The Cabin: A film heavy on atmosphere but thin on plot

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Caitlin Crommett as Rose in The Cabin (2018) – Credit to KW Studios and Coastal ART Productions

The Cabin is a moody suspense film with surprisingly bold artistic choices that gets bogged down by weak dialogue, one-dimensional characters, and a thin plot.

Lush evergreens line miles of sparse highway as a couple drive to a family cabin. Said cabin is nestled deep in the woods, as demonstrated by several overhead shots of serpentine roads winding through fields of trees. The place they’re headed is the sort of place hidden from civilization, one hundred miles away from the nearest motel.

Situated on the outskirts of a massive lake, the cabin is one of the only manmade structures in the area, apart from an old farmhouse and the owner’s home beside it. An owner who was brutally murdered by our villain in the opening scene of the movie, we’ll come back to that.

Establishing atmosphere is one of the film’s strengths, and a great credit is due to the director, Johan Bodell, for his technical and artistic choices. There are no several long film sequences containing no dialogue, supplemented instead with fitting instrumentals in order to deliver emotional tension or suspense. It’s not a choice I’ve seen often in this particular genre.

The grandiose camera pans, the beautiful bird’s-eye shot of the couple boating across the pond, the immersion into the woods whilst they’re doused in a thick blanket of fog, all of these were memorable shots. Moments I remembered long after the film was over, even when story elements fell short. Bodell has an eye for creating atmosphere and knowing how to best visually execute his specific vision.

The Cabin (2018) – Credit to KW Studios and Coastal ART Productions

If only the rest of the film lived up to the technical aspects of the movie.

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Our first real introduction to Harry (Christopher Lee Page) and Rose (Caitlin Crommett) is them in their natural state: bickering. They stop off at a gas station before getting on the road to the cabin – because it’s a horror movie and it wouldn’t be a cabin in the woods horror movie if the leads didn’t stop at a creepy gas station – and they’re already at each other’s throats.

Their purpose for going to the cabin is never explicitly stated, but it is implied they’re trying to salvage what remains of their fractured relationship. Nostalgia is a heavy factor too, for Harry. Yet it doesn’t take more than a few minutes of the film for us to approach one of its biggest hiccups, the characters.c

Rose is hard to like, and typically I’m drawn to unlikable women in media (Gillian Flynn is great at creating them), but in this case, Rose is an infuriating human being and not interesting enough to make up for it. She complains nonstop about everything. You would think Harry had taken her captive but she actually chose to come along with him.

Don’t get me wrong, Harry is no peach either, in one scene he actually calls Rose’s mother a c-word. This is supposedly the woman he loves, by the way. What results is one of the most volatile scenes in the movie and nary a murderer in sight.

I found it impossible to reconcile what we were shown of this couple with them trying to salvage it. They seem to hate each other, what is keeping them together? Not one moment in the first thirty minutes or so of the movie are they able to say a single nice thing to each other.