By the Grouch on the Couch
Cancel the Razzies. This movie has set a new record low. You want me to watch Gigli? Fine. You want me to double feature Battlefield Earth and Jack and Jill? Deal. Those movies are bad, but at the end of the day, I don’t feel disgusted by humanity. This movie has actually made me less optimistic about the merits of human existence.
Part of it is on me. I didn’t intend to ever see this movie sober, but I got snowed in and decided to put this on in the background at random from a list of sh*tty horror movies available while I worked on other stuff. However, I got so distracted by this movie about 15 minutes in that I had to add a review of it. Then, I got angry.
Cabin 28 starts off with the message that it is “based on real events.” In this case, the events were the unsolved murders of 4 people (a mother, 2 of her children, and a friend) in Keddie, California in 1981. Given that the family’s eldest daughter, who survived the night by being next door and came home to find her family murdered, and the youngest sons, who were IN THE HOUSE WHEN IT HAPPENED, are still alive, I’m sure this movie was done in nothing but good taste.
Oh, wait, instead they make the daughter’s character older and suggest that she’s had at least one back-alley abortion by the time she was 13? Well, that’s a very different way to go about depicting the ACTUAL LIVING SURVIVOR OF HER FAMILY BEING MURDERED WHEN SHE WAS 14.
The beginning of the movie is pretty boring, honestly. It’s just a set-up about the dysfunction between the family and the neighbors. It’s fairly boring until there’s a knock on the door late at night which is answered by the younger daughter, Tina (Harriet Rees). Here, she’s in her teens; in real life she was 12. It’s a guy portrayed in silhouette clearly wearing a hoodie. However, and this is why I finally had to start watching this movie, HE HAS THE SINGLE LEAST-BELIEVABLE ACCENT I HAVE EVER HEARD. It sounds like Gambit from X-men banged Mark Twain and the child they conceived was raised by Foghorn Leghorn, Sylvester Stallone, and Tommy Wiseau.
To the girl’s credit, she doesn’t let him in despite all of his requests, locks the door, and she lies to him when he asks her to call a friend. She also notices when the guy accidentally says “we” when referring to his future intentions. Of course, the movie cues this by having a sound that sounds like glass breaking to the point that I thought that was actually what happened (turns out, no, just a bad sound effect). Her mother, Sue (Terri Dwyer), is awakened by the noise and immediately walks outside to “confront” the person, then says that nothing is wrong when she sees nobody, and denies her daughter’s request to call the police.
Again, this is a portrayal of a woman who was actually murdered brutally, likely in front of her children. So why not make her the dumbest person alive? That’s fair, right?
After her mom goes back to bed, the man returns and tells the daughter that he knows she lied about calling his friend, because he cut the phone line. Her mom returns and says that “it’s probably just some drunken hobo,” despite the fact that her daughter tells her the phone line has been cut. The mom is immediately then grabbed by a man in a skull mask (hereafter Skeletor), who she slips away from. She then grabs a baseball bat and, to her credit, whacks Skeletor over the head. She tells her very young sons to hide under the bed with their friend who was sleeping over, and for her daughter to watch the house while she goes for help. Naturally, Skeletor immediately wakes back up (after being down for 30-ish seconds) and grabs the mom. She tries to lure him away from the kids, but finds out that another guy in a really horrifying demonic clown mask (hereafter Scariest Thing EVEr, or STEVE) has also broken in. She runs back into the kids’ room and barricades the door.
Then, her oldest son, John (Sean Rhys-James), returns, drunk, with his friend Dana (Derek Nelson), who is also drunk and smoking pot, thus making sure that these real people are being depicted fairly in the way they lived before they were brutally murdered in real life. They sneak into the house through the window they left open, which appears to be how the killers got in. Dana leaves and gets strangled to death by STEVE while outside. John goes out to find him and the killers turn the radio on to lure him around the building, where he tries to open the door to the kids’ room and the mom brains him with the baseball bat. Skeletor and STEVE use this opportunity to grab Tina and the mom, stabbing the mother in the back. Oddly, while Tina is facing off against Skeletor and STEVE, the mom is just repeating her son’s name over and over again and trying to save him… ignoring that her daughter is about to die. Guess you really do have a favorite child.
