THE cyclical nature of storytelling means that genre filmmakers often have an insatiable appetite for deconstruction, with horror in particular lending itself to breaking the fourth wall and commenting on its various tropes.
Cabin in the Woods
The Scream films are the most famous recent example, even though they abused that trick to the point where ironic, self-referential horror became a subgenre in its own right (one that spawned the redundant Scary Movie series).
The Cabin in the Woods, however, proves it is possible to find new ways to interrogate such a formulaic genre while still serving up everything that a fan could possibly want from a horror film. Co-written and produced by Joss Whedon and directed by fellow co-writer Drew Goddard, the film is, by some measure, the smartest and most fun horror flick of recent years, one that takes the whole exhausted genre, makes a virtue of both its limitations and our familiarity with them, and manages to unleash horror’s potential as the ultimate forum for crazy-as-a-loon storytelling.
If you didn’t see it in cinemas, I won’t ruin the fun here with a plot description, but it’s a film that does benefit from, and change with, multiple viewings. The DVD & Blu-Ray also comes with a thoroughly entertaining chat track from the self-deprecating Whedon and Goddard, who go deep into all aspects of the production while sipping chardonnay to allay the image of them as basement dwelling geeks who can’t get girlfriends.
If The Cabin in the Woods elevates the horror genre, The Pact offers a depressing reminder of just how many poorly thought-out fright flicks still get made. Part paranormal chiller, part serial-killer thriller, despite looking good, it fails to follow its own logic as no-nonsense biker girl Annie (Caity Lotz) returns to her childhood home where a ghostly presence may have been responsible for her sister and cousin disappearing. Naturally, the police are sceptical, but they let Annie conduct her own Google investigation into a local serial killer anyway. Multiple story problems arise from this, none of which director Nicholas McCarthy solves, and by the time his heroine elicits the help of a local psychic to spell out what’s happening with a makeshift Ouija board, any deal The Pact has made with fans hoping for a tense movie-going experience has long since been broken.
• To order these DVDs, call The Scotsman on 01634 832789
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