26th Oct2017

‘Cabin 28′ DVD Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Terri Dwyer, Brendee Green, Harriet Rees, Lee Bane, Derek Nelson, Gareth Lawrence, Jason Homewood, Linny Bushey, Sean Rhys-James, Alexander Bradwell, Jevan White, Ryan Michaels | Written by John Klyza | Directed by Andrew Jones

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Based on a true story, Cabin 28 is a collaboration between writer John Klyza – a man whose work in the Sleepaway Camp fan community is legendary (Klyza ran THE definite SC website, one of my earliest go-to’s back in the day, eventually parlaying that into helping to find and reconstruct the long-lost Sleepaway Camp 4), and Welsh filmmaker Andrew Jones, more commonly known as the auteur behind the Robert franchise and the founder of British production company North Bank Entertainment, which has been pumping out genre product on a regular basis for most of this decade.

Klyza and Jones actually share something in common: Since his days as webmaster, Klyza has penned 4 films for director Dustin Ferguson; including the duo’s 2015 sequel to 1972′s Silent Night, Bloody Night – a film Jones ALSO made a sequel to in 2013, beating Klyza and Ferguson to the punch by a couple of years. And now the pair come together for Cabin 28, a film which, despite the slasher/home invasion movie tropes, is actually based on a true story, the “Keddie Murders.” The same story that, fact fans, inspired the bigger-budgeted horror The Strangers.

On April 11th 1981, Sue Sharp and her family are enjoying their stay at Cabin 28 in the peaceful holiday resort of Keddie. But a day of fun at the remote getaway turns into a heart stopping nightmare as nightfall brings masked strangers to the Cabin. A brutal battle for survival leaves several members of the family dead and one missing. An extensive police investigation follows but no one is convicted of the crime. Now, over thirty years later, Cabin 28 finally gives up its deadly secret.

Led by an almost unrecognisable Terri Dwyer (Hollyoaks), complete with faux-American accent, as the mother of the family under siege, Cabin 28 is easily the most accomplished of Jones’ films. It’s also the most “American” of Jones’ films too, with a mostly British cast all putting on American accents and a cabin-in-the-woods locale that looks oh-so American but was actually filmed in Wales!

Of the cast it’s actress Harriet Rees who’s the real standout. Rees, who has since gone on to work with Jones on two more movies, plays Tina, the loyal daughter of Sam – who seemingly is the backbone of the family, given that the eldest daughter has a strained relationship with her mother and – oddly – buggers off for the evening to another families house! Can you say suspicious? Anyway, back to Rees, whose character, I think, is central to the film, holding together various plot threads. Her scene at the door in particular, which kicks off the terrifying and deadly night for the family, is incredibly well-acted, especially given that the voice on the other side of the door is somewhat ridiculous. Rees overcomes that, providing the tension the scene needs through her wonderful performance. So good is Rees that you really feel for Tina when she is put in peril – much moreso than the rest of the cast.

Special mention must also go to the soundtrack, that – whilst sounding very much like a proto-typical slasher music – has a slighty off-kilter sound that adds an eerie, twisted layer to the visuals. And the music? There’s a stunning juxtaposition between the what we see and what we hear – with a particularly brutal sequence scored with a haunting melody. Speaking of brutal, Cabin 28 has a brutality to it that is truly unlike anything Jones has done before (at least that I’ve seen). You have to think that this is, in part, down to the influences of Klyza, bringing his background in the slasher genre to the on-screen violence in this film… It’s an effective climax to a film that for the most part is a slow-burning horror, building suspense rather going for scares. When the violence does come, it’s so different from the rest of the film that it makes it all the more vicious.

My favourite of all Andrew Jones’ opus, so far, Cabin 28 belies it’s low-budget and it’s UK origins to create a visceral experience that I surprisingly actually enjoyed much more than it’s true-story brethren, The Strangers. The film is out now on DVD from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

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