J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

DFW ’14: The Cabining

They are not exactly the Garson Kanin & Ruth Gordon of horror movies. Frankly, the one thing two would-be screenwriting partners lack more than talent is inspiration. However, a quick stay at an artists’ resort will provide the latter, in the worst way possible. The bodies pile up, as well they should, in Steve Kopera’s slasher-spoof The Cabining (trailer here) which screens during the seventeenth Dances With Films.

Bruce is the hopelessly irresponsible one, while Todd is the earnest sad sack. Neither can crank out a halfway watchable scene, even by slasher movie standards. On the plus side, they have a tentative investor lined up for their first film, but if they cannot produce anything reasonably filmable, Todd’s uncle will put his money in a cousin’s heavy metal recording instead. After having their egos handed to them by their writing group, Todd reluctantly agrees to Bruce’s plan, regrouping for a few days at the Shangri-La retreat.

Right, so Shangri-La is a luxury cabin deep in the woods. You know what happens next, except for the surprisingly spirited courtship between Todd and the sarcastic Mindy, a real literary-grade writer also staying at the retreat. Meanwhile, guests act suspicious and/or dead, while Bruce recklessly pursues the disinterested but not completely unwilling Celeste.

There is no getting around the fact Cabining is a meathead movie, but it is an oddly ambitious one. Kopera and co-writer David Silverman get a lot of mileage out of approaching the brink of shopworn horror clichés, but doing a 180º at the last moment. As a result, there is quite a respectable balance of smart and dumb laughs.

Kopera’s brother and co-producer Mike demonstrates solid timing and an easy likability as Todd. He also develops some appealing chemistry with the scene-stealing Angela Relucio’s Mindy. The film really hums when they are bantering. Conversely, Bo Keister’s Bruce is all about clumsy shtick, but Richard Riehle brings some on-target lunacy as Todd’s uncle, Sarge.

Admittedly, Cabining is no Blythe Spirit, but if you have seen your share of crap-goes-down-in-the-woods movies than you will find it consistently entertaining. It’s a scruffy indie, but it’s funny. Recommended for midnight movie patrons, The Cabining screens this Friday night (6/6) as part of this year’s Dances With Films, in Hollywood, CA.

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