Review by Dede Crimmins
I often have a negative, knee jerk reaction to kids-in-a-cabin horror films. As a horror fan, I have seen far too many bad ones in that sub-genre, so I feel the need to proceed with caution. You know the drill: a bunch of horny teens are in a secluded cabin for the weekend/ spring break, when they start getting killed one-by-one by demons/ ghosts/ rednecks. However you can’t completely write off all the kids-in-a-cabin movies, because so many horror classics come from that field. Evil Dead, Friday the 13th, and more recently Hatchet and Cabin Fever have all given us very good reasons not to stay away from the woods. And I’m sure happy I didn’t totally write off the kids-in-a-cabin movies, because I would have missed enjoying Devi Snively’s Trippin’.
Trippin’ is a fun send-up of the kids-in-a-cabin model. It tilts more heavily toward comedy than towards horror, but there is still a solid dose of gore for the horror fan. Snively definitely knows the genre she is using as a playground well, and has fun playing with our expectations of these cabin films.
The film starts with a typical stoner guy, Zed, at a bar, telling the story of how he told the story about his scar. Zed has an enormous scar on his calf, which just has to have a great story behind it. After telling his tale the previous year in exchange for 12 beers, he and his audience decided that it would make a great movie. Which begins the flashback to the story of the scar, or at least the version of the story that will make a good movie.
From there we meet our cast of characters who will meet their demise on this fateful trip to the woods. We have Holly (the scantily clad girlfriend of Zed), Mickey and Joe (the drinking and driving navigator and his hot wife), and Jizz and Jeremy (the uptight prude and her horny boyfriend). All of them are piled in a van to head to the cabin for the weekend. Their trip starts like any other: with Mickey taking pictures of road kill as they pass by, Joe driving and slamming down beers, and the other four playing truth or dare in the back of the van. Jizz (which is apparently short for Giselle, though they never call her that) does her best to show everyone how privileged and what a killjoy she is spends the entire trip loudly voicing how much she looks down upon the rest of the group. They all have a similar attitude toward her, and voice their corresponding opinions right back at her. Not quite the bonding, fun-loving trip they were all hoping for. After a run-in with a potentially homicidal local, their journey takes a turn for the worse and doesn’t stop getting worse until the very end.
Though this all sounds like typical kids-in-a-cabin movie so far, Snively actually does a good job of saving Trippin’ from falling into the crevice of cliché. The most notable savior is the fact that the characters in Trippin’ aren’t teenagers! Mickey and Joe are married. All of them are grown-ups, and have jobs. Sure, they like to go into the woods and get stoned for days at a time, but they aren’t kids. When Jizz talks to them as if she is the lone adult in a sea of children, your sympathies lie squarely with the rest of the crew, even when they are acting irresponsibly.
Which brings us to the discussion of drugs. With a title like Trippin’ it should be no surprise that copious amounts of drugs are involved in the film. Marijuana, Quaaludes, and alcohol (almost exclusively while driving) are all heavily featured. Because everyone here seems live like a responsible adult (well… at least during their day-to-day lives), it is framed by Snively as a bunch of friends letting loose for a short vacation, rather than a pathetic group of people with addiction problems. The drugs are simply a fun way to move along the plot, and a good excuse to have a fantastic animated tripping sequence with puppets (puppets!).
These drugs do cause the group to get into all sorts of hijinks, with gore and death galore! By the end of the film the woods are strewn with entrails and the cabin is filled with errant carcasses. Here is another way that Snively keeps Trippin’ from becoming formulaic. As things start to go sour for our group I kept trying to guess what was going to happen next. I can usually do a pretty good job of prognosticating which person will die next, and where the frightened fleeing couple will happen up on the next severed hand in the woods, but you can’t quite do that with Trippin’. The plot turns definitely keep you on your toes throughout the whole climactic sequence.
The moral of the story is to not avoid all kids-in-a-cabin movie, no matter how clichéd some of them are. If you do, you might miss the joy of watching Trippin’!
Trippin' comes out on DVD on April 10th
(Deirdre Crimmins lives in Boston with her husband and two black cats. She wrote her Master's thesis on George Romero and works too much.)