Directed by: Drew Goddard
MPAA Rating: R
The Cabin in the Woods is a classic horror tale of what happens when a group of teenagers venture deep into the woods to an old cabin for a weekend of debauchary. And then comes the killing. Except it’s also none of that. The fact is the true plot of Cabin in the Woods would spoil a lot of the fun of it so it’s hard to really talk about. It’s also way more complicated than any basic plot could capture. It is ridiculously hard to review this movie without spoiling things but there will be nothing in this review that will ruin your experience, but I warn you to be wary of even watching commercials for this film.
The first thing to know about The Cabin in the Woods is that it was made a good 3 years ago and sat on a shelf while MGM went bankrupt. The other thing to know is that for those years people like me have been drooling for it to be released. The reason is it’s co-written by Joss Whedon (Firefly/Serenity, The Avengers, Buffy The Vampire Slayer TV series) and co-written and directed by Drew Goddard making his directorial debut after writing things like Cloverfield and for shows such as Lost, Alias, Buffy, and Angel. The other reason is that this is perhaps the most original horror movie in at least a decade.
If you are a horror buff, there’s no way you won’t like Cabin in the Woods. It’s script is so smart and clever that you will be glued to the screen. The movie starts out in a very weird way that will have you wondering what the hell is going on and if you maybe walked into the wrong theater. It’s such a wonderful note to open on. But then we go into what you’d expect as a more traditional opening where our college kids are introduced. It’s here that you also note that something is very different here than your regular horror film. You have 5 stereotypes. The party girl (Hutchison), the “virgin” (Connolly), the jock (Hemsworth; Thor), the egghead (Williams; Grey’s Anatomy), and the stoner (Kranz; Dollhouse). Except the stereotypes aren’t cast in such shades of black & white. The egghead is a muscular jock, the jock is incredibly smart, etc. This opening will also have stoners everywhere googling “travel mug bong”.
I’m not going to go through the rest of the movie scene by scene but essentially you are cutting back and forth between two different things, one a traditional horror film, the other something that becomes clearer as the film goes on. It’s this second part that is incredibly imaginative and creative and wonderful.
You get a lot of the classic horror movie in there though. There’s boobs, comedy, blood, and scares. It’s all there. Just on top of it all you have a whole other level that you can’t even imagine. One thing I need to mention that I really love is just how well thought through and created the world of this movie is. It’s scope is epic and it’ll leave you thinking.
As far as the performances go, first off it should be mentioned that this was actually the movie that was supposed to really break out Chris Hemsworth as it was done before Thor. Him and Jesse Woodward as the alpha males of the group do a great job with every second of their screen time. They capture the cheese just right when they should and really act when they should. If you liked Fran Kranz in Dollhouse, you’ll love him here as well. It’s a very different character but not too different. Then there’s the two lovely ladies. Both of them are pretty unknown right now and that’s gonna change. Anna Hutchinson is incredible as the sexy party girl. There’s a moment with a stuffed wolf head that is both disgusting and yet arousing that has to be seen to be believed. She’s just really good throughout though as well. I can’t wait to see more of her. You could say Kristin Connolly is the lead and I wouldn’t argue. She carries the duty of holding a movie like this with all the twists and turns it makes really well. She’s incredible and deserves many more leading roles. You also have the always perfect Bradley Whitford (The West Wing) being perfect, with the same being said for Richard Jenkins, who is in so many different movies once you see his face you’ll recognize him immediately, who plays Whitford’s partner. And adding some femininity to the Whitford/Jenkins duo is the more grounded character played by Amy Acker (Angel, Dollhouse). Great performances all around, all flawless.
If you’re just having a normal amount of fun the third act is where The Cabin in the Woods kicks you in the head. The movie goes ape-shit and gives you a glance at a whole other world. Horror fans will flip and will be watching this section for years at home trying to identify all the references made in this section. You can tell that Goddard & Whedon really know the genre and respect it and took that and made something truly great with it. There’s also a cameo by an actor who isn’t listed but you’ll really love when they come on screen (if you don’t identify them before that). When the Nine Inch Nails track kicks in and the credits roll you’ll feel like you just got your mind fucked.
The Cabin in the Woods is highly creative, original, while still recognizing old standards that we love, and in this time where Hollywood is just recycling garbage this is the perfect cure. Go see it in the theater as soon as you can and use your dollars to send the message that you want more intelligent and original films like this made.