Film

The Cabin in the Woods


The Cabin in the Woods (2011)
★★★★ / ★★★★

Five friends decided to drive to an isolated cabin in the middle of a forest for a needed weekend getaway. While playing a round of Truth or Dare, the cellar popped open. Curt (Chris Hemsworth), the athlete, said the wind must’ve done it. Marty (Fran Kranz), the fool, scoffed at the improbability of such a statement. Jules (Anna Hutchison), the whore, was just dared to make out with a wolf hung on the wall, tongue and all, so strange and comedic that it was almost erotic. As a dare, Jules chose Dana (Kristen Connolly), the virgin, to go down the cellar and investigate. Her eyes scanned over trinkets behind a shroud of black. She screamed. Holden (Jesse Williams), the scholar, came rushing to her assistance. Written by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, “The Cabin in the Woods” was drenched in irony and satire but it also worked as an astute criticism of the stagnancy of the kinds of horror movies released since the slasher-fest eighties. In this instance, the five friends were appropriately not given background information because we’ve familiarized ourselves, to the point of being inured, to their respective archetypes. Instead, much of the screenplay was dedicated to challenging our expectations of them as well as their rather unique circumstance. For example, with Curt’s impressive physique and propensity for holding onto a football like it was a requisite organ, we didn’t expect him to know much about books let alone cite a respectable author. There was a very funny joke about his and others’ stereotype, so we were constantly aware that the material was one step ahead of us. I watched the movie with a smile on my face because I found it so refreshing. Instead of me sitting there trying to psychically push the material to reach its potential, it was ambitious enough to set the bar for itself. It challenged its audience by thinking outside the box in terms of the inherent limitations of the genre. We’ve all wondered why characters in scary movies, after escaping an assault mere ten seconds prior, tend to drop their knife, gun, or whatever weapon that just saved their lives. The film acknowledged this phenomenon without flogging a dead horse. The first half took inspiration from Sam Raimi’s “Evil Dead II,” although more tame with regards to the comedy and horror. The second half, on the other hand, was a surprisingly electric conflation of twisted originality that seemed to stem from a series finale of a television show, cartoonish gory violence, and exorcism of authority. What connected the two disparate halves was our curiosity about what was really going on. Notice the characters did not explain anything to us in detail. The filmmakers were smart enough to assume that we were capable of observing, thinking on our own, and putting everything together like a puzzle. By simply showing us what was happening without having to explain each step and why certain events had to transpire a certain way, as a dry lab report would, it was already one step ahead of its peers. I wish, however, that the last few scenes didn’t feel so rushed. So much tension was built up until the final confrontation but instead of milking our nerves, I felt like it was in a hurry to let go of the weight it collected over the course of its short running time. Directed by Drew Goddard, “The Cabin in the Woods” was a fun frolic in the dark forest of clichés because a handful of them were subverted with fresh ideas. I wouldn’t want to come across that towering zombie that used a bear trap as a weapon, though. He could give Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers a run for their money.

8 replies »

  1. Dude, absolutely spot on review! The final CGI hand bit felt pretty lame compared to the rest of the film, and her that pops up at the end… FFS, fire the casting director already!

    The bit with the SWAT team fighting the things – hands down the best piece of entertainment I’ve seen up on that screen in years.

    • SPOILER ALERT FOR THOSE WHO HAVEN’T SEEN IT.

      Thank you! About the person popping up at the end, granted, this movie was, I believe, made a year or so before “Paul.” It’s just “The Cabin in the Woods” was shelved for about three years. Do you think that if she didn’t appear in that movie, you would’ve liked her surprise appearance here? Oh, gosh, and I hope you have seen “Paul.” If not, I just spoiled the darn thing.

      That girl with the multiple mouth/teeth thing creeped me out. That “Hellraiser” reference was also pretty freaky, the way he just stood there with the orb. o__o

      Glad you enjoyed it as much as I did!

  2. I agree, great way to make old tropes fresh again. Have you seen Behind the Mask? Kind of like the low budget version of this movie, minus the sci-fi. I really enjoyed the nod to Lovecraft, just like In the Mouth of Madness. So many references, so much to enjoy. Can’t wait to see it on DVD so I can pause it and really examine all that’s there.

    • I feel like watching it again. I think it’s one of those movies horror fans must have in their collection. It’s not necessarily a modern classic by any means but it’s an earnest love letter to horror, horror-comedy and their fans.

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