We need to clear something up before we start. The Cabin In The Woods has many plot developments and twists that are naturally integral to the film’s themes and messages. They are also best discovered during an actual viewing, rather than in a review. In fact, even the trailer below may reveal a little too much for people who like to go and see a movie without expectations. In my opinion, that is the best possible way to watch The Cabin In The Woods, and so with that in mind I will try and tread as lightly as I can around the plot, but I would suggest that you watch the movie first and then come back.
Still here? Then we’ll get started. The Cabin In The Woods begins the way many horror films before it have started, but in this case it’s is with good reason. We are introduced to a group of young college students (including Thor’s Chris Hemsworth) as they get ready for, yes you’ve guessed it, a camping holiday in the woods. Don’t worry; it’s good that you guessed it. They’re even going in a van, and would you believe it they bump into a crazy redneck along the way that helps propel them towards their almost certainly foreboding destination. There’s even the obligatory overhead shot as the van heads up the mountain road and all we can do is sit back helplessly as they head towards what we know will be a terrifying experience.
I suppose you are asking why it is okay that we can predict everything that is happening during these early stages, and the answer is because that is exactly what director Drew Goddard and his co-writer Joss Whedon wants you to do. It is both a celebration and a critique of the horror genre, and what is truly impressive about this is that you know the clichés are there for a reason.
The script is handled very playfully, and yet preserves a great intelligence and wit. It would be very easy for this to have come across as a painfully formulaic film and for Goddard and Whedon’s points to go high over the audience’s head. But they don’t, and it still manages to find time to be genuinely funny. Perhaps the only downside is that the characters do not get as much attention as they deserve, but they do on occasion put in as much effort avoiding cliché as they do looking for it.
This is of course similar territory for Joss Whedon, a man we know likes to challenge the formulaic and critique the way things are done. Buffy The Vampire Slayer, one of the most successful horror TV shows ever was based around Whedon’s critique of the sexy blonde girl who always dies in movies. He likes to be playful and try new things, while at the same time putting as much effort into making it a crowd pleaser. The Cabin In The Woods is certainly that.
Is it a game changer? That remains to be seen. It does have a surprisingly fresh feel to it, even though it is almost entirely made up of bits of other movies and constantly makes reference to them (sometimes explicitly so). Will it become iconic? Quite possibly. If so, the line “I kinda dismembered that guy with a trowel. What have you been up to?” will go down in history as one of the best in modern horror. Considering this has been sitting on a shelf for over a year while its producer MGM struggled to make ends meet, it deserves a lot of credit for still working. Perhaps that is even its best achievement.
Image reproduced from cinemablend.com
Video reproduced from YouTube / AllianceFilms
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