Five friends go to a remote cabin in the woods for a weekend trip but find that there’s more to the endearing shack than at first glance as they unveil its history and secrets. Sound boring and unoriginal? Hang on…
Meanwhile, a group of classified reality-show hosts in an underground lab watchover the youngsters, manipulating events with the touch of a button, with one goal in mind: making them live their worst nightmares.
Director Drew Goddard sets out to bring back the 80’s horror classic in his directorial debut. With the heavy rock go-nuts-music playing as the title punches out onto the screen, it’s a good start. And it isn’t long before we journey along the nostalgic road back to 1980… back to the year of Friday the 13th, The Shining and The Fog; but most importantly the year that Evil Dead was born! With the isolated cabin in the forbidden forest, its all-too-tempting trap door and the book (not quite of the dead this time) that calls monsters from their graves when their Latin words are spoken, Goddard doesn’t make his goal to relive the 80’s subtle.
But after this it all gets a bit confusing.
Yes, the constant switching from cabin to lab is an effective composition which adds a layer of complexity to the, what would be, simple story. The relationship between the two lab “professors” (Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford) is humorous and the situations they find themselves in are somewhat strangely amusing. While the film clearly acts to champion the 80’s horror genre, a satirical tone is deliberately carried throughout in the professors numerous ploys to set up conventional horror situations, for e.g. the teens being warned to go no further by the town’s old hillbilly at the petrol station.
But as the film goes on these added “layers” of plot, hidden meanings and nods to previous works become too much and the film loses direction pretty quickly after the first hour. Although the juggling back and forth from the two locations is manageable and shows credible authenticity, as the professors lose touch with the inner-story happenings, so do we. The two worlds cross paths and we witness a good ten-minute blood bath, reasons behind the chaotic mess remaining unveiled, until suddenly…it’s the end of the world. Certainly an ending you can’t claim is predictable, but one that unfortunately falls short as a result of incoherent penultimate scenes.
An interesting and enjoyable first hour which loses direction in its closing scenes with a confusing and perhaps overly-complex ending.