(Weird) Watching with Alex, Episode 16: Retreat, Retreat!

The Cabining [2014]
Directed by: Steve Kopera
Written by: Steve Kopera & David Silverman
Featuring: Mike Kopera, Bo Keister, Angela Relucio
Production: Lakeview Pictures/Chapter 3 Media/Knagen Films
Category: Dark Comedy

The difference between a trope and a cliché typically depends on how much of a hipster you feel like being at any given moment, but the average horror movie is generally a balanced mixture of both, with the more dreadful flicks having far more of the latter. The problem for Todd and Bruce, roommates and aspiring screenwriters,  is that their script is all cliché. It’s laughed out of workshops for how bad it is and Todd’s Uncle Sarge is loathe to finance the project in its current form. He would really prefer to back a horror movie as there’s always money in those, but if things don’t improve in the next two weeks, the money will instead be going to Sarge’s other nephew who plays in a metal band in Wisconsin.

The duo’s problems don’t appear to come from lack of talent so much as they come from an excess of Bruce who is not only the fountain of constant script cheese but also constantly spends money intended for paying rent and bills on over-priced classes in meditation and whatnot with the idea that it will make them both better writers, never mind that it never does or that Todd constantly calls him out on it. It is from this lack of spending maturity that Bruce works to convince Todd that what they need is to get away from their lives and go some place where they can concentrate on improving their work. 

Would it surprise you to learn that “Shangri-La” (The misspelling is intentional and part of the running “artsy” joke.), the place he’s trying to sell to Todd, is a costly retreat located in a huge lakeside cabin nestled among picturesque pines and soaring mountains that caters to any and all who claim gifts in the arts? Todd could kick Bruce’s ass at this point but Bruce makes such a strong push for the idea that it’ll allow their creative juices to flow uninterrupted by the worries of life and hammer out the perfect script to win over Uncle Sarge that he relents.

For those following along at home, yes, they just went to a cabin in the woods.

Upon arriving at Shangri-La and being greeted by Monroe, proprietor and most everything else at the retreat, and his small but courteous staff, Todd and Bruce are introduced to the rest of the artists currently occupying the grounds. To quickly introduce them we have:

  1. Mindy, the novelist
  2. Celeste, the poet, from France
  3. Anton, the musician, who is every guy with a guitar you saw in college
  4. Lacey and her boyfriend, whose craft escapes me
  5. Jasper, the eccentric who makes art out practically anything

These are who we’ll be seeing the most of. The problem I’m having is that there are bit players among the guests who lack portraits so I could either be telling you about an artist or one of the people sitting in at the script review meeting and I wouldn’t know.

After choosing a room and unpacking Todd and Bruce set to work. By “set to work” I mean that Bruce tosses a couple more clichés at the typing Todd and then starts in on the procrastinating by grabbing some beers and getting to work on wedging himself between Celeste and Anton. Back when I worked in New York City I had to wade through more than a few protest crowds composed of about two-quarters Anton so I don’t feel bad for him in the least.

Meanwhile, Todd starts talking with Mindy about the big project he and Bruce are up here to work on. Mindy agrees to help out with constructive criticism and the two don’t become a pair so much as a team. With Mindy and, to a lesser extent, Bruce behind him Todd feels like there might just be a chance to beat that two-week deadline. And then very suddenly, someone dies.

A freak accident while walking on the shore that involved tripping and swallowing a jagged stump. This brings in detectives Berwyn and Connor, who will stick around after filing their report because pretty soon more accidents start happening and now they aren’t sure what they really have on their hands. Their investigation certainly isn’t stopping the slowly rising body count. The weird thing is, the more the situation falls apart around him, the more inspired Todd becomes. Something is rotten in Shangri-La, but you’ll have to find out “what” for yourself!

Favored Ability: INT. Presentation is everything, every joke hits the mark and even regularly presented stuff sometimes comes off as funny.

Rating: 3/5 (Average) [+1 Cabin Comforts, +1 Crazy Art Guy, +1 Goofy Gore]
The characters of Todd and Bruce are written and acted in such a way that it’s easy to think they’ve had lives before we meet them in the movie, the chemistry is that good. The Cabining isn’t afraid to play with tropes and cliches outside of the horror genre either, as most of the other varied artists at Shangri-La fit into this or that generalized view; the successful guitarist who can’t play but is big in another vaguely continent-sized location being one of my most and least favorite. Seriously, have you ever met one of those dudes?

 

 

 

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