Review: The Cabin in the Woods / Cert: 15/ Director: Drew Goddard / Screenplay: Joss Whedon, Drew Goddard / Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Kristen Connelly, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford, Amy Acker / Release Date: Out Now
The acid test for The Cabin in the Woods was probably always going to be how - or even if - it stands up to repeated viewing once you’re in on the joke and the film’s surprises are out in the open. But don’t worry, we won’t be blowing the gaffe here; despite its critical reception The Cabin in the Woods wasn’t huge at the Box Office but it’s likely to be a big draw on DVD and Blu-ray this Autumn so its secret remains safe with us for now.
The Cabin in the Woods is, pure and simple, a love letter to a very familiar horror genre - the clue’s in the title. It’s not, however, poking fun at the traditions of hundreds of movies where stupid American jocks go on a weekend break to some middle-of-nowhere Hellhole where there’s no phone signal. Joss Whedon and director Drew Goddard’s clever, knowing script just recognises all those clichés - they’re fans of the genre, after all, and they’re here to celebrate it not denigrate it - and happily plays on our familiarity with all these tropes before turning the entire thing on its head. In fact we’re probably in on the game from the very beginning because it’s quite clear from right in the middle of the title sequence that we’re in for something a bit different here.
And The Cabin in the Woods doesn’t disappoint. As soon as the checklist of college types - jock, stoner, nervy bloke, coy girl, foxy chick - set off for their weekend and are warned off by a gum-chewing local we appear to be on very familiar territory indeed. Installed in their spooky holiday home the group stumble upon the diary of a previous occupant of the cabin who suffered terrible family abuse and before long they’ve inadvertently resurrected a family of zombies buried out in the woods. So far so ‘seen all this before’ but of course it’s the consequent twists and revelations that send the film off into wildly different areas in a story that attempts to offer an explanation as to exactly why kids have behaved like this in horror movies since Hollywood immemorial whilst doffing its cap towards practically every other modern horror film ever made.
And that’s as far as we go. If you’ve seen The Cabin in the Woods you’ll know the wonderfully warped change of direction the film takes and we’re happy to report that this is, as we might have suspected from an auteur like Joss Whedon, a film that keeps on giving with every viewing. Horror buffs won’t be disappointed (although some hardcore fans might not get the joke and find it too flippant), creature fans will be delighted; this is a smart, clever, often hysterically funny movie which doesn’t miss a beat and reminds us that horror doesn’t have to be horrid and that it's good to have some fun along with your fear. Brilliant.
Extras: Sparkling Goddard/Whedon commentary, decent 'Making Of’, Whedon set tour, Wondercon stage Q&A and more.