Directed by: Drew Goddard
Written by: Drew Goddard, Joss Whedon,
Starring: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford, Brian White
Rated: R for strong bloody horror violence and gore, language, drug use and some sexuality/nudity
Some movies lend themselves to reviewing, and some don’t. Last week’s “Lockout” was a straightforward flick to write up. “The Cabin in the Woods” is anything but — it has a very specific, narrow audience and you’re either in it or you’re not. If you are, you probably know it already and saw the flick the day it opened. If you aren’t, then you don’t really need me to tell you to avoid it.
“The Cabin in the Woods” opens with two fairly official-looking fellows getting their day started in some sort of governmental facility. Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) and Hadley (Bradley Whitford) have been working toward this day for a long time, everyone in the installation is keyed up, and they’re all determined to do a good job. Meanwhile, a band of teenagers are gathering and heading up to the titular cabin in the woods — there’s Curt (Chris Hemsworth), the jock; Jules (Anna Hutchison), the hot blonde; Marty (Fran Kranz), the goofy stoner; Dana (Kristen Connolly), the serious and artistic gal; and Holden (Jesse Williams), the new guy.
The “teenagers go to a remote location, awaken something terrible, and horrible things ensue” story is a familiar one, and there are loads of hat-tips to other greats in the genre (as well as to other types of horror movie, from Japanese horror to monster movies, and even “Back to the Future”), but “The Cabin in the Woods” is about something else altogether.
If you’ve seen even one or two standard horror flicks, nothing that happens in the film is really much of a surprise — but even so, half the fun is watching the mystery slowly unfold, so I won’t give you any further details on the story. It’s a very meta film, a movie about movies, so let’s talk about it in a more meta sense.
“The Cabin in the Woods” is sort of like “Scream” taken to the next level. It’s the “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” of horror movies, it’s “Community” with actual gore and death. There’s so much to unpack that it’s suited more to criticism than reviewing. Yes, the effects, acting, and other technical aspects are top-notch, but that isn’t what makes this an interesting film.
It’s a commentary on horror movies, on our fascination with watching teenagers do stupid things and get themselves killed, on the way we flock to watch horror movies even when they’re essentially the same thing over and over. And yet, at the same time, it’s a ripping good ride! You don’t have to get all (or even half) the references to enjoy it, but it definitely rewards an encyclopedic knowledge of horror movie tropes. There are tons of tiny details that reward the attentive viewer.
Whether or not you will you enjoy “The Cabin in the Woods” depends heavily on whether you enjoy this kind of genre-savvy storytelling. It’s not so graphically violent as to put off those fans of meta (or Whedon) who aren’t into horror, but it’s self-analytical enough that if you find that sort of thing grating it will probably bother you. If, however, you’re a Whedon fan, into self-aware fiction, and like to laugh, do not miss it.