The Cabin In The Woods is a meta-horror movie written by Joss Whedon (director of The Avengers and the man of the past one month in Hollywood) and Drew Goddard (writer of Cloverfield and several Buffy, Angel and Lost episodes). Why am I bringing these guys names up so early in the review? Because it is essential to know what we are dealing with even before we venture into the details (such that I can provide) about this movie.
What Mr. Whedon did with his Buffyverse is still being emulated by other shows, writers and filmmakers. The same goes for Mr. Goddard’s take on the found footage film (though I do believe that Josh Trank and Max Landis successfully outdid the scope and success of Cloverfield with their very excellent Chronicle). So it is useful to know that Messrs. Whedon and Goddard are not interested in simply making a horror movie that sits politely alongside all the other horror movies on your streaming cue-list with the promise of cheap scares and brief nudity.
Oh no! These guys want to deconstruct the entire sub-genre of ‘the cabin in the woods’ and slap you in the face with something bigger and ambitious and eventually genre-destroying. I think these guys wanted to make this the last movie you ever watched in this space. Did they succeed?
There are two levels on which you realize that this is not your average five young people go to a secluded cabin for some fun and alone time story. One is the level that is wondering ‘who the hell are the two dudes (played by Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins) in the large office facility who keep talking about the main players in this story’ and why does the movie keep cutting back to them? The other is in the actual interactions between the five characters themselves:
These aren’t your garden variety Bimbo, Jock, Nerd, Burn-out and Virgin. It is made abundantly clear very early on that Dana (Kristen Connolly) is no virgin. Curt (Chris Hemsworth, minus his Thor mane), the athlete, carries himself in an easy breezy manner and is unafraid to crack open a textbook or two. Holden (Jesse Williams), the scholar, can catch a football—even when it is tossed out of an open window. The sore thumbs in this cast of inverted clichés are Jules (Anna Hutchison) and Marty (Fran Kranz) as the whore and the fool respectively. She’s not that slutty and he’s not that dumb. We get this even before the movie really gets rolling.
But we keep on watching because this film moves along real nice. Even though the constant cutting back and forth between the cabin and the industrial facility (where people are placing bets on various outcomes) prevents us from properly settling into the story, the filmmakers do enough to keep us interested.
And then the killing begins.
What did I think when the end credits rolled on The Cabin In The Woods? This is an awesome thesis movie.
As a deconstruction of the sub-genre, they did a great job of exploring the tropes, subverting expectations and bringing together the ‘upstairs’ and ‘downstairs’ portions of this story into one big climactic finish.
But this is a movie for film geeks (I daresay made by film geeks). The casual moviegoer who just wants a scary movie isn’t going to get too much out of it. While the language is very colourful, there isn’t much by way of either titillation or gore. There are TV shows (I’m not even talking premium cable here) which offer more of the above.
This is a film designed to make all of us filmmakers envious. Because it is clear that Goddard and Whedon had a blast writing this, and then making it a reality. Box office potential aside I envy them for being in a position where someone gave them the money to make this movie.