Bottom Line: The Cabin in the Woods is an amusing hour and a half of satire.
Directed by: Drew Goddard
Starring: Anna Hutchison, Bradley Whitford, Chris Hemsworth, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Kristen Connolly, Richard Jenkins
In premise, The Cabin in the Woods seems a ninety-minute cliché. With every passing year, the horror genre somehow manages to grow more and more tiresome, recycling stories as old as the creation of verbal language. There isn’t one bit of originality in a story that finds a group of morally dysfunctional (not to mention, downright stupid) teenagers trapped in a haunted house. There is gushing originality in The Cabin in the Woods, and it all comes down to the impressive writing. Every event that unfolds is not supported by the script, but instead handled in a humorous light. Although Cloverfield writer Drew Goddard deserves credit for the more chilling side of the story, the film takes complete flight via the co-writing of Joss Whedon, whose fanboy appeal will provide just about anything to crack a smile.
The Cabin in the Woods is a gleefully uncommon sort of horror-comedy. Within the past few years, we’ve gotten Drag Me to Hell and Tucker and Dale vs. Evil. Both of those are ingenious in their own rights, but in essential contrast with Cabin, neither one put the genre to a very effective use. The idea here is similar to what we saw in 2000’s Scary Movie, yet the results are so much more surprising and sophisticated, with outrageous honesty in place of pop culture non sequiturs. Much fun is had during the transformation of dull cinematic corn into the cream of the crop. We get a more “behind the scenes”, Truman Show-ish look at the adolescents’ situations; this is perhaps the least absurd step taken. The final twenty minutes are indeed ridiculously loud and chaotic, but (oddly enough) they justify the film’s point more concisely than everything prior.
Cabin delivers campy wit in a fashion that makes Whedon’s The Avengers seem far too straightforward. The film acts as an upbeat, satirical ode (though it’s a bit difficult to call a parody) to such catastrophic, apocalyptic 21st century horror. And it does, at times, fail to make complete sense, but such flaws are almost inevitable in the absence of convention. So if I may rephrase my first sentence. In premise and only premise, The Cabin in the Woods seems a ninety-minute cliché. Ultimately, it employs those clichés and uses its script as a rite to look down upon it and laugh. The rest, I shall not reveal. I leave you with the film itself so as not to spoil what will come as genuine surprise.