Despite its rather generic title ‘The Cabin’ is a rather slick looking cat-and-mouse style thriller set in the stunning backdrop of rural Scandinavia.
When a young couple, already struggling with their relationship, arrive at their weekend getaway their petty quarrels become the least of their worries. Not only is the cabin an isolated and somewhat bare-bones abode, their next-door neighbour is a complete psychopath. Fresh from flaying in the opening scene, he doesn’t even try to hide his malicious intentions, making it very clear the distain he has for anyone else but himself. Still with a point to prove, and a relationship to save, they reluctantly spend the night in the cabin. The next morning their car is gone, their status set to single. That evening the killer comes to find them and they must put aside their grievances and work together if they are to survive.
From a ‘thriller’ perspective, the film is very simple, perhaps to a fault. I was initially worried that the killers revealed identity in the first act would see the film struggle to maintain engagement as the story developed, but it really isn’t that kind of film. I suppose (with risk of being taken out of context) the film doesn’t have a plot to develop as such, much beyond the lines I’ve offered as synopsis above, relying therefore on its visuals and tension created from the cat-and-mouse scenario it touts as its main selling point to engage audiences.
From this perspective the film does well. Its beautiful but isolated settings, as well as the myriad of agricultural holdings, make great potential for a 60-minute-long game of deadly hide and seek. The film is nicely shot, with an excellent introduction to the killer’s psyche and MO to establish a grim and disturbing atmosphere. The killer, played by the films writer Erik Kammerland, is creepy, if not particularly memorable, clearly taking references from other psychos from ‘Texas Chainsaw’s’ Leatherface to ‘The Shining’s’ Jack Torrence.
These set pieces are very tense, and at times you don’t see how/if the outcome will turn out positive for our protagonists. Whilst not strictly horror, these scenes share familiar references and style to other genre titles.
On the flip side, it would be hard to rate this film anything higher than the 3-stars I’ve awarded it. As I’ve said, technically, this is a quality looking and feeling film, but it really lacks content to drive it beyond the ‘cat-and-mouse’ concept, and much of the film’s other elements feel un-explored. This makes the films core quite hollow, in-spite of its glossy packaging.
As a result, I can see horror/tension movie fans being engaged, but for crime/thriller audiences, I can’t see it making a mark. That’s a bit of a shame, really, because it seemed to do all the hard parts of making an effective chiller right – but completely forgot about its characters and context.
Overall, ‘The Cabin’ is worth a watch if you just want 80-odd minutes of well put together entertainment. Its not scary, but it is tense, and within the context of that timeframe the small 3-person cast do a great job at making you believe their peril is real.