Oh Joss Whedon, I now see why people worship you and suck from your luscious teat. You give the minds of film-lovers the greatest blow job in history.
Disclaimer: this will be a spoiler-free review for people who are still on the fence about this. Short answer: run to the fucking theater right now. Long answer…
I feel sorry for any person that does not watch this movie. I pity you even more if you are an avid lover of horror films. This is simply because The Cabin in the Woods is one of the most brilliant movies to come out in a while. It’s a movie that appears in the trailers and title to be a mere horror flick, but it’s actually about cracking a big idea. The big idea is to take the conventional horror tropes and cliches of old, then break their spines with sickening gore and plenty of laugh out loud moments. You may think I’m insane for believing gore and comedy work well together in anything, but trust me when I say, that this film succeeds with flying colors.
Plot details will be scarce here, since that’s all part of the fun in watching this movie. All you need to know is that we have five good friends heading off to spend a weekend in an isolated cabin in some creepy woods. “Blah blah,” I hear you cry over the world wide web, “I’ve heard this story a billion times before.” I reply, “You’ve heard this set-up a billion times before, this movie goes into a completely different direction.” You see, the cabin and surrounding areas are being monitored 24-7 by a mysterious organization. Two men manipulate the environment and each member of the group into becoming classic bait for a deadly monster. For what purpose? Not telling, you’ll have to watch the movie yourself to find out.
But here’s what I can say to assure you that you will love the hell out of this movie. First off, this movie is funny as hell. This is where I get down on my knees and kiss Joss Whedon’s feet, because the man knows how to write a damn script. The five teens are all likable (a rarity in horror films in general) since they all have complex personalities and amazing chemistry with each other, as good friends normally would. But the script really shines when the mystery organization is in focus.
You see, the organization is run like some ordinary data entry company, where everyone wears bland office outfits (white shirt, black tie, slacks) and a few others are in scientist garb. We mostly focus on two of these “office men” and their dialogue is frequently funny as hell. They crack jokes at others’ expense, and make clever quips to the fate of the teens.
Speaking of which, we have the great teens, the most notable of which is Chris Hemsworth (aka Thor). The rest are played by Kristen Connolly (who is funny/sexy), Anna Hutchison (who is hot), Jesse Williams (sexy/quirky), and the excellent Fran Kranz. This last one has become one of my new favorite actors who I hope will continue on to do bigger and greater things. He’s irresistibly funny, and he plays the only character who is aware of what is happening to him and his friends. On the weird office side, we have Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford (the asshole villain from Billy Madison) who are both fantastic as these orchestrators of death for the above mentioned group.
All of this is put together by Drew Goddard, one of the writers of Cloverfield. He makes great use of the camera and he was really able to get the performances he needed out of each actor. That alone deserves commendation, but he gets brownie points for featuring an amazing final act in the final 20 minutes of the movie. I have never seen so much blood spewed everywhere while delivering me such a massive nostalgic trip through all of sorts of terrifying films and even video games.
But the fantastic writing, acting, direction are simply frosting to the delicious cake that is the film’s premise. Again, I refuse to give much away because the surprises revealed towards the end really are worth it. What I can tell you, is that the mystery organization function similarly to the film crew of a horror movie, where the victims slowly become aware that a mysterious force is controlling the supernatural and scary threat they are forced to confront. But the deaths aren’t only what these guys are about.
No, they are actually influencing the teens, through drugs and pheromones, to become the common archetypes you’ve seen a billion times before: the jock, the slut, the nerd, the slacker, and the virgin (who always lives). They even influence them to make the commonly stupid decisions every victim makes in these movies, like having sex in a creepy area or choosing to split up rather than stay together.
Comparisons to Wes Craven’s Scream are inevitable. Both films tackle and toy with the cliches and conventions of a horror film, while having their tongues firmly in cheek of the genre. But Scream reminds me more of a hipster doing a common activity (like drinking shitty beer) while loudly proclaiming they’re doing the action “ironically.” Such an attitude makes me want to go back in time and pimp-smack the filmmakers until their eyeballs switch places. You see, the characters in Scream are self-aware of their existence in a slasher flick while vocally pointing out the ridiculousness of their situation and thinking it’s so “ironic” that they are conforming to these conventions.
Cabin is not that. Whereas Scream was about tearing apart a clock and pointing out the different gears in it, Cabin is about crafting a story about how those gears came to be in the first place and why they exist. To speak in more concrete terms, Cabin is about taking the common cliches you see in a horror flick and providing a reason for their existence through a kick ass story. And the story is told by a stellar cast all packing witty lines.
I loved this movie. This film is guaranteed a spot on my top 10 of 2012 because of how it plays with the horror genre in such a clever way. Add in a tight script, an amazing cast, and solid direction, and you have a film that will be remembered for years to come. I’ve never walked out of a horror movie so happy, and it’s because I was having so much fun. Don’t miss this movie. Run. Right now to the theater. You can post your discussions of the plot in the comments section.