Beauty in Simplicty: The Raid/Cabin in the Woods review

I will fully admit that I’m a bit jaded when it comes to movies. While there are some movies I can just sit down and watch (Face/Off and Scream being a couple) I tend to find it hard to turn off the critic side of my brain during a film. One of the biggest qualms I have with modern movies is how predictable they are. Don’t get me wrong I don’t need a pointless M. Night Shyamalan style twist but with everything feeling the same it’s nice to have something that subverts your expectations. I think that’s where The Raid: Redemption and Cabin in the Woods come in. While they seem to have basic plots both movies exceed similar movies in very different ways. Here is a quick review of those movies.

The Raid: Redemption
As a rookie member of an elite special-forces team, Rama (Iko Uwais) is instructed to hang back during a covert mission involving the extraction of a brutal crime lord from a rundown fifteen-story apartment block. But when a spotter blows their cover, boss Tama (Ray Sahetaphy) offers lifelong sanctuary to every killer, gangster, and thief in the building in exchange for their heads. Now Rama must stand in for the team’s fallen leader (Joe Taslim) and use every iota of his fighting strength – winding through every floor and every room to complete the mission and escape with his life.
Nearly a year ago I wrote my Top 9 movies. Looking back there are some changes I would make but I stand by that SPL has some of the best action scenes of the past decade; well I would have if it wasn’t for The Raid: Redemption. Choreographed by stars Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian the film uses Pencak Silat as its base martial art; a form that uses a mix of striking and bladed weapons. With this less seen style we get some fast, high impact action that seamlessly flows throughout the film. What’s also amazing is how director Gareth Evans is able to ratchet up the action gradually; Evans is able to escalate the action scene after scene and never make it feel repetitive. Now like most action movies the story is fairly typical. Now the story is never as groundbreaking as the action. With that said the story never gets boring and is compelling throughout. All of the exposition and plot is handled quite well and the quieter moments are intermixed with the action perfectly.

It has been 26 years since John Woo introduced the bullet ballet and revolutionized Asian action film. Since then the subgenre has evolved thanks to directors like Woo, Andrew Lau and Wilson Yip. I can honestly say that things may have hit their peak with The Raid: Redemption. Its mix of dazzling gun play, knife work and martial arts creates some of the most exciting action in years. This is a must-see film for any self-respecting action aficionado.
Rating- A+

The Cabin in the Woods
Five friends go to a remote cabin in the woods. Bad things happen. If you think you know this story, think again. From fan favorites Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard comes The Cabin in the Woods, a mind blowing horror film that turns the genre inside out.
I’m sure this will get my geek card taken away but I have never been huge into Joss Whedon. Now given I have generally enjoyed what I have seen by him (mainly his Astonishing X-men run) but for the most part I haven’t been interested in what he has produced (Buffy, Dollhouse, etc). I think I am a convert after watching Cabin in the Woods. In a way it’s almost the opposite of what The Raid: Redemption as a film. While the action and effects (a mix of practical and CGI) are fine I don’t think they are anything to write home about. Unlike The Raid the movie really shines with a clever story by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard. Not content with the average Whedon and Goddard go beyond “there’s a cabin, evil happens, deaths ensue” and take a deeper look at why these things happen. The two play with horror conventions and tropes in a clever and unique ways. This is also accompanied by some solid acting from a great cast; Dana Polk and Fran Kranz were great as unlikely leads.

Over a decade ago Scream and defied expectations with its solid story, quick wit, and a meta appreciation for its forefathers in horror. I think The Cabin in the Woods does this in a much broader scope with its unique take on the classic horror conventions. With its new ideas and a clear love for the genre I can easily see it joining inspirations like Evil Dead and becoming a classic.
Rating- A+

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