Maybe it’s the cynic in me that stopped me from proclaiming that The Cabin in the Woods is the next revolutionary flick within the horror genre like so many have already. Then again, maybe it’s just that the film, while entertaining and sometimes witty, didn’t deliver any real moments of suspense instead being content on throwing out an admittedly intriguing premise while paying homage and, at the same time, satirizing the genre we all love.
At first glance you might have the reaction I did where, upon seeing posters and watching the trailer, things looked like a slight riff on the Evil Dead series. Everything was there: stereotypical characters going out to a cabin in the middle of nowhere and being menaced and/or slain by some demonic looking creatures. Apart from a vague science fiction angle that was briefly touched upon in the trailer, there really wasn’t anything on display making me want to go see this.
Of course, seeing as how the film ended up getting positive reviews and all that aforementioned posturing about it being a new savior to horror, I just had to venture out to the theater opening weekend and see what all the hype was about.
Scripted by Drew Goddard (scribe of Cloverfield and also making his directorial debut here) and fan boy favourite Joss Whedon (“Buffy”, the upcoming Avengers movie), The Cabin in the Woods blends a by-the-book set-up while giving it enough wrinkles to keep your attention. The clichéd part involves a group of University students heading for a weekend at a distant cabin. There’s the jock type Curt (Chris Hemsworth), his slutty girlfriend Jules (Anna Hutchison), the virginal Dana (Kristen Connolly), the token ethnic Holden (Jesse Williams), and the stoner comic relief Marty (Fran Kranz) who have hopped into an RV for and set out for two days of partying and sex. Little do they know their actions are being monitored by a secret agency situated deep underground who’ve drawn them into a controlled environment (the cabin), blocked any chance of their escape, and put their lives in jeopardy at the hands of an undead family of rednecks all with the intention of appeasing some ancient beings.
And that’s about all you’re going to get from me in regards to plot because it’s best you experience it for yourself when things change gears, and locale, on the way to a pleasing finale packed to the gills with horror film references and over-the-top bloodshed. The last twenty minutes definitely offers up the best moments here, even if I wasn’t overly keen on how it all ends up.
Originally set for release in 2010, The Cabin in the Woods was a victim of MGM’s bankruptcy before eventually finding a home with genre friendly Lionsgate. This doesn’t mean it’s also one of those films that had good reason to sit around collecting dust (much like such misguided big studio garbage as the Eddie Murphy bomb The Adventures of Pluto Nash) and if there was any studio that was suited to release it, it’s Lionsgate. While I don’t think it’s quite as successful as the company's other big genre efforts like the Saw and Hostel series, there’s enough here to chew on to make it a mostly enjoyable ride – though if you go in expecting any serious attempts at scares, you’re going to be disappointed as Goddard and Whedon are more about poking fun at conventional horror flicks while offering up a lot of thinly veiled “winks” for fans to keep an eye open for.
Amongst the cast members there’s a few stand-outs, but all the actors on hand deliver what’s expected from their stereotypes. Hemsworth (Thor) is eye candy for the ladies, Hutchison supplies the skanky gyrations and nude scene, and Connolly is an acceptable heroine. While I found Kranz’s constantly stoned Marty a bit off-putting at first, he does manage to win you over with his dopey charm but the movie truly belongs to veteran character actor Richard Jenkins (Step Brothers, HBO’s “Six Feet Under”) as one of the “puppet masters” in the control room – see if you can’t help laughing when, after their Japanese competitors fail to appease the ancients (in a spot-on parody of J-horror), he proceeds to spout “f*ck you” over-and-over at a group of nine-year-old school girls.
Going into The Cabin in the Woods I expected a bit more horror and a lot less camp. It’s no secret I’m not a huge fan of abundant humour amongst bloody mayhem but I really didn’t mind my time with this thanks to its interesting sub-plot and a final third that delivered what I wandered into the theater expecting in the first place. I didn’t believe claims in 1996 that Scream was rescuing the genre and I don’t believe the claims surrounding this either, but I can see enough positives here to understand why. (Chris Hartley, 4/17/12)
Directed By: Drew Goddard.
Written By: Joss Whedon, Drew Goddard.
Starring: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz.