Cabin in the Woods
Director: Drew Goddard
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Kristen Connolly, Anna Hutchinson, Jesse Williams, Bradley Whitford, Amy Acker
Review: 4.5 stars (of five)
Cabin in the Woods is a celebration of the slasher horror film that could also pass as an in-depth examination of the genre if it weren’t too much fun for that. The movie recognizes the silly cliches and cheap stunts that mire the form, points them out, then absolutely revels in them in a way that makes you love them more, not less, for all the metatextual exploration.
The Joss Whedon/Drew Goddard production has been in the can for quite awhile do to legal and financial issues, finally hitting theaters a few weeks ahead of Whedon’s The Avengers. While the superhero extravaganza will easily be the bigger blockbuster, it’s likely that Cabin, unrestrained by anything other than the authors’ imaginations, will turn out to be a more satisfying dose of the old Whedon magic. The film is produced, cowritten (and second-unit directed) by Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and director/cowriter Goddard is a writing alum of Buffy and other Whedon shows. The first few minutes of the film includes attractive young people being very clever in fast, stylized, overlapping dialogue that immediately made me realize how much I’ve missed Buffy, Firefly and other Whedon shows in these last few mirthless years.
For some, that TV-writing cleverness will be too much, but if you come into a movie like this looking for a low-keyed representation of the less dazzling world in which we live, well, you deserve to go home unhappy.
Speaking of “a movie like this,” the real challenge is to discuss the film without giving anything away. So here’s all the plot summary you’re going to get: Five college buddies go off for a weekend at an isolated cabin, where things will go wrong in exactly the way they always do in horror movies. Meanwhile, we immediately realize that these kids are the subject of some kind of sinister organized surveillance that doesn’t feel at all like the usual slasher fare. This sets up the mystery of just what these crazy kids are getting themselves into, in a story running parallel to the cabin-based developments. And when Goddard and Whedon unleash the horror, they swing for the goddamned bleachers.
Whereas the current generation of torture porn aims to make you leave the theater feeling exhausted, nauseated and debased, this harkens back to (and surpasses!) the Evil Dead flicks, in which there is a sense that, though horrible things are happening on screen, it’s all a show put on for your entertainment, and the shocks often draw laughs as easily as screams.
The audacity, sincerity and vision behind this film are remarkable. If you like films like this, then you should see this one. If you don’t like movies like this, you should see it anyway, because it may be the only one you will ever like, and will give you an appreciation of the genre.