Review: The Cabin in the Woods (15) / Director: Drew Goddard / Screenplay: Joss Whedon, Drew Goddard / Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Fran Kranz, Kristen Connolly, Anna Hutchinson, Brian White, Jesse Williams, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford, Amy Acker / Release Date: 13th April
The expectation for The Cabin in the Woods is considerably high. When you factor in that this was supposed to come out in early 2010, stars a pre-Thor Chris Hemsworth and has a closely guarded secret of a plot concocted by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, then you couldn’t be blamed for raising your expectations through the roof.
It makes us very happy to say that the wait has all been worthwhile. In fact it’s been more than worthwhile, it’s been necessary. Not just because The Cabin in the Woods had to find a home whilst MGM got itself back on its feet but also because this mythical status will guarantee it an audience now. Luckily the film is so good that positive word of mouth will surely take care of the rest.
Whedon and Goddard’s brilliant genre deconstruction begins the way that most of these things do. We get to meet our victims; the hunky jock, the slut, the mousey virgin, the sensitive hunk and the stoner are all present and correct. However once the hunky jock breaks rank and recommends a book to the mousey virgin it's clear that this film is very self-aware, but without being smug. The friends head to the titular cabin in the woods for their weekend of fun and of course run into the creepy old gas station attendant on the way. The cabin looks identical to the one in The Evil Dead, has the same geography, cellar and everything, so this should tell you where we are headed. Once at the cabin they begin to party and act as most teenagers do in these films, but is it something more? Are they acting this way for a reason?
Whedon and Goddard’s screenplay slowly drip feeds you information, just when you think you have it all figured out something else comes into play turning things on their head. If you have seen the trailer and complained that it gives away too much (a criticism we've heard from some) then trust us when we say - you've seen nothing yet. As much as we want to talk about this movie in great detail, we feel that we can’t - there is so much here that is best enjoyed going in as cold as you can. The film has the ironic Meta aspects that were employed by the first Scream film as well as the recent Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon but it is never a spoof. The cleverness is intrical to the plot in ways that cannot be explained without giving too much away. To sum it up in some kind of spoiler free fashion, The Cabin in the Woods feels very much like a film that celebrates all the trends and bogeymen in horror over the last 100 years and presents it to you in one hilarious, blood-soaked package.
For long-time fans of Joss Whedon, the man has lost none of his talent for a quip or a laugh out loud line of dialogue. He also finds time to bring along some of his old cohorts such as Amy Acker, Tom Lenk and Fran Kranz. Kranz, who you might remember from the ill-fated Dollhouse, walks away as the star of the film as a stoner who has some good marijuana-induced ideas and is resilient when it comes to his choice of weapon in a fight. The rest of the young cast make their mark and deliver the brilliant dialogue perfectly. Also turning in worthy performances of note are supporting actors of some repute Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins. To say too much about their characters would again be a disservice but they get across the world-weary view of people who work to constant deadlines wonderfully, having many of the film's best scenes.
Speaking of scenes, this film has some crackers. There is an elevator ride/ghost train sequence that plays out like a horror fan's wet dream. Even if they didn’t quite have the budget to do some of the final sequences justice resulting in some dodgy CGI, you can feel the love and affection for the genre pouring through every frame and the feeling is infectious; this is definitely a film to enjoy in a large crowd. The score by David Julyan perfectly accompanies what is happening on screen and is very well judged in terms of tone and atmosphere and goes a long way to ensuring that it doesn’t tip over into crude parody.
We have a feeling that The Cabin in the Woods will one day be regarded as a classic and will get its devoted audience through word of mouth. Not just from horror fans but from the casual filmgoer too. A whole generation is set to rediscover horror because of this film in the same way that the slasher film was reborn with the release of Scream. As a horror fan you have to put up with wading through a lot of crap just to find a morsel of something original and entertaining. Films like The Cabin in the Woods make this all worthwhile. If we see a better horror film in 2012 then the year is going to be an amazing one for the genre.
Expected Rating: 7 out of 10