Title: The Cabin In The Woods
Director: Drew Goddard
Staring: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford, Brian White, Amy Acker, Tim De Zarn
Plot: Five friends spending the weekend at a secluded cabin in the woods, soon find out that not everything as it seems, as unaware their every move is being watched by a vast network of puppeteers.
Review: Sometimes it only takes one simple tweak to breathe new life into a well worked genre and this is essentially what makes this film so special as Director Goddard and uber scribe Joss Whedon have done just that, taking the established idea of slow witted teens finding horror in the woods and giving it a completely new spin without trying to reinvent the wheel. True I might be at this point one of the last people to stumble into this film, something which only makes me wish that I hadn’t put it off for so long, but before we get down into the guts of this film, if your like me and put off seeing this film for whatever reason, bewarned that spoilers lie ahead! Okay now you have been duly warned, lets look closer at the cabin in question and the secrets hiding within it’s walls.
Written by Goddard and Whedon, as an attempt to revitalize the horror genre which in their observations had leaned more and more towards torture porn since the success of “Hostel” with Whedon going on record in an interview for “Total Film” stating:
“I love being scared. I love that mixture of thrill, of horror, that objectification / identification thing of wanting definitely for the people to be alright but at the same time hoping they’ll go somewhere dark and face something awful. The things that I don't like are kids acting like idiots, the devolution of the horror movie into torture porn and into a long series of sadistic comeuppances. Drew and I both felt that the pendulum had swung a little too far in that direction.”
Having seen the finished film, it is safe to say that they have achieved this goal, as like Wes Craven did with “Scream” back in the 90’s, they have done here by taking horror back to it’s basics, while at the same time looking at things from a new perspective which in this case is that of the puppet masters controlling or more precisely Richard (Jenkins) and Steve (Whitford), who watch and control when needed what is happening to the group. From their control station these two technicians can control events within the cabin, from simple tricks such as a cellar door opening to releasing pheromones to help loosen the morals of the horny teens. Such self referencing nods are essentially what made “Scream” so successful and to a lesser extent the painfully underrated “Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon” and here it is none the less effective, especially when some of the more clever nods are hidden subtly within the film such as Deadites and Angry Molesting Tree being listed a possible fates on the betting board.
The film construct is well within the usual framework of your typical slasher movie and plays out essentially the same to start with, as our largely clueless teens upset the creepy gas station attendant and set about drinking and partying within minutes of arriving at the cabin and while the usual archetypes are done away with as the group despite seemingly falling within the usual templates are actually quite an educated bunch, with their more questionable moments being more to do with the tinkering actions of the technicians controlling the events. Still the cast who at the time of filming were all largely unknowns, something which had certainly changed by the time film was finally released, but here despite their lack of experience they all manage to sell their roles well.
Despite seemingly low on gore once the real action of the plot starts with the teens unwittingly unleashing a family of torture zombies, in a scene which playfully hints at the other triggers, the outcomes of which thankfully saved for later rather than being left as a mystery, while Goddard focuses more on peeling the layers surrounding the mystery of the cabin, so that by the time the film reaches its conclusion there is no mystery left with nearly everything being brought full circle, rather than setting up any kind of potential franchise and ensuring a solid pay off while containing this world as a satisfying one shot movie. Meanwhile for the gore fans feeling as if they might be getting cheated out in earlier scenes, Goddard more than makes up with it in the finale for as the film gets closer to the final revel he essentially paints the screen crimson and throwing more gore at the screen than I have seen in a long time while at the same time being so gloriously over the top and out of control, it was hard to fight the goofy grin it brought to my face, especially as the sheer inventiveness of Goddard and Whedon is truly unleashed here, with some of the creations making me wish that they were given longer screen time, while also showing a much darker side to unicorns (finally).
For myself the real downside to this film was with its conclusion which ultimately didn’t really feel like the pay off I was hoping for, while only further ensuring that the film is kept as self contained as it is. Still with the ride until this point being as fun as it is, ultimately it comes down to more a question of taste especially as discussing this with other people, no one else seems to mention the ending in any kind of positive or negative context. Ultimately this is smart and entertaining film making which plays on the expectations of the viewers and their established ideas of the horror genre, as it walks the tightrope between embracing and rejecting their established ideals, while poking fun at the current state of horror, while bringing a few fresh ideas of its own, making for a worthwhile watch for both the established horror fans and the more casual movie goer.