Hey guys, the cellar door just flew open loudly. Let’s check it out!
by Aliki Taylor, Reviewer
Sure, we all love Joss Whedon and we’re already salivating over his upcoming blockbuster The Avengers, but Dollhouse has been off the air for a while, so what’s he been doing? It turns out he spoiled us years ago.
At the 2007 San Diego Comic-Con, Joss Whedon (Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse) announced on stage that he and Drew Goddard (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Cloverfield) were co-writing something, describing, “It is a film called Cabin in the Woods, and it is the horror film to end all horror films. Literally. And more about that, I will not say.” Nearly five years later, we now know what he meant.
(Spoiler-free review ahead!)
The Cabin in the Woods starts out with a witty opening scene that reminds us that this is in fact a Joss Whedon production. You have your typical conversations around the water cooler in a very sterile and lab-like facility. Steve Hadley (Richard Jenkins – Six Feet Under, Let Me In) complains to his buddy Richard Sitterson, (Bradley Whitford – The West Wing, The Good Guys) of his disdain for his wife’s “female problems” and for her overzealously baby-proofing his cabinets, “Even the ones on top!” Hadley threatens to take a drill to liberate his cabinets when we finally get to see the Cabin in the Woods title card. Funny? Sure, but I sat there for a moment and wondered, “What does this have to do with anything? Am I even in the right theater? I thought this was supposed to be a scary movie?”
The next few scenes were completely predictable. Dana (Kristen Connolly – Life on Mars, The Happening) is sweetly oblivious that she is wearing only panties from the waist down as she packs in front of a bare window. Next, her gratuitous blond, ditzy, and slightly slutty friend Jules (Anna Hutchinson – Power Rangers Jungle Fury, Go Girls) enters the scene. Then we are introduced to the jock, Curt (Chris Hemsworth – Star Trek, Thor, Avengers), Holden the academic (Jesse Williams – The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants 2, Grey’s Anatomy) and their stoner friend, Marty (Fran Kranz – Donnie Darko, The Village, Dollhouse). All the pieces for a typical horror flick are all there, and for a moment I panicked. I was not here to see yet another boring and completely calculable chiller movie.
The five friends plan a trip to go into the woods for a fun weekend of partying. They head to a secluded cabin set so far back into the woods, nobody can hear them scream for miles around. Convenient, right? Insert a scene with the obligatory creepy gas station attendant, some intense music, and a few shots of how vast and alone they are in the wilderness, and you basically have the ingredients for any campy horror film from the 80s. At this point, I was about to shed a tear and ask for my evening back.
Then the story takes a creative turn. As the friends drive off into the distance to their destination, a hawk is seen flying through the air. The hawk soars majestically past the camera, then toward our eager campers, only to suddenly face plant and disintegrate, mid-flight, into a previously invisible force field. This is no typical horror film. There’s something else going on here. Needless to say, from this point on I was definitely paying attention.
This is where the creativity of this writing team comes into play. Whedon and Goddard deserve all the props they’re sure to receive for the unique twists and turns throughout the movie. Though the feel of the scenery bordered on something straight out of Camp Crystal Lake, though the characters seemed popped out of the same mold we’ve seen for decades, the story behind overall plot was shockingly original. The creatures (we’re not going to spoil it and describe them) had that little bit of pulp and lots of gore that I love so much. The acting seemed cardboard at first, but in retrospect was perfect, and the witty banter and cheesy stereotypical horror scenarios were spot on. You have to appreciate a movie where a half naked blonde makes out with a stuffed wolf’s head mounted on a wall…with tongue!
The humor in The Cabin in the Woods was a huge plus, and anyone that appreciates Bruce Campbell type wisecracks will love the zingers Fran Kranz dishes out. Marty’s preoccupation with pot smoking, hilarious one-liners, and oddly metatextual behavior make him the most interesting, well developed, and likable character.
My only real complaint with The Cabin In the Woods was that it felt a bit unfinished, like maybe they had written themselves into a corner. This is a problem I see in too many horror movies these days: They get the audience all worked up with all the excitement, and then… Blah. I so desperately wanted a climactic ending–that “Aha” moment. I didn’t get that here. Sure, the ending was big, but somehow it still kind of left me feeling a little flat.
Now don’t get me wrong, The Cabin in the Woods is by no means a stinker. I do think it’s worth going to see, especially if you’re in an Evil Dead kind of mood. But, if you’re looking for the same fulfillment of the first time you saw The Matrix, maybe this isn’t that movie.
The Cabin in the Woods managed to keep me thoroughly entertained throughout, and with my ADHD, this says a lot. This was a fun movie, well executed with a lot of creativity. Any horror fan or Joss Whedon fan will appreciate every Chekhov’s gun, Whedonverse alumnus, Easter egg, and the all the sincere homages to existing works. What The Cabin in the Woods lacked in its finale, it made up for with its enthusiasm and unique ideas. I mean seriously, how can you not go see it now that you know that it has a hot chick who makes out with mounted stuffed animals? Right?
At its simplest form, one might describe the initial scenario and mood of The Cabin in the Woods as Evil Dead meets Friday the 13th, but while it clearly draws on classic horror traditions, it turns out The Cabin in the Woods is more than an orchestrated rehash of hackneyed horror tropes. Compared with many other recent offerings in the genre, Cabin in the Woods is a breath of fresh air amongst a growing sea of mediocre and contrived horror flicks. This is a supernatural gore fest of delicious insanity with twists and turns that are anything but expected, paired with a refreshing and altogether unique backstory.
ComicsOnline gives The Cabin in the Woods 4 out of 5 mermen.
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