Chamber piece about six would-be swingers who make a hash of an intended group grope comes off as an uneasy mix of edgy confrontation and comic titillation. "The Cabin Movie" may generate interest on the fest circuit because of the story behind the story: Pic was written, planned and shot on five-month sked, with only 12 days devoted to actual DV filming.

Chamber piece about six would-be swingers who make a hash of an intended group grope comes off as an uneasy mix of edgy confrontation and comic titillation. “The Cabin Movie” may generate interest on the fest circuit because of the story behind the story: Pic was written, planned and shot on accelerated five-month sked, with only 12 days (and a reported $10,000 budget) devoted to actual DV filming. Final product, however, isn’t sufficiently compelling or amusing to fully engage as either drama or comedy. Commercial prospects aren’t bright.

To revitalize their relationship, longtime companions Ken (Ryan Robbins) and Maria (Arabella Bushnell) invite two other couples to their secluded cabin for a weekend of fun and games. Ken hopes to videotape the activities as an amateur porn movie. Right from the start, however, it’s obvious things won’t go as planned.

Jason (Ben Cotton), an easygoing libertine, recently broke up with his girlfriend of several years, so he shows with his new sweetie, Ginny (Justine Warrington), a frisky bisexual hottie. The presence of a stranger threatens to upset the delicate equilibrium of the swap-meet. And the erotic mood is seriously dampened when long-time marrieds Katherine (Erin Wells) and Mark (Brad Dryborough) arrive with heavy emotional baggage in tow.

Increasingly nasty sniping between latter couple is rendered almost too realistically by game thesps. Wells is particularly impressive — and more than a little unsettling — as her frustrated character chronically rages over a lack of attention from her husband (who hasn’t been conjugal in more than a year) and a lack of satisfaction with her life. Much of pic pivots on Katherine’s desperate attempts to get horizontal with Ken or Jason — or even Ginny — while party-pooping Mark is locked outside.

Sheer intensity of Mark/Catherine relationship occasionally pushes pic into “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” territory, even while other aspects of Kris Elgstrand’s script suggest a funnier, earthier version of “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice.” Helmer Dylan Akio Smith struggles to maneuver through vertiginous mood swings, but fails to smooth over tonal dissonance.

Actors earn respect for revealing (in every sense of the term) performances. Transfer from DV to 35 mm is adequate.

The Cabin Movie

Canada

Production

A Hybrid Films production in association with The Whatever Institute. Produced by Rob Riley. Executive producers, Karen Powell, Riley. Directed by Dylan Akio Smith. Screenplay, Kris Elgstrand.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), James Liston; editor, Chris Bizzochi; music, Clinton Shorter; production designer, Scott Moulton; sound, Peter Kepkay. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Canada First!), Sept. 16, 2005. Running time: 83 MIN.

With

Arabella Bushnell, Ben Cotton, Brad Dryborough, Ryan Robbins, Justine Warrington, Erin Wells.

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