By: John Allen
There are certain ideals when writing horror movies that must be met. Either you don’t know the identity of the killer until the end, or you do know who the killer is but they don’t really speak unless they are one of the Big Kahunas of Horror, Freddy Kruger, or the audience knows who the killer is but the other characters don’t giving us that edge of your seat thrill of being able to shout “Don’t go in there!”
This is what makes Silence of the Lambs so fantastic. The cat and mouse between Hannibal and Clarice is taut. The foreboding of Buffalo Bill is frightening, especially when we know he is stalking Katherine Martin, and she, like most people with a heart, is about to fall into his trap. We know its coming but we still feel that anticipation and intensity.
Erik Kammerland tries to create moments like this in the Swedish movie The Cabin , directed by Johan Bodell, about a young couple Harry (Christopher Lee Page) and Rose (Caitlin Crommet) who go to Harry’s family retreat by the lake as a part nostalgia, part lets get our relationship back on track, week long getaway, but wind up falling prey to a vicious killer (Kammerland) who has taken up residence in the neighboring farm.
Some of the moments are divine and beautifully shot, others, not so much. I believe, with practice, Johan Bodell has the makings of a good director, there is some beautiful panoramic footage, thanks to drone technology, gorgeous atmosphere shots, and two beautiful moments that remind me of Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Shining (replace a hay loft for a hedge maze) The story itself is a solid premise but needs a bit of work, especially when it comes to characterization. Sure, we have all been there, our relationship is tanking and we are not at our best, but this is story telling, Rose, particularly is so unlikable I found myself routing for the serial killer to get her.
You never really find out what was making the couple drift apart and they all too quickly decide to give it another go. You have to access the cabin by row boat from the farm across the lake (rolling my eyes at how contrived this is. There is no road leading to the cabin? Then how the hell did it ever get built? How was material delivered? It sure as shooting was not taken over on piece at a time in that little two man scow) Without giving too much away, there is also the magical appearance of a pitchfork, that was not there before. I say burn that character for there is witch craft afoot!
Still the pace of The Cabin isn’t bad and Erik Kammerland created a decent antagonist. Speaking of Mr. Kammerland’s double duty of author and actor, his performance as the Killer is quite satisfying, he is a good looking guy (like Ted Bundy) who is menacing and charismatic all at the same time. The performance and camera work made his character come alive. The dismembering of one of his victims was tasteful yet gritty. Sometimes you don’t have to show the gore to be effective, think about the shower scene in Psycho for example, at no point do we ever see the knife enter Marion Cranes body, yet in a true Mendela effect, we all swear we did. The dismemberment by chainsaw in The Cabin is truly memorable more because of the atmosphere and lack of actual witnessing the chopping off of heads and body parts, truly a case of less is more.
Overall The Cabin is watchable, mostly due to Kammerlands killer performance and the few bits of good camera work and direction. With a thoughtful rewrite this could be pretty decent fare. I liked where he was going with the story. The Cabin has a solid premise that I think if it took a few pages out of Hitchcock’s Handbook it could be great. Erik Kammerland shows some promise for better work and I hope he continues to hone his skills.
3 Swedish Serial Killers out of 5
Out on VOD and DVD December 4th 2018