Review: The Cabin In The Woods

Made 3 years ago, in 2009, this project was put on the shelf after MGM, the studio which produced the film, filed for bankruptcy. This kind of disappointment seems to follow Joss Whedon’s projects since the runaway success of Buffy and  Angel; for example the TV series Firefly was cancelled after just one series even though it proved popular. Luckily though, he created the successful TV series Dollhouse and landed writing and directing roles on Marvel’s Avengers: Assemble – possibly a reason Lion’s Gate bought the rights to The Cabin In The Woods and have released it just before the Avengers movie.

It’s going to be very difficult to review this film without giving too much of the plot away, because it’s a bit of a genre-bender, but I’ll try. We start off with a clichéd title sequence with blood dripping down the screen over pictures and carvings of ancient scenes showing sacrifices. And then it’s suddenly interrupted by a scene between Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford who are standing around a coffee machine in an office talking about their marriages and what they do. This sets the tone for the rest of the movie, and sometimes is the reason it detaches you from the action and causes huge amounts of confusion.

Just as suddenly as we’re taken out of the title sequence, the actual title literally screams onto the screen and we meet the young cast readying themselves for a weekend away from their studies by visiting the titular cabin. Amongst these you have all the stereotypes of teen slashers: The jock (a pre-Thor Chris Hemsworth), the stoner (the hilarious Fran Krantz), the slutty blonde (Anna Hutchinson), and the two slightly nerdy ones who are being set up together (Jesse Williams and Kristen Connelly). Can you see where this is going? You’re not even half right!

Needless to say there’s something not quite right with the cabin as they are informed, in a rather aggressive way, by a red-neck gas station worker…and just about here is where I’m going to leave the plot.  Needless to say this film is a strange one; written  by both Whedon and Drew Goddard (Alias, Lost, Cloverfield), this is a reaction to the torture-porn films that have saturated the horror market in the last few years. The Cabin In The Woods takes teen horror back to its early 90s roots in films like Scream and Urban Legend in a very knowing way.

I would say that you need to go into this film with an open mind, because if you’re expecting a straightforward nuts and blots slash-em-up then you may be disappointed; however, if you think along the lines of the Lost format then you’re much closer to how this film plays out. Which is quite distracting in places, but adds an overbearing sense of intrigue to the story’s development. There is a brilliantly blood-drenched 15 minutes in the third act that is extremely enjoyable, but the ending may leave some with a sour taste in the mouth as it all seems to crescendo a little too quickly.

The Cabin In The Woods is a film made with care by genuine fans of horror, and I can’t wait to see what kind of job Whedon does on the Avengers. But here I can’t help but feel that sometimes they were just trying a bit too hard to push the envelope and actually, the more you know about the conventions of horror the less scary and more like a comedy the film becomes. That said though, it sure is something to talk about and a fast-paced, enjoyable romp.


3 Responses to “Review: The Cabin In The Woods”

  1. I really enjoyed Cabin in the Woods. I thought it was a fantastic movie, but as I say in my own review of the film I don’t see this as a horror film or a reinvention of horror as some people have called it, I see it as an analysis of the horror genre. Everything they do is fantastic and the cliches are just part of that analysis so I don’t think it’s a drawback of this movie to have those cliches in there.
    And by the way, Whedon does a fantastic job on The Avengers!

    • I just saw the Avengers and oh my god does he ever do a good job of that movie!

      *possible spoilers in the next paragraph*

      Cabin In The Woods was a great fun-filled movie and I agree about it being an analysis of the genre. The one thing that I didn’t get was whether or not there was an audience watching it in the ‘real world’, as you didn’t get cut-aways like in the Hunger Games.

      Interesting though, as Mr Carmen said to me, it’s interesting that two films released so close to each other are both about our apparent need to watch hyper-gory forms of entertainment and reality TV.

  2. A breath of fresh, clever air in a poor movie season!

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