Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Movie Review: The Cabin in the Woods

The Cabin in the Woods *** ½
Directed by: Drew Goddard.
Written by: Joss Whedon & Drew Goddard.
Starring: Kristen Connolly (Dana), Chris Hemsworth (Curt), Anna Hutchison (Jules), Fran Kranz, (Marty), Jesse Williams (Holden), Richard Jenkins (Sitterson), Bradley Whitford (Hadley), Brian White (Truman), Amy Acker (Lin), Tim De Zarn (Mordecai), Tom Lenk (Ronald The Intern), Sigourney Weaver (The Director).

Spoiler Warning: I really do not see much of a point in writing a review of The Cabin in the Woods if I cannot talk about the twists and turns the movie takes, and how it plays brilliantly with the horror genre. As soon as I heard the advance buzz that The Cabin in the Woods was a) great and b) had completely unexpected twists and turns, I stopped reading anything about the movie, and actually would change the channel when the commercials came on TV, because I know ads often give away everything. So I recommend two things 1) You see the movie, and 2) You don’t read or listen to anything about the film, including this review. Consider yourself adequately warned.

For a movie called The Cabin in the Woods, it certainly has an opening scene nobody would expect. The film opens with two guys who like bureaucrats or accountants, Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) and Hadley (Bradley Whitford) doing a walk and talk through what looks exactly like you would imagine a secret government facility to look like. They are talking about a failure in the Swedish branch, but that Japan has just started – and those assholes always get the job done. But they believe that good old fashioned American know how can get the job done. What the hell are they talking about?

Its only after that scene that we get the opening scene we were expecting – a scantily clad, beautiful young college student named Dana (Kristen Connolly) packing for a weekend getaway, with her friend, the newly blonde Jules (Anna Hutchison), her hunky football player boyfriend Curt (Chris Hemsworth), their stoner buddy Marty (Fran Kranz) and the newcomer to the group, Holden (Jesse Williams), who may just be the answer for Dana being single. They are all heading for a cabin in the woods for the weekend, all packed into a big RV. Their first stop is one of those gas stations that only exist in horror movies, manned by a man named Mordecai, who gives them ominous warnings about where they are heading, of which, of course, the young people pay no heed. The head to that remote cabin, and we know that something is not right – and that those seemingly harmless bureaucrats have something to do with it.

The Cabin in the Woods is a horror movie that turns horror movies on its head – that really explains all the behavior you’ve ever seen in a horror movie before. You ever wonder why the kids always make such stupid mistakes, liking splitting up, and going off into the creepy woods to have sex. This movie explains that. You ever wonder why every remote cabin has a cellar full of creepy things, this movie explains that. And on and on. This movie sets up one horror movie cliché, only to knock it down again.

The Cabin in the Woods is a clever exercise in genre filmmaking, that wants to deconstruct the horror film genre, as well as be an example of one at the same time – and for the most part, it succeeds. The movie is smart, and at times an extremely funny take on the horror genre, that outdoes Scream because it sends up the horror genre, without constantly talking about the horror genre. It’s the old cinematic adage – show, don’t tell. And the amount of bloodshed, especially in the crazy finale, will keep genre fans happen. The only thing The Cabin in the Woods isn’t is scary. Because of all the playing with the genre the film does, it never really gets around to building the tension needed to be a truly scary film.
Still, it’s hard to imagine another horror film – especially an American one – being as good as The Cabin in the Woods was this year. Co-written and directed by Drew Goddard, The Cabin in the Woods is a wonderful, genre bending horror film. I cannot imagine many filmmakers would even attempt to pull this movie off, let alone succeed.

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