The Cabin in the Woods

2012-07-31 08:51
 
Cabin in the Woods
What it's about:

Five friends go for a break at a remote cabin in the woods, where they get more than they bargained for. Together, they must discover the truth behind the cabin in the woods.

What we thought:

A bunch of kids go to a cabin in a secluded woodland area for a weekend of fun and end up getting a lot more than they bargained for. That's the concept for The Cabin in The Woods and it's one used so often in horror films that we have cause to wonder why anyone would even consider going for a quick weekend getaway given the inevitable nature of these things.

But Cabin's story has a lot more to its "kids in an isolated locale" through-line than is usually shown. That is about as much as I am willing to say about the story as saying any more risks venturing into dangerous spoiler territory.

But that is part of the fun that Cabin has with the horror genre. Like Scream, it's a film that assumes its audience is comfortably savvy with the tropes and clichés of the genre. Unlike Scream, it doesn't merely mimic those tropes with a sly wink at the audience, eventually becoming precisely what it was meant to parody.

Instead, Cabin (which was written by The Avengers director Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, and directed by Goddard) is a film that playfully subverts the aforementioned tropes, taking its much recognised concept and spinning it to marvelously inventive ends.

Anyone who is a fan of Whedon's earlier work will identify parallels with his earlier works such as Buffy The Vampire Slayer and perhaps even Dollhouse. And given that Goddard worked on TV series Lost, the film's over-arching concept might even be seen as that show’s premise filtered through a gory prism.

But the film's references extend beyond its creators own works and it is filled with sneaky (and sometimes not-so-sneaky) winks that allude to other films in the genre. The initial premise is clearly a take on Sam Raimi’s classic The Evil Dead, but after that, the references really do start to pile up. Keen eyed viewers and horror aficionados will spot allusions to Japanese horror, the torture porn sub-genre, zombie films, et al. The list goes on and on and on.

All of which makes The Cabin In The Woods sound like a real workout for your average movie goer. It isn't. Cabin is a hugely fun film and even if you don't get the references, you'll still have a bloody good time with it. It's also a film that finds such imaginative ways to play with and subvert its concept that half the fun comes from not knowing what the film is next about to throw at you.

Much of the film's enjoyment comes from its dialogue, which shouldn't be surprising for anyone familiar with the work of Mr Whedon. His trademark snark is in full swing and is ably used to draw the audience in with some well placed gags.

The cast also do a great job. Horror films often employ actors that are merely used as fodder for their gory set-pieces, but with this film, the kids are alright. More than alright, actually. Whedon and Goddard have done a great job of assembling a talented cast of actors for their film.

Amongst its cast, Cabin counts Fran Kranz (who worked on Whedon's Dollhouse) and a pre-Thor Chris Hemsworth, and as a whole, the performances are appealing and fun to watch. Of the bunch of them, it’s Kranz's paranoid stoner, Marty, who gets the best lines and the most laughs. Kristin Connolly is a charmingly sweet ingénue and Hemsworth has fun playing the stereotypical jock.

The film also scores a double-winner in casting Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford, whose characters are, by turns, hilarious, menacing and disturbingly blasé. Their presence is proof of what great actors can bring to a film and their work helps to elevate an already enjoyable film.

If one criticism could be made of Cabin it’s that, for a horror film, it isn't particularly scary. Yes, there is a generous helping of gore, a fair amount of creepiness and bits that will make you jump, but anyone who has made it through a few episodes of Buffy or Supernatural should have no trouble with this film. Perhaps this is due to its parodic nature but the tone here is one that largely favours fun over frightening. Still, it won't detract from your enjoyment of the film and it really is a minor criticism.

The Cabin In The Woods is the sort of film that mainstream Hollywood so rarely produces anymore; one that shows real imagination and invention.

Whedon and Goddard have made a film that manages to show smarts even as it entertains its audience. It's a damn good time at the movies, even for casual moviegoers, but especially for movie fans and lovers of the horror genre.


Joss Whedon gets horrific in a pre-The Avengers thriller that pits a group of friends against things that go bump in the night. Smarter than your average horror film.
Read more on:    joss whedon  |  chris hemsworth  |  horror  |  movies

Lola 2012/07/31 10:09 AM
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It's so SO good. A very Whedonesque film filled with witty one-liners, a cool cast (with a few familiar Whedon faces) and a story that just goes in all sorts of crazy directions.
werfie 2012/07/31 10:48 AM
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Hands down the worst movie I've seen in my life. It is shocking to think that someone in Hollywood approved this script and spent money on this.
Lola 2012/07/31 1:14 PM
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You're of course welcome to your opinion, Werfie, but given that every single reviewer in the world ever (fact. Probably) has given this film a high rating, I'm really not trusting your judgment. I'm suddenly tempted to see it again...
Jason 2012/07/31 4:35 PM
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I haven't seen the movie but I'm a huge fan of Joss Whedon! I will give it a watch this weekend. I still love his series "Firefly" and movie of the series "Serenity". Think he is great. Would love to see him and JJ Abrams put a movie or series together.
Jason 2012/07/31 4:35 PM
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I haven't seen the movie but I'm a huge fan of Joss Whedon! I will give it a watch this weekend. I still love his series "Firefly" and movie of the series "Serenity". Think he is great. Would love to see him and JJ Abrams put a movie or series together.
byron 2012/07/31 6:09 PM
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Awsom movie!! so original... werfie obviously has no taste in movies.... highly recommend
werfie 2012/07/31 8:03 PM
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I must then be living in crazy town, out of the 30 odd people in the cinema when I watched it, only 2 thought it was a "good" movie, the rest left the cinema and the others were left behind with expressions of awe as to what they just had to endure. @byron, I am absolutely terrified of being surrounded with people like you.... maybe they should make a movie about that, I'm sure you'll love it.
wiledog 2012/08/01 2:15 PM
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saw it last night - Joss Whedon is a genius writer... the way the film doesn't take itself seriously, but dishes out large doses of black tongue-in-cheek humour and a chilling, creeping sense of horror rather than in-your-face scares is simply awesome! at times i was actually laughing out loud, just to be slapped down by the sheer horror as i realised what was going on. brilliant film - not the usual teen slasher gore-fest crap!
Gavin 2012/08/01 3:24 PM
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Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon - need I say more ? Been waiting a good few years for this one and it was worth it. Reminded alot of Buffy and Angel in the way the story unfolded and the witty dialogue. Will definitely buy when out on blu ray :-)
Justin 2012/08/01 5:38 PM
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Werfie: "Hands down the worst movie I've seen in my life." You must not see very many movies. Cabin is obviously not a flawless film, but it is not the worst and your reliance on hyperbole to make your point does more to undermine what you are saying than it strengthens it. My high rating for this film was that it fulfilled one of my basic rules for films: it was entertaining. Many mainstream films today rely on spectacle more than they do imagination, an approach to filmmaking which can become tiresome over the course of two hours plus. Cabin was not two hours of film that pounded me over the head with CGI and deafening sound design (I'm referring to you, Transformers 3), but was a film that made me laugh, entertained me with it's plotting and surprised me with the directuons its story took. If Hollywood produced more films of its ilk, I would be a happier man
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