Tina kicks Skeletor in the balls (which He-Man should have done), convincing him to go after the mom, and STEVE taunts her to grab the baseball bat. STEVE drops his knife and offers Tina “a fighting chance,” before mocking her for being weak. She proceeds to knock him down and tries to run, only to be confronted with a THIRD killer, who has not been seen or alluded to prior to this. She’s a woman who tries to stab Tina to death on the stairs. Tina finally escapes and runs next door, only for the people next door to turn off the lights. The mom is beaten unconscious with a hammer, John is stabbed, and Tina jumps in a passing car. She asks the driver for help, and he acknowledges that he knows her family is in Cabin 28, revealing that he is working with the killers.
He brings her back to the cabin, where she is tied up with her dying mother and brother in chairs. Her mom begs for her small children in the other room to be spared. John is executed in front of his mother by having his head bashed in with a hammer. Tina then claims she’s pregnant to avoid getting her head smashed in. They hit her in the head with the hammer anyway, before killing the mother with the same hammer. One of the small boys, the friend, walks into the room and is horrified. The killers put Tina into the trunk of their car.
The next day, the eldest daughter, Sheila (Brendee Green), returns home from her friend’s house and sees her mother, brother, and Dana mutilated on the floor. She finds that the young sons are alive in the next room. I’m going to pause to state that these kids clearly were not given much direction during the first shot of them, because 2 of them appear to be laughing a little at something, which doesn’t really match up with the “just heard your family brutally murdered” vibe.
It then cuts to an interview by a deputy with one of the neighbors, Marty, who lies about seeing a suspicious person in a bar. He then denies that the small boy who came out, who is apparently his stepson, saw anything about the killings. He then says a bunch of stuff that make him look blatantly guilty. When the deputy talks to the Sheriff, the Sheriff says that he just needs to drop it and not “pull threads.” The Sheriff implies that he’ll be convincing the DoJ to drop it as well.
Then, another interview with another neighbor until the Sheriff shuts it down. The two men are shown leaving town afterwards. The end title cards indicate that no one was ever arrested for the murders and that Tina’s fractured skull was found one county over. The case is now active again following the discovery of the murder hammer in 2016.
Alright, so, first off: Almost all of the accents in this are terrible. Most of the actors were British, which might explain it if acting didn’t exist. I acknowledge that even some great actors can’t do accents well (*cough* Benedict Cumberbatch *cough* I love you, though *cough*), but seriously, this was exceptionally bad. The film is boring, it’s basically just The Strangers done worse. Since the characters really don’t seem to have done anything to earn their demise in traditional horror fashion, especially the daughter, the brutality of their execution is not entertaining, it’s just uncomfortable. They’re dying not for the narrative, but because they died in real life. I guess they added the Mom’s ineptitude, the brother’s drinking, and the daughter’s pregnancy in the name of “justifying” them dying, but that completely undermines the scary element of “this was completely random” that The Strangers and its ilk use. Fiction, unlike reality, has to be accountable for its actions, but this is just watching a re-enactment of a snuff film. Which brings us to my next point:
I honestly hate this movie on another level. The movie is portraying itself as being about real events, uses the real names for all of the parties, but also A) depicts several of the characters of having done things they probably both didn’t do and wouldn’t want to have depicted in film (one sister, the one who survived, had a pre-teen abortion; the youngest one, who was 12 at the time, is said to be pregnant when she’s killed; the mother is depicted as essentially mortally wounding her own son; the son, 15, was apparently drinking all night on fake IDs), and B) heavily implies that it knows which three people committed this crime. Granted, the two lead suspects are dead, but the third person implied in the movie as committing these murders isn’t. That’s probably why she isn’t made as “explicit” in her portrayal as a killer, to avoid lawsuits. Still, we don’t know who actually committed these murders yet, and actively implying that these people did it borders on slander… or libel, rather. Hell, I haven’t read a report that says there were three killers, except on one weird conspiracy site (which stated that the friend that was over, the 12-year-old stepson, actively took part in the killings, so I’m disregarding that whole thing). Also, it doesn’t just imply that law enforcement was incompetent, it flat-out says they were active in covering it up.
Seriously, this movie just pisses me off. It’s not just bad, it’s f*cking unethical. Don’t watch this movie. I know it wasn’t likely for anyone, but I’m telling you, I don’t think I’ve ever hated a film this much. Maybe Chaos.
I have literally nothing to rebut here. If anything, I retroactively like The Strangers less after seeing this movie. The best part of the movie was when I realized I might be able to prevent others from seeing it.
If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time, Collection of TV Episodes, Collection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.
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