Giovanni's Movie Review: THE CABIN IN THE WOODS

The Cabin In The Woods, the long awaited horror film written by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, may go down in history as one of the most difficult films to review responsibly. To discuss the film is to set up expectations, but the story is about subverting predictability, taking something hackneyed and turning it into something entirely new. The element of surprise isn’t just important here, it’s the essence of the film.

Here’s the short version: five friends venture deep into the country to spend a weekend at an isolated, run-down cabin. The cast of characters include the beefy, football-tossing Curt (Chris Hemsworth), the perpetually stoned Marty (Dollhouse alumni Fran Kranz), and the innocent-enough Dana (Kristen Connolly). Of course, once they make it to the woods, things get spooky and blood is spilled. If it sounds like a contrived horror set-up, that’s because it is. Behind the curtain, a team of scientists lead by Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) and Hadley (Bradley Whitford) monitor every move the gang makes, leading them through a mysterious experiment. In horror terms, it’s less like Cabin Fever and more comparable to Vincenzo Natali’s Cube, as the unaware youths try to survive the deadly puzzle.

Goddard, who makes his directorial debut here, previously worked on TV’s Lost, and that influence is apparent. The mystery plays a lot like the first few seasons of the series, where a group of plane crash survivors slowly unravel the secrets of the island they’re stranded on. The twists are plentiful and consistently unpredictable thanks to the incredibly smart script. Though, it would be little misleading to label it strictly as a horror movie. While it does have a handful of scares and remarkable tension, it’s just as much a comedy, if not more so. Whedon’s signature wit is in full force with snappy dialogue and hilarious meta-humor. And the cast has no problem rising to such sharp writing. Kranz’s stoner conspiracy theorist performance is hysterical, and Hemsworth gets a chance to expand his comedic talents shown off in last year’s Thor. Even better is the science team, whose ridiculous betting pools and pride in their twisted jobs give the film a delightfully pitch black tone.

The Cabin in the Woods’ release is well timed, as the horror industry is in terrible shape. Over the years, the genre has devolved into what Whedon has described as “torture porn,” thanks to franchises like Saw and Hostel. These movies are only concerned with killing dull, stock characters in the goriest ways possible for the audience’s pleasure. Whedon and Goddard pull a full attack on that idea, brilliantly satirizing the current state of horror and the sick schadenfreude it inspires, while fondly looking back to a time when freight was about fun. It’s not just death that the characters are trying to escape here; it’s the world’s lust for blood. Whedon and Goddard have a solid understanding of the horror genre, allowing them to turn it inside out and subvert everything we’ve come to expect from an exhausted premise.

4-5 Stars

Five friends go to a remote cabin in the woods. Bad things happen. If you think you know this story, think again. From fan favorites Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard comes THE CABIN IN THE WOODS, a mind blowing horror film that turns the genre inside out.

THE CABIN IN THE WOODS was co-written by Joss Whedon (BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, FIREFLY, the upcoming Marvel film THE AVENGERS) and writer Drew Goddard (CLOVERFIELD, LOST, BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER), and marks Goddard’s directorial debut. THOR’s Chris Hemsworth stars as a young professional who visits a quaint cabin in the woods with a group of friends and ends up scratching the surface of something so massive and horrific that they can only begin to fathom it as time quickly runs out. Richard Jenkins (LET ME IN), Bradley Whitford (THE WEST WING), Kristen Connolly (THE HAPPENING), Brian J. White (STOMP THE YARD), Amy Acker (ANGEL), Fran Kranz (DONNIE DARKO), and Jesse Williams (BROOKLYN’S FINEST) also star in the film.