Even after sitting on my thoughts and notes for THE CABIN IN THE WOODS for a few weeks now, it doesn’t make writing a review of the film any easier. In fact, CABIN may be the most difficult film I’ve ever come to review, because telling you more than it’s about a group of five college kids who venture out to a cabin isolated in the middle of the woods where bad shit is about to go down is far too much. However, I’ve come to see the film twice already, and what SCREAM did for changing how the film industry did horror 16 years ago, I imagine THE CABIN IN THE WOODS will do something similar to the genre today. This is a film that abides by the conventions while keeping them fresh and interesting, but, more importantly, it takes the formulas we’ve come to expect from horror films, mocks them openly to their faces and then goes about doing something completely original that’ll keep you on your toes. By being innovative, CABIN avoids the boredom too many horror films become trapped in by doing the same old thing over and over and over again.
Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Jesse Williams and Fran Kranz fill the five usual archetypes of a horror movie like this – Dana the virgin, Curt the jock, Jules the slut, Holden the brains and Marty the stoner… only those roles aren’t exactly as we’ve always come to know them. There’s quite a few extra layers to each than your basic stereotypes, and some of the fun of THE CABIN IN THE WOODS comes from the deconstruction of these elements you’d expect – splitting up to see what the problem is, the gratuitous sex, the questionable decision making. Previously, they had all becomes staples of a formula, but CABIN offers up answers that make sense and that establish an intelligence beneath everything happening rather than just expecting you to buy into something because it’s always been so.
Joss Whedon’s crisp script creates more of a comedy with horror elements than a straight horror flick, which works in CABIN’s favor. The dialogue is quick and snappy, one of Whedon’s strengths, and it makes for quite a few laugh out loud moments between the characters’ collective wit and their equally clever actions. Director/co-writer Drew Goddard is able to give you the feel of a horror movie, particularly the creepiness of being out in the middle of nowhere, passing by rundown gas stations and being miles away from any sort of civilization, but, when it comes time to abandon those set-ups, Goddard is up for the task of kicking the movie into another gear when caution needs to be thrown to the wind for some ridiculously out of control fun.
Each of the group of five nails their parts perfectly well, with Kranz’s burnt out slacker being the best of the bunch. His character is given a lot more leeway being the smart-ass of the group, and, as a result, when you’re looking for the most memorable of them, the honor falls to him. There doesn’t seem to be enough for Jesse Williams to do here, leaving him with the shine of being an eventual victim for large parts of the film. He seems to be the only character not filled out with as much depth as the others, serving more as a placeholder than an integral member of the crew. Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins though absolutely steal the movie as a duo that may hold the answers to a lot of the cabin’s secrets. While CABIN is full of life from beginning to end, you can’t help but feel your excitement being taken up a notch whenever it’s time for them to make another revealing appearance.
The less you know about THE CABIN IN THE WOODS, the better, and, if you’ve made it this far in the review, I’m proud to be able to say I feel as if I’ve kept just about the entire movie intact for you. This is a movie that you shouldn’t be told about, and, if someone goes out of the way to spoil it for you, a nice swift kick to the testes would be a sufficient payment for that sort of kindness. THE CABIN IN THE WOODS is a movie that should be experienced, hopefully with other people who not only love movies, but love horror. That’s the crowd that will embrace this movie. That’s the crowd that will appreciate with THE CABIN IN THE WOODS is aiming to do. That’s the crowd that will “get it.” If you fall into that description, then I believe you’re going to love THE CABIN IN THE WOODS, much like I do.
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