The less you know about The Cabin in the Woods, the better. The movie has been promoted as a horror film about 5 young adults taking off for a weekend trip to the titular cabin and that’s really all you need to know walking in. The familiar premise might make you roll your eyes, but despite the lack of Autobots, Cabin, is more than meets the eye.
The film begins by introducing a parallel story involving a pair of lab-
like employees Siitterson (Richard Jenkins) and Hadley (Bradley Whidford) swapping wife complaints while preparing for some sort of event. The scene goes on long enough to remind you that this isn’t what you’re here to see. Aren’t you supposed to to be watching kids get violently murdered? What is going on?
What is going on indeed. This brief, disorienting intro sets the tone for the rest of the film: Something is not quite right here. However, before you have time to dwell on the question, the film flashes its title credits and starts setting up the conventional horror film formula: 5 college students heading out to an isolated lake cabin for a weekend of partying, pot, and. . . . hooking up. Each member of the group also fills a standard role. There is the naive, virginal(ish), Dana (Kristen Conolly), her hot, promiscuous roommate, Jules (Anne Hutchison), Jules’s studly alpha male boyfriend Curt (Chris Hemsworth), their pothead friend, Marty (Fran Kanz), and the handsome friend-of-a-friend, Holden (Jesse Williams), who simultaneously fills the role of potential love interest for Dana and ethnic minority. The quintet sets out and right on time, cue an ominous encounter with a grimy, tobacco chewing hermit, whose warnings the group undoubtedly ignores as they continue to their middle-of-nowhere destination.
From here, the parallel stories start to weave into each other and not much more can be said without major spoilers.The film surprises bit by bit, then snowballs with plot twists and reveals, until it culminates in an outrageous half hour finale of frenzied chaos, gleeful gore, and winks to classic villains and baddies that horror geeks love. Cabin is a treasure trove of horror fanatic goodies. The fiendishly clever script by was penned cult hero, Joss Whedon (creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog and director of the the much-anticiated Avengers film), and Whedonverse followers will recognize the auteur’s self aware style. There are lots of witty one-liners, nerd references, and visual gags that are just the right amount of absurd, including a passing bit involving a collapsible bong. There’s also a very well-timed cameo that’s sure to delight sci-fi fans.
Whedon and his often creative partner, director Drew Goddard, have always had a flare for old school horror bloodshed and there’s plenty of gore to spare in Cabin in the Woods. Be warned, this is a very violent film, but it’s never truly scary. Instead, Cabin is both a satire and celebration of the horror genre, inventively twisting horror cliches and bending conventional tradition to ask the questions: Why do we love horror films so much? Why do we root for these violent deaths? Are the victims’ demises a result of their own free will or the machinations of forces they can not control?
The Avengers is not the only Whedon-vehicle that is a must see this year. Even for those not keen on horror films, it’s a fun genre-pushing film that will delight, surprise, and thrill you. By the end, you won’t be quite sure what just happened, but you won’t be sorry it did.
Cabin in the Woods get 4.5 Babbles out of 5.