Cabin in the Woods, The (UK - BD RB)
Chris takes an early look at the Blu-ray release of this recent horror feature...
Five friends got to a remote cabin in the woods. Bad things happen. If you think you know the story. Think again. From fan favourites Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard comes The Cabin in the Woods, a mind blowing horror film that turns the genre inside out. (Taken from the PR.)
The super-short PR blurb above pretty much sums the film up. At face value The Cabin in the Woods seems like any number of similarly-themed horror flicks, but as things progress it effectively subverts horror film expectations to offer something more than your average hack and slash movie. Things get off to a fairly routine start when a group of attractive college students take an ill-advised trip to a remote cabin for the weekend. Of course their misguided behaviour - you know, smoking weed, having sex and stupidly reading Latin from a book they find in a creepy basement - ends up evoking evil and results in a number of gruesome deaths, but there's more going on here than is immediately apparent. The youngsters' suffering is all part of an ancient, elaborate ritual to sate the appetites of a group of Lovecraftian gods who might otherwise awaken from their eternal slumber and lay waste to the world.
If the above sounds like more of a meta horror-comedy than a genuinely scary or funny film, it is, but long-time genre fans will appreciate the nods to the various horror movie tropes. The cast does a good job playing the various stereotypical roles and the 'puppeteers' pulling the strings behind the scenes (played by Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford) are a delight. There's even a very familiar turn from Sigourney Weaver, who these days appears to be exclusively playing almost the same character in a variety of short cameos (hard-arsed female boss in a business suit), but she's always worth a watch.
I won't go into any more detail for fear of spoiling what little mystery remains, but suffice to say it's an enjoyable movie with a likeable cast. It's just a shame it sat on the shelf for three years because of the troubles at MGM.
The Cabin in the Woods arrives with a 2.40:1 (1080/24p AVC) encode that looks better than the murky photography would seem to permit. That's not to say that everything's rosy in that department, as there are a fair number of scenes where the darkness swallows up plenty of detail. However, this would appear to be the result of the original photography rather than any deficiency on the part of the Blu-ray, so it's hard to complain too vociferously even if these moments exhibit the odd bit of noise. Other than that things are quite pleasing, with plenty of fine detail on display in the brighter scenes near the beginning of the film, when you can actually see what's going on clearly. During these early scenes the palette is warm, nay vibrant, but move towards a cooler look the longer the film runs (for plot-specific reasons). I think I also spotted a bit of posterisation in there, which could be problematic for those with larger screens, but other than that there's not a lot to complain about. It's not a top-tier title in the visual department, but it's impressive all the same.
A DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track is the order of the day here, and it's a pretty great effort. Things get off to a fairly quiet start, with little in the way of surround activity until the seven minute mark when the students hop in their camper and crank up the radio. It's also around this time that we get our first taste of what is to come from the subwoofer, as the van puts out some surprisingly powerful low end. After this the track becomes much busier, be it the mechanical sounds of the puppeteers’ underground command centre or the atmospheric whistling of the wind and creaking of doors when the group arrive at a rundown gas station. When the action proper begins the track really comes alive, with the standout moment being an all-out battle involving hoards of nightmare creatures that features some fantastic directionality. The aforementioned bass is even more potent during the action scenes, at times rumbling with enough force to rattle the ribcage. In light of this you’d be forgiven for thinking that dialogue might be a casualty, but it remains perfectly intelligible throughout. The creepy score also plays its part in setting the mood, particularly early on when the viewer still isn’t quite sure what to expect. No doubt about it, The Cabin in the Woods is an impressive audio experience that is a match for all but the very best.
The disc contains a fair smattering of bonus content for a relatively low-budget film that slipped largely under the radar. You won't find the sort of material that you get on a full-fledged special edition, but there's more on offer than your average Blu-ray release and the content is enjoyable for the most part. Here's a brief run-down.
- It's Not What You Think: This is your typical BonusView mode featuring behind-the-scenes interviews, complete with lengthy gaps between the picture-in-picture content
- Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Drew Goddard and Writer/Producer Joss Whedon: Another entertaining chat track from Whedon, who has great chemistry with his friend and collaborator
- We Are Not Who We Are: Making The Cabin in the Woods: This is a fairly typical making of featurette packed with on-set footage and interviews
- The Secret Secret Stash: This contains two short featurettes, 'Marty's Stash' and 'My Name is Joss and I'll be Your Guide', neither of which is terribly enlightening
- An Army of Nightmares: Make-Up & Animatronic Effects: Special effects aficionados will enjoy this short look at the creation of the various creatures and make-up effects
- Primal Terror: Visual Effects: A short featurette that focuses on things like computer generated imagery, which was mostly used to support the practical effects
- Wonder-Con Q&A: This is an enjoyable and often-amusing Q&A session with Whedon and Goddard that takes place after a screening of the film
While I enjoyed The Cabin in the Woods it was on more of an intellectual level than an emotional one. I'm a complete baby when it comes to horror films and I only jumped once (during a cheap jump scare), and while there is humour to be found most of it is of the chin stroking 'oh yes, I get that reference' type rather than the laugh out loud variety. I don't want to sound too negative though, because I did enjoy the film and the disc offers a great audio-visual experience coupled with some decent bonus content. Fans will lap it up and I still think it's worthy of at least a rental if you're in the mood for a horror film with a difference.
Before I sign off I have to mention a peculiar issue I experienced while watching the film. At various points throughout, probably around a dozen or so times in total, the film briefly froze before carrying on as normal. This issue was not present when playing the BonusView track, which led me to believe that it was a problem with the disc rather than my players. A quick email to Lionsgate confirmed that I had received a check disc from a bad batch, but that all retail copies would be fully quality assured before they hit stores.
* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Chris Gould
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 24th September 2012
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 English
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Extras: BonusView, Audio Commentary, Featurettes, Q&A, Trailer
Easter Egg: No
Director: Drew Goddard
Cast: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford, Amy Acker, Sigourney Weaver
Genre: Comedy and Horror
Length: 105 minutes
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