(A.k.a. check out Laevatein as he makes a fool out of himself reviewing a movie for the first time!)
The Cabin in the Woods is a really interesting movie. Produced and co-written by the venerated Joss Whedon, and directed and co-written by Drew Goddard, the movie examines the horror movie genre. Specifically, it explores how involved the audience experiences and interacts with horror films. At the same time, it subverts everything with the horror genre. Though it seems ambitious, does it wind up being any good?
The movie begins with a group of five friends going on vacation to a remote cabin… in the woods. Basically, we have the common horror movie setup. Meanwhile, a couple of top secret government technicians are running a certain experiment/game. From there, shit goes down, hard. One thing to note about this movie is that, despite being a horror movie, it’s not very high up on the scare-o-meter. However, it’s very hilarious. I guess you can’t go wrong with classic Whedon humor.
The Cabin in the Woods probably seems like a satire at this point. Yeah, the movie does have satirical elements, but the overall tone doesn’t quite seem to be satire. If anything, it jumps back and forth between horror and satire too often to truly be one or the other. I guess satirical horror is probably the most apt description. But this movie has something a lot more special waiting beyond that genre. As I’ve mentioned, The Cabin in the Woods explores the relationship moviegoers have with horror films. I won’t say more, as that’s something you have to figure out on your own. Personally, I liked where it went with that, as it made the movie a hell of a lot more interesting (though it’s a very interesting film without that exploration, anyway). One thing that slightly disappointed me was the ending. It was extremely abrupt, and I found myself wishing there was maybe a bit more. Despite that, however, the ending was really fitting, and makes a lot of sense when you take the movie’s aim into account. Let’s just say the film’s tagline, “You think you know the story,” couldn’t be more accurate.
Characters were pretty great, too (and seeing as how this is a Whedon work, expect some cameos!). The five college students perform their roles really well, and even subvert their archetypes all at the same time. However, I found Fran Kranz’s performance the best, as his stoner antics were hysterical, and his paranoid, savvy nature made him probably the most unique character. Chris Hemsworth (taking a break from Thor, I suppose) and Kristen Connolley are also pretty great, for very similar reasons. The other two college students, played by Anna Hutchison and Jesse Williams, are none too shabby, either. The two government technicians, played by Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford, make an absolutely stellar duo, and are very well complemented by Amy Acker, who, though not quite as funny as the duo, shines too. I had a grievance with Brian White’s character, which was the fourth character on the government side. I don’t think they really did much with him, which is a shame, as he was in a rather unique position. Additionally, one character came out very late in the film, and didn’t seem to serve any other purpose but to be the Exposition Dump (though mostly for the characters, not for the audience). Still though, two slip ups among an otherwise great cast is highly commendable.
What also really impressed me were the monster designs. The Cabin in the Woods captures the classic horror film feel with its spot on designs. The sheer depth of the designs used is staggering, and really shows that the team really did their monster designs homework. Not only that, but the team’s creativity flourishes in the little touches and additions they did. Unfortunately, the environments weren’t quite as breathtaking, and I found the juxtaposition between the two settings somewhat jarring, but that’s a pretty minor concern.
The Cabin in the Woods, on the whole, is a must see movie. While horror fans would appreciate it the most for what it strives to do, the charming humor and captivating, thought-provoking story are good enough reasons for everyone to go watch this movie.