Film: 'Cabin In The Woods'; Cast: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison; Director: Drew Goddard; Rating ****
One of the best ways to be unconventional is to take the conventional route. And then, somewhere along the way, the smart writer and director give the vehicle of their narrative such a sharp u-turn that viewers are left holding on to their seats.
If you want to have a live demonstration, watch 'Cabin In The Woods', a film that has a obvious, cliched name but in the middle, it takes a sharp u-turn much to the delight of horror film fans.
Like in the most common, commercial horror films, a group of five young people go to a secluded cabin in the woods. Reading from an ancient book unleashes zombies that kill them one by one. After this typical start, the story takes a sudden turn when we realise that this is not entirely work of evil, but of 'reality TV'.
Before you get a grip on this reality, as a viewer you are once again thrown off board as another mysterious dimension is added to the film near the climax. This is by far one of the most imaginative horror film made in years.
Similar to sci-fi films, the reality in horror films too is anyways suspended. Thus a writer or director has that much more scope to suspend reality further, without it seeming too much out of place.
Despite this, if a horror film sounds and feels monotonous, it is a statement on the lack of imagination of the filmmakers.
'Cabin...' takes what you know about horror films, stretches it, then stretches it further to almost breaking point, teasing and testing your limits of believability. And surprisingly, despite these outlandish stretches, it does not break apart. That is one of the greatest strengths of the film.
The acting is typical, the sound design really good and the effects spectacular. But the greatest spectacle is something else.
Despite belonging to a genre where hardly anyone tries to make any serious commentary about society, this one surprisingly manages that miracle. As the hunting 'game' plays on, technicians hired to keep the show on track, inhumanely watch fellow humans being butchered without feeling a thing.
This is a commentary on our insensitivity as audiences and as citizens of a modern world, where we voyeuristically feed on death and devastation of others, sitting comfortably in our living rooms without wishing to do anything to make the situation better.
Until of course the situation is reversed, and we find ourselves right in the midst of the same thing we had been insensitive to.
Thus the greatest horror in the film, as in life, is not what evil creatures and monsters do to humans, but what humans do to one another. The film makes a very strong statement in the end that a humanity that feels nothing while others die is one that deserves total annihilation.
The film thus becomes a searing criticism of both -- a voyeuristic reality show culture where one man's pain become another man's amusement, and also of a society that is insensitive to the pain of others.
And in that, despite the fun, wit, quirk and the terrifying horror of the film, it manages to rise above other films in the same genre.