Book Review: The Cabin in the Woods (Official Movie Novelization) by Tim Lebbon

Hi again!

Horror comes in all shapes and sizes these days. These days at the movie theater it seems to be more about gore, torture, and blood splatter than any kind of psychological approach, but occasionally something unique comes along and gets my attention. I’m usually not much of a horror fan unless it’s more a monster feature or thriller-type of movie, so quite honestly I don’t go see horror often at the theater. But something about The Cabin in the Woods gnawed at me…

So when I was offered a chance to check out the film novelization of the script from Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard by Tim Lebbon (Hellbound Hearts, 30 Days of Night (Movie Novelization), Dawn, The Wild – Secret Journeys of Jack London: Book One (with Christopher Golden), and others), I jumped at the chance. First, it’s been quite a while since I’ve read a movie novelization. And second, I’m a Joss Whedon fan and was curious to see what was hiding in this mysterious cabin in the woods.

Guess what? I was quite entertained and am now interested enough to see the actual movie when it is released on DVD/Blu-ray!

The summary at IMDB offers the most succinct description of the film (and book) plot I’ve seen: “Five friends go for a break at a remote cabin in the woods, where they get more than they bargained for. Together, they must discover the truth behind the cabin in the woods.” But though this film may start like so many of the slasher flicks of the ’80s with a group of horny, drunk, and drug-addled college students heading to a remote cabin that belongs to someone in the family, it quickly becomes much much more than that.

As you start to see flashes of what’s going on behind the scenes, there are two sets of characters you get to know. The kids – Dana (artist after a bad break-up), Curt (jock), Jules (jock’s girlfriend), Marty (pot smoker and deep thinker), and Holden (fellow jock and potential rebound relationship for Dana) – and then the others, who I don’t want to spoil for you if you haven’t seen the movie already. But the back-story explains all of those horrific events in other slasher, zombie, and horror movies over the years. It’s one big conspiracy! (Pardon me as these nice folks drag me off to a sanitarium for saying too much…)

Ultimately that’s the best part of this book. Once you get a peek behind the curtain, you see the story from both sides. There are the kids stuck in the horror film and the people behind it. No, I’m not talking about the scriptwriter, director, and production crew here – or am I? That’s the beauty of this story, which takes a typical horror film and pulls it inside out. Will you want the kids to survive? Or will you root for the monsters?

If you like horror, but want something a bit different I’d encourage you to check out The Cabin in the Woods – the movie or the novelization. It’s a twisted reinvention of the genre and I’ll never look at another horror movie the same way again.

For more about author Tim Lebbon, be sure to check out his website at TimLebbon.net. And for the latest news about things in the Whedon-verse, check out the community of Whedonesque!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

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Movie Review: Thor (2011)

Thor. God of Thunder from Norse and Germanic myths. Member of the Avengers (Marvel Comics). Portrayed as well meaning but clueless to those who deceive him for their own aims, he’s fierce in battle with his hammer Mjöllnir, a weapon capable of summoning lightning and destroying mountains…

And now Thor is also a major motion picture from Marvel Studios, the same folks who produced Iron Man, Iron Man 2, The Incredible Hulk, Wolverine, and this summer’s X-Men: First Class and Captain America: The First Avenger films. Also in the pipeline are movies based on Nick Fury, Dr. Strange, The Avengers, a rebooted Spiderman, and more… It’s a good time to be a superhero!

At first I was a bit concerned about Thor, starring Chris Hemsworth (Captain Kirk’s father George Kirk in Star Trek (2009)). How would this work? Directed by Kenneth Branagh (Henry V, Dead Again), would it become more Shakespearean in tone or would it keep the light touch favored by director Jon Favreau in Iron Man? Could Hemsworth anchor a film? Early shots from the production were interesting, but didn’t really start gaining my confidence until seeing recent trailers.

I really shouldn’t have been worried. Branagh gave it just enough weight to make it have some heart behind it and the movie works beautifully.

Thor has an all-star cast… Hemsworth as Thor. Natalie Portman (Black Swan) as Jane Foster (now an astrophysicist and not a nurse as in the comics, though they kept the name Dr. Donald Blake as a temporary name for Thor on Earth during one scene). Sir Anthony Hopkins (Hannibal, The Rite) as Odin, the ruler of the Gods of Asgard. Stellan Skarsgård (Pirates of the Caribbean series, Mamma Mia!) as Dr. Erik Selvig, Foster’s mentor and fellow scientist. Kat Dennings (Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist) as Darcy Lewis, who seems to be Foster’s assistant and confidante. Idris Elba (The Losers, TV’s The Office) as Heimdall, the guardian of Bifrost the Rainbow Bridge between worlds. Rene Russo (Outbreak, The Thomas Crown Affair (1999)) as Frigga, queen to Odin’s king and mother of Thor. Add to that a few relative newcomers like Jamie Alexander (TV’s Kyle XY) who plays Sif, warrior maiden and friend (love interest perhaps?) to Thor and Loki, and Tom Hiddleston as Loki, who did an amazing job making Loki a believable villain trying to prove himself to his father. And then there were the “Warriors Three” are Thor’s companions of old, with Tadanobu Asano as Hogun, Josh Dallas as Fandral, and Ray Stevenson as Volstagg… You’d think the movie would be bogged down by all the talent and yet it stays on track and quite entertaining throughout.

The film begins with Thor arriving on Earth and being hit by the car of Jane Foster and her companions who were searching for a strange astronomical phenomenon in New Mexico. We later learn how Thor came to be on Earth through his actions in Asgard and Jotunheim, the realm of the Frost Giants. Asgard is the home of Thor and the rest of the gods. And Midgard is the realm of Earth. Between these three realms, Bifrost, the rainbow bridge, acts as a doorway. The whole film amounts to a “Hero Journey” for Thor who has to learn there is a time and a place for fighting, but restraint is a necessary element to being a better ruler.

I really don’t want to spoil the film. But I have to say I was surprised at how well it worked. The story was entertaining and bridged the worlds effortlessly and Hemsworth did an amazing job in the title role. His easy smile and demeanor combined with the size and muscle mass he picked up for the film made him utterly believable. Hopkins as Odin was understated until he needed to be bigger than life – and I think the role of a tired king and father worked beautifully. And it’s always tough to see Portman in anything.

Special effects-wise, Asgard was gorgeous and all of the effects in the three realms were very elemental in nature and never overdone. The giants, the metal guardian of the vault in Asgard, and Bifrost make up the biggest part of the effects work. Add to that the various fight choreography, and I never felt the movie got out of hand or ungrounded as things did a bit with Iron Man 2.

One spoiler – I was disappointed by the little scene at the end of the credits. I’m sure it’s meant to set up next year’s The Avengers, but it wasn’t nearly as interesting as the sneak peek in Iron Man.

Though I believe I gave the first Iron Man five out of four (5/4) stars – I have to give Thor a solid four out of four (4/4). It didn’t blow me away, but it was entertaining, solid, and I really enjoyed myself. I want to see it again if that helps at all!

If you’ve been holding off because Thor‘s not your thing – wait six months for the DVD or Blu-ray. But I think this film kicked off the 2011 summer movie season with a bang!

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Extended Thor Trailer…

I’m not sure how long this link will last, but dang – it’s an impressive trailer. Maybe Thor won’t suck after all?

What do you think? Curious readers want to know.

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