The Cabin in the Woods

The Cabin in the Woods

Don’t read this review. Not unless you’ve already seen The Cabin in the Woods. No, I’m not giving away any spoilers, but this is one of those movies that you’re better off going into knowing as little about is as possible. Avoid trailers, avoid commercials. Just see it. Trust me. It’s worth it.

 

Without giving anything away, here’s a brief synopsis of the plot: A group of young attractives (see below) decide to spend a weekend in a cabin the woods. You know how this kind of thing goes. There’s partying, there’s sex, and then creepy things begin to happen, and then dangerous things. Soon they’re all running or fighting for their lives. It’s a time-tested horror movie plot, and it’s done well here, but rest assured there is so much more to this movie than just that. Like the trailer says, “You think you know the story. You think you know the place. Think again.” There’s a bigger mystery beneath the cabin in the woods.

Curt (Chris Hemsworth), Holden (Jesse Williams), Jules (Anna Hutchison), Marty (Fran Kranz) and Dana (Kristen Connolly)

If I say much more about the plot, I’ll be giving too much away. What I can easily say is that I loved this movie. I’m throwing it right up there with Scream and Shaun of the Dead as movies with an excellent combination of horror and comedy. Cabin will have you laughing hard in one scene, and on the edge of your seat in the next, and you don’t even realize you’ve made the switch because before you know it you’re laughing again… then jumping again. That balance of suspense and humor is so difficult, but when done well it allows you connect with the film more so than if it were just one pure genre.

Now I didn’t realize this until I started writing this review, but it can be no coincidence that the horror movies I like the best all have a self-awareness about them. Scream was a horror movie obsessed with horror movies. Shaun of the Dead was a zombie movie that was almost a parody of zombie movies. Even 28 Days Later is sort of self-aware in that by featuring fast zombies, the movie does away with one of the most identifiable zombie traits. The audience knows that zombies have always been slow and the movie knows we know, but it asks us why does it have to be that way? What would that experience be like? We submit for your approval this new premise. What do you think?

These horror movies, including Cabin, engage the audience in a discourse about the very subject of horror movies. They acknowledge that we’re savvy fans of the genre with certain expectations, and then they play with those expectations, like with the zombies in 28 Days Later or with Randy’s character in Scream who almost seems to know he’s in a horror movie. And they do all this while telling a compelling story with likeable and identifiable characters, thus also engaging our emotions.

Curt (Chris Hemsworth)

Dana (Kristen Connolly)

Marty (Fran Kranz)

That can’t be easy to pull off. If you’re too meta, you run the risk of appearing too cutesy or obnoxiously quirky. The Cabin in the Woods is in no danger of that, partly because the movie owns up to what it’s doing. That’s really thanks to the solid writing (by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard) and the direction (by Drew Goddard).

From the moment I heard Joss Whedon was penning this script, I knew it would be good. If you don’t know who he is, let me throw some titles at you: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, and Dollhouse. Whedon is the mastermind behind those shows. I’ve been a fan of his witty writing style ever since 1992 when the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie came out. He’s just got immense skill at balancing humor, drama and action inside of the unique and somewhat quirky universes he creates.

The only criticism I have on the movie is that the cast isn’t as instantly likeable as the cast of Buffy or Angel. I didn’t connect with them as well. As with many horror films, the characters aren’t as fully developed as you’d like, but that’s actually part of the point of this movie, so I’m not sure if my criticism is even valid. Of course none of this is to say that the acting is poor in any sense. Everyone is solid in their roles. I particularly enjoyed seeing Richard Jenkins as well as the performances by Fran Kranz who kept me laughing and Bradley Whitford who kept me laughing.

Really, the best thing I can say about this movie is that you never know where it’s going, but you’re always dying to find out. Go see it and let me know if you feel the same way.

The Cabin in the Woods
Director: Drew Goddard (as writer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Alias, Cloverfield, Lost)
Writers:
Joss Whedon (Roseanne, Toy Story, Alien: Resurrection, The Avengers) and Drew Goddard

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