheek will probably end up on the floor of the cabin. I can only imagine that when you began reading this review, Stephen King himself was probably about halfway through a novelization of this story (a joke not missed by the movie), meaning, that as, you’re reading this sentence, it just hit the #1 best-seller list.
Review by Jason Howard, special to Influx Magazine
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