“The Cabin in the Woods” seemed like a doomed project, considering it was made in 2009, looked like it belonged in the 1990’s and wasn’t released until 2012. The trailers felt spoilery and overly clever. Joss Whedon might be a hero of television, but his work on the big screen never impressed me that much. Yet the positive reviews managed to win my interest over and I left the theater feeling completely satisfied. Ambitious, creative, funny, intense, clever…it’s the type of genre piece that anyone will like. But it’s also the type of genre piece that horror fans such as myself will love.
The Cabin In the Woods (2012)
(Directed by Drew Goddard)
(Written by Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon)
Plot: Five friends go to visit a cabin in the woods for a weekend retreat. Once they get there, it’s time for some partying. But their sex, drugs and alcohol adventures are interrupted when they are attacked by bloodthirsty zombies. But it’s more than that. This predicament is being filmed by someone for mysterious reasons. It turns out that their getaway horrors might be far worse than they imagined.
Why did “The Cabin in the Woods” get so many positive reviews from critics who have spat upon the genre time and time again? Probably because it’s funny, which seems to make everything go down easier for the critics. But it’s a very clever film. “The Cabin in the Woods” knows its cliches and conventions and plays with them, but in a much more organic way than…well, let’s say “Scream“. It doesn’t flaunt its wit, it just happens to be a funny and smart take on the genre. I like how it manages to be meta, but these elements generally aren’t satirical. You’ll see plenty of nods to different styles of horror and it’s just really cool, especially during the finale. I laughed at the dialogue a lot, but it’s not your typical “haha, I am making fun of my genre” comedy. One thing that I love about good dialogue is that it shows how effort went into the script, which is something most horror films shy away from.
I won’t say that the characters are fleshed out or developed, but they are endearing enough to where I didn’t wish for them to die. The filmmakers acknowledge their stereotypes but do not conform to them. The jock is a pretty cool guy who also happens to be an academic, and the loser can be a badass when he needs to be. It helps that the actors all deliver stellar performances. It’s pretty surreal seeing “Thor” in a horror film, but I’m not complaining. The actors bring a touch of class to the movie and the surprise cameo near the end was just freaking awesome. Like the rest of this movie, I did not see that one coming.
But “The Cabin in the Woods” is a horror film, so how well does it succeed as that? Part of my adoration of this film comes from how ambitious and creative the story is. Sure, I’ve seen movies go down similar paths, but none embraced the possibilities like this one. Whoever is ‘behind’ everything is clearly a horror fan themselves and…really, I can’t spoil anything. Let’s just say that the last act of the film is insane and a horror fanatics wet dream. The direction is sharp and intense, keeping us on edge with good build up and satisfying pay-offs. I wouldn’t call it scary, but it is exciting and edgy. It’s also funny and creative. So while it is a horror film, it’s not just a horror film.
Anything bad to say? There’s a lot of unanswered questions and I was initially annoyed at how much they kept showing of what’s going behind the curtain. But I got over that and the only flaw that really got to me was the pacing. I felt they spent too much time on the buildup, then rushed through its middle block. The finale, however, made up for it and I can’t say I was bored. But I did feel that the first 30 minutes or so were a little redundant. Not a big issue, but I felt I should bring it up.
“The Cabin In the Woods” was a fun movie. It doesn’t take itself too seriously or too lightly. The characters were fun, the humor was hilarious and the jolts were pretty hardcore as well. Is it scary? Nah, but it achieves the right balance of intense/entertaining, so it doesn’t really matter. But once the finale rolls around, it ceases being a good movie and starts being great. I think its biggest draw, however, is that you don’t have to be a horror fan to appreciate it. But if you are a horror fan, then expect to be thrilled.
Violence: Rated R worthy. Pretty gruesome, but not too extreme.
Overall: “The Cabin In the Woods” is a film I’d recommend everyone watch, especially fans of horror.Rating: 3.5/4