Title: The Cabin in the Woods
Directed By: Drew Goddard
Starring: Kristen Connolly, Fran Kranz, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Jesse Williams, Amy Acker
If you’ve been paying much attention to the release of The Cabin in the Woods, you’ve undoubtedly heard about how easily you can spoil the experience. Had I not known a lick of information about the feature prior to catching it, sure, the twists and turns would have absolutely blown my mind, but at the same time, I probably wouldn’t have been as excited to see the film having no conception of what was to come. Plus, even after watching all the promotional material, the full feature far exceeded every preconception I made anyway. But still, don’t worry; I’m not about to go and spoil the movie for you. This will be a spoiler-free review save for the information revealed in the trailers.
Curt’s (Chris Hemsworth) cousin has a vacant vacation house out in the woods, so why not use it? Curt rounds up his buddies, the sweet and innocent Dana (Kristen Connolly), his newly blond girlfriend Jules (Anna Hutchinson), the pot-loving Marty (Fran Kranz) and the ultimate nice guy Holden (Jesse Williams) and they all pile into an RV and head out for what should be a getaway packed with sun, sex and booze. The trouble is, they’re not as in control of their vacation agenda as they think.
Richard Sitterson and Steve Hadley (Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford) are hard at work at the office planning an event that could finally make their US-based office more successful than the Japan location. What do they need to do to put themselves on top? Kill the residents of the cabin in the woods.
A fan of the horror genre? You’ll think you’ve seen this all before, however, just when you’re about to settle into that routine of watching a group of rowdy college kids head out to a secluded location to ultimately meet their demise, Cabin in the Woods shifts to a never before seen location (in this type of film at least), an office building. But, even with the change in environment and the change in standard plot points, the office material maintains a similarly snarky tone, serving as the perfect complement to the party-turned-blood bath out in the woods.
While the main players out in those woods deliver solid performances, managing to give their genre clichés just enough depth and heart to make us fear for their lives, it’s Jenkins, Whitford and their assistant played by Amy Acker who really steal the show, which perhaps has something to do with the fact that they’re wholly original, and quite amusing, too. Then again, Kranz’s Marty stands out as well, as there’s clearly more to Marty than your average pothead.
Going much further into the plot might spoil some fun, so excuse the vagueness of the information to come.
The Cabin in the Woods has some notably wicked kills, almost all of which are highly inventive courtesy of colorful villains and a wide array of slaughtering tools. Unlike most of the other films Cabin aims to mock, the series of events are highly unpredictable, keeping you guessing who’ll be next and therefore maintaining a high level of suspense from beginning to end.
Director/co-writer Drew Goddard and producer/co-writer Joss Whedon developed this almost bottomless pit of a script. Every single scene of this film serves a purpose, unveiling the slightest bit more about what’s going on and the one time they do lead you to believe you’ve got a handle on the whole scenario, they turn the situation on its head, sending you right back into an unpredictable and beautifully ruthless show. As a diehard horror fan, there’s one scene in particular that might very well be the manifestation of all my slasher dreams and it’s a truly wonderful thing – as sick as that might sound.
On the technical end, Goddard may be a first time director, but visually, you’d never know it. Based on the imagery in Cabin, Goddard seems to be a very meticulous director, never letting a single shot go to waste, always putting together an appealing composition. He uses quite a bit of traditional genre techniques – watching characters through the woods, creepy tracking shots, etc. – but actually manages to give those a fresher feeling by pairing them with angles and movements that are rather unique and that also enhance the material.
That’s generally the case with The Cabin in the Woods and it’s a major reason why the film is so successful. Essentially, Cabin is having fun with genre clichés, but still strives to maintain a degree of horror on its own. Goddard and Whedon strike the perfect balance between messing around with the used and abused and the undeniably original so that the whole entire film winds up feeling like a good time you’ve never had before.
Then, further setting Cabin apart from the pack, there’s so much more to it than just having some fun and moving on. This is a slasher satire with real meaning. Who would have thought? Essentially, as a horror-consuming public, we are Sitterson and Hadley and, as someone who takes in all the horror she can get, that connection is mind-blowing – and a bit amusing.