This review may contain spoilers
“The Cabin in the Woods” is a difficult film to describe because to explain the true underlying premise of the film would spoil the bulk of its fun and originality.
It starts off like any other horror film. Five friends head to a quaint little cabin conveniently located in the middle of nowhere for a weekend of drinking, mischief and general frolic. However, what starts as a much-needed break from everyday life soon devolves into a terrifying experience that threatens the lives and the sanity of each member of the group.
To some of you, this setup may sound similar to director Sam Raimi’s 1981 classic “The Evil Dead.” And if that’s the case, then you are precisely the audience “Cabin” is aiming for. Though the film may seem like your typical mindless piece of horror at first glance, it instead twists and contorts the very hallmarks of the genre it looks to imitate, using them to serve its own story and gently poking fun at its own clichés.
As written by “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” creator Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard of “Cloverfield” fame, “The Cabin in the Woods” is that rare horror film that is incisive, smart and bursting with just as much imagination as blood. The result is an unbelievably fun ride that defies expectations and is destined to become a cult hit for years to come.
Points Of Interest
1. A victim of MGM’s legal struggle and a possible conversion to 3-D (which was thankfully scrapped), the film was shot way back in 2009.
2. “Thor” leading man Chris Hemsworth stars, long before he wielded that character’s trademark hammer.
3. Co-writer/producer Whedon collaborated with Hemsworth for a second time as writer and director of a little movie called “The Avengers” due for release next month.
4. Alumni from previous Whedon series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel” and “Dollhouse” make appearances.
As written by Whedon and Goddard, the film deliberately takes its time to build up -- just as every great rollercoaster ride does -- and gives the audience time to bond with its characters before the mayhem ensues. False scares and awkward tensions abound, but aside from the obvious tropes of its haunted house motif, “Cabin” gives its viewers the occasional glimpse into the minds of the storytellers themselves.
Renowned character actors Richard Jenkins (“The Visitor”) and Bradley Whitford (“The West Wing”) guide this part of the story along, as two men whose connection to the cabin is best left unmentioned here. These scenes allow Whedon and Goddard -- who also directs -- to reassure the audience that something surprising and elusive is at play here, and it takes the totality of the film’s running time for the entire plot to unravel completely. It’s almost as if the film itself is a puzzle that its creators are daring you to try and solve. And once you do, the film’s glorious third act makes the wait well worth it, especially for horror aficionados.
What Didn't Work
Viewers unwilling to embrace horror clichés the way “Cabin” does may become impatient for the film’s ultimate reveal and, by extension, entirely miss the point of this film. However, for those of you who are ready to play along, brace yourselves for one hell of a payoff.
Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due
“The Cabin in the Woods” stars Chris Hemsworth, Kristen Connolly, Anna Hutchison, Jesse Williams and Fran Kranz. It was directed by Drew Goddard and was written by Goddard and Joss Whedon. It is now in theaters.
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