Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Horror from the Home State

A couple nights ago, my wife and I had the pleasure of previewing an independently produced horror film shot on location in Michigan’s northern Lower Peninsula.  Over pizza, beer and popcorn a gathering of us discussed the making of The Cabining with its director and screen writer, Steven Kopera.   The Cabining was completed last October, followed by a recent final editing of the version that we previewed late last week.

If you have ever attempted to make a feature length film, you know how arduous it can be:  developing the concept, writing the script, obtaining financial backing, auditioning actors, dealing with camera people and other technicians, securing the locations for shooting the film, dealing with technical glitches, (including Michigan’s weather), and managing all the personalities involved.  Imagine doing all this while working full time at a local university.

Though the film begins in Los Angeles, most of the story occurs in a guesthouse on Lake Charlevoix, near Boyne City.  This a beautiful rustic area in northern Michigan—clear, cold lakes surrounded by pine forest.  Bruce and Todd, two struggling young screenwriters, cannot get their script for “Bloody Hell” accepted in Hollywood.    

“Bloody Hell” is apparently an all too typical slasher flick that takes place in an isolated cabin in the woods, (where so many annoying characters have met their demise, in countless films).   In one painful scene, Bruce and Todd must endure the merciless criticism of a reviewing committee.  Not only is their script shredded for being hackneyed and unoriginal, the entire field of horror movies is dismissed as “derivative”.

The two are asked to rewrite their material with something more imaginative and original.  But where will they go for inspiration?   Bruce, the less restrained and reflective of the two, proposes that they spend a week at “Shangri-La”, a lake-side vacation home in northern Michigan.  They arrive at the place along with several other earnestly struggling artists: a musician, a fiction writer, a painter, and a local sculptor who fashions works of art out of things he finds in the woods.  All of them are staying at Shangri-La, hoping to find creative inspiration in their respective fields.  The bodies soon begin to pile up, but so do the pages of Todd’s new draft of the screenplay.

The Cabining is an amusing send up of cabin-in-the-woods horror movies, with outrageous characters and plentiful one-liners.  My favorite character was Jasper, the local sculptor and prime suspect, who almost never appears in any scene without a blunt instrument in one hand and something dead in the other.  Jasper gets some of the best lines, delivered with a perfectly half-crazed, deadpan expression.   

The tone of the film is very similar to a spoof of another horror subgenre, The Last Lovecraft: Relic of Cthulhu, (2009).  (See Blasphemy!) That film also features a couple of bros who find inspiration—in this case for comic book writing—in a series of supernatural mishaps in rustic locations. 

The makers of The Cabining seem to have had as much fun skewering horror clichĂ©s as they do the characters in their film. The gore is tasteful and never gratuitous or overdone—it really is not the main point of the movie, which is satire.  The official trailer of the film is available at  

An interesting interview with the movie’s director Steven Kopera can be found at The Horror Hothouse blog, located at

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