“You’re my friend, Wen. No matter what happens, I want you to remember that.”
Story: Eric and Andrew take their young daughter Wen to a vacation getaway in the woods. Cute cabin, gorgeous views, and lots of grasshoppers for Wen to catch and record (STEAM girl alert!) But when a stranger approaches Wen with a request, things soon become less than relaxing. In fact, when Leonard’s “co-workers” show up, things get downright creepy.
Genre I’d put it in: Tweaked Adaptations That Work
Release Date: 2023
Remake, Sequel, Based-On, or Original: Based on the award winning book “The Cabin at the End of the World”, by Paul G. Tremblay
Gotta say: I love reading Tremblay’s stuff. He’s got a bleak, dark vision that somehow draws me in rather than repelling me. His book “The Cabin at the End of the World” blends home invasion (a subgenre of horror I typically can’t seem to stomach) with apocalyptic horror (one I can’t seem to get enough of) into a claustrophobic, terrifying journey into the existential, with questions about our purpose on earth, and the indefinable nature of love. It’s definitely a lot, but absolutely worth it. Cabin takes Tremblay’s ideas and doesn’t water them down, but makes them a bit more palatable for the “average movie goer”, and in this instance? It works exceedingly well. I’m not sure I’m here to say M. Night is back baybeeeee…but I do want to shake his hand and congratulate him on a job well done.
For folks who’ve read the book, I’m sure you have a question about That Certain Thing That Happens halfway through. And in Cabin, that doesn’t happen. Instead, M. Night goes in a different direction that keeps the overall themes of the story intact, while reconceptualizing the way the story gets to it’s end. And I was impressed with how the screenplay’s deviations made for a slightly different, but satisfying, story. In fact, after sitting with the differences for a bit, I think I kinda like the film’s ending a bit more? I use a question mark here, as there will always be times I’m up for some real grimdark, but for all intens and purposes, I’m a simple gal who likes a story with a slight mythological bent. I’ve said too much. Carry on.
As for the bloodshed and various bodily destruction that’s front-and-center in the book? Let’s just say I’m shocked Cabin got an R rating. The kills, and just about every bit of violence, happens off-screen, and/or after the camera cuts away from what’s about to happen. I’m guessing this R is for language? Intense, and/or realistic violence (even though the after-effects are off-camera)? As an example, Till had more in-your-face violence, but obviously the subject matter was wildly different. So don’t go into Cabin thinking you’re gonna see some ish. I mean, you will, kinda? The FX folks do let some stuff drip, and their work is both incredibly subtle and beautifully excecated. But it’s definitely not the splatterpunk it could have been.
Let’s sweep up the usual points, shall we? The acting is incredible, with a special shout out to Dave Bautista’s performance as Leonard, the huge man with a heart of gold…and pure terror running through his veins. It’s a layered, nuanced character, and Bautista understands the assignment perfectly, giving a performance that makes me want to see him in more dramatic roles. As Wen, the eight-year-old daughter of Eric and Andrew, Kristen Cui is absolutely adorable, and doesn’t have a single whiff of Pretentious Child Syndrome. She’s a delight in the dark world of Cabin. (And hey, M. Night only has a brief cameo in Cabin, rather than placing himself into the thick of things. Good on you, sweetie!) Meanwhile, I couldn’t ask for a more perfect cabin for Cabin; it’s gorgeous and I want to live there right now please. Kudos to all the set designers and art folks for creating something so realistically lovely. As the film goes on, the cabin serves as an echo of the normalcy the family is desperately trying to cling to, as the rest of their world shifts and spins. I also love how props are kept as the characters left them, which is probable just me being pleased at the bare minimum after watching too many low-budget schlockies the past couple of days. But I’m pleased nonetheless.
A bit of a heads-up, however. Cabin may not be for everyone. Yes, folks hoping for a bloodbath will be disappointed. So will others expecting more of an in-depth apocalyptic vibe; even though you’ll get more of that here than in the book, it’s the back-and-forth between the characters that takes center stage in Cabin. And the dark, introspective thinky-type ways the plot moves forward may be a bit too philosophical for folks looking for a light night at the multiplex. M. Night gravitates toward stories that have a deeper, more philosophical bent, and that surely attracted him to this story. While he’s not always on the mark (The Happening, anyone?) Cabin shows he can still craft a hell of an interesting film if he’s got solid bones to build on. Plus, you can leave the theater and have a great discussion with your friends about what y’all would do if you were in these characters’ situations. Lemme know how that goes.
#Protip: For folks who are purists about novels being transferred to screen (as I sometimes am)? Know that M. Night’s “liberties” with the source material were considered by Tremblay before the author published his story. I think that’s kinda cool.