Monday, 23 February 2015


So this is a horror movie about a group who decide to get away from it all in an idyllic cabin in the middle of the woods.
Sound familiar? 
This time it really isn’t. Trust me.


Dir: Steve Kopera
Starring: Mike Kopera, Bo Keister, Angela Relucio, Melissa Mars, Luce Rains, Mark Rademacher, Jackson Thompson, Alice Sherman, Richard Riehle

SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: I’ll try not to spoil too much here, but read on at your own risk.

Uptight Todd (Kopera) and slacker Bruce (Keister) are a pair of aspiring screenwriters who show little promise and even less in the way of inspiration. Despite near universal condemnation for their latest work, they are thrown a lifeline when Todd’s wealthy uncle, Sarge (Riehle) offers to bankroll their movie IF they can come up with a compelling script.
With the rent due and their imaginations floundering, the pair decide to head to Shangri-La, a remote retreat for artists deep in the woods.
Upon their arrival the pair are acquainted with the proprietor, Monroe (Rademacher), his assistant Lacey (Sherman), flamboyant french mademoiselle Celeste (Mars), earnest writer Mindy (Relucio), pretentious musician Larson (Thompson) and creepy oddball Jasper (Rains).
When tragedy strikes and members of the group start to die in a series of suspicious accidents, Bruce encourages Todd to stay at the the cabin to draw some grim inspiration — and also on the off-chance that the pair might get laid.
What is happening in the cabin? Are the deaths really accidents? And will Todd ever finish his epic screenplay — The Cabining?

THE BEST BITS (minor spoiler warning): Right off the bat, let me stress that The Cabining is a horror-comedy, not a traditional horror flick. And, unlike a lot of genre hybrids, this one actually remembers to be funny!
The dialogue between the two leads is excellent and there are plenty of laugh-out-loud hilarious oneliners zinging back and forth. The meta premise of guys in a cabin in the woods writing a film about guys in a cabin in the woods could come across as unbearably smug and self-aware, but instead the balance has been found between referencing the genre and in-jokes and telling a new, unique story. The film often draws close to parody before a well-placed plot-twist or line of dialogue reins it back in. Great work, Mr Kopera!
A lot of the humour is derived from the superb characterisation and, not least, sometimes fraught relationship between Todd and Bruce. Thankfully, Kopera and Keister are charismatic and capable enough to help bounce that relationship along. Keister will undoubtedly get a lot of the plaudits, his character is the flashier, the louder, the most in-your-face. He is great as man-child Bruce, delivering his funniest lines with gusto and also showing a real flare for physical comedy. However, the reason Bruce works so well on screen is because of his straightman, Kopera’s Todd. Todd is the more sensible, the more sympathetic and a lot of the laughs come from the numerous ways that Bruce finds to get under his skin and cause his control to slip, even if it’s only temporarily. Both men understand this and both absolutely nail their performances.
However, they aren’t the cast members to hit the spot. Both of our leading ladies, Mars and Relucio are great (and undoubtedly pretty easy on the eye!), Mars oozing sophistication and sexiness while the cute and likeable Relucio makes for a wonderful love interest. 
Rounding out the top cast are the more cartoonish characters as brought to life by Rademacher and Rains. Monroe is a camp caricature and Rademacher recognises this, bringing his key character traits to the fore without ever really overplaying them, while Rains is awesome in his comparatively small (but very important) screen time as the spooky, suspicious Jasper, suddenly appearing whenever you least expect it with a fine demented air.
Furthermore, during the movie there was actually one very clever bit of story-telling trickery that completely wrong-footed me. This doesn’t happen too often, so I have to raise my hat to the filmmakers here.
So yes, there's plenty of wit and great character work, plus a very smart script, but what may surprise you is that the film has some fantastic gore effects. The movie is clearly low-budget, but that doesn’t get in the way and a couple of the gore scenes give so-called ‘serious’ horror flicks a run for their money. This is genuinely great work from Troy Holbrook and Krisz Drouillard.
Finally, I want to praise the look of the movie. Low-budget movies often have a grimier feel, but this is surprisingly polished. The cabin and its leafy surrounds are shot in a professional way and never seem poorly lit (a constant bane to indie horror) and the cinematography by Jeffrey T Schultzis assured and well-controlled. 

THE WORST BITS (minor spoiler warning): Perhaps the biggest problem with The Cabining is that, for a film about horror, it isn’t actually very scary. I understand that wasn’t the tone the filmmakers were going for — instead focusing on the humour and smarter storytelling than screams and stabbings —but aside from some gross-out gore gags, there was little in the way of legitimate horror on display in a movie that seems to be marketed as horror-comedy more than a simple comedy. I didn’t much mind this, because the humour was so very well executed and the story pretty compelling, but if you like your flick high on frights and splatter and low on laffs, it’s best you go in warned.
Also, while I praised the majority of the cast, a couple of those involved were a little less polished in their performances. Everybody involved was enthusiastic as could be, so it certainly wasn‘t down to a lack of effort, just the odd line here or there clunked. I suppose this is only to be expected in a lower budget flick and the fact that there are so many good performances compared with the odd misfire is really quite an achievement. 
Another minor gripe I had with the film was that it felt like it took a little while to get going. Don’t get me wrong, from the point that our hapless heroes hit Shangri-La, the movie was all gold, but it did feel like they took a little while longer than was strictly necessary actually getting there. As funny as the yoga and screenwriting class scenes were, either one could have been excised quite easily. Perhaps a little longer in the editing room could have fixed this, giving us more time to get to know the characters in the cabin before they start to meet their sticky ends?

THE VERDICT: I really enjoyed The Cabining and totally recommend it to you all. It‘s funny, smart and has a pair of great, likeable leads that I’d love to see more of in future screenwriting misadventures. It gives the audience a wonderful insight into the thankless work of the horror movie writer, plus presents us with a great whodunnit with plenty of clever twists and turns along the way, all with some groovy gruesome gore thrown in for good measure.
The film is available on DVD now, so head over to its official web site to order yours. While you’re at it check out the movie’s Facebook page and give it a Like to show some support!

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Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.

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