(Published in Issue 9 of my publication In Retrospect)
Premiered at the South by Southwest film festival last month, The Cabin In The Woods is an American horror directed and co-written by Drew Goddard with co-writer Joss Whedon. Following five friends – Dana (Kristen Connolly), Curt (Chris Hemsworth), Jules (Anna Hutchison), Marty (Fran Kranz), and Holden (Jesse Williams) – who go for a break to a remote cabin in the woods, where they soon realise that not everything isn’t quite right and together must discover the truth behind the cabin in the woods. Whilst my review will sound pretty similar to the many others you have probably already read, I will be criticising why these techniques do not work rather than shouting its praises – please don’t hate me.
The Cabin In The Woods isn’t your typical comedy-horror film. The great thing about this film is that it deconstructs the typical horror movie clichés that we are used to and turns the genre on its head by mocking traditional conventions. So we know the story – a group of young friends each with their own well-worn archetypes go on a ‘break’ from university to find themselves the target of some haunting situation that means inevitable death for most if not all of them – but here, the strange and creepy ongoings that the cabin-goers experience aren’t as straightforward as you would at first believe.
Focusing on the American horror clichés that we usually hate about over-the-top teenage horrors, The Cabin In The Woods, takes these scenes and contrasts them with a surprising subplot which gives the film its unique twist, making it all the more fun.
Is it a new concept to use genre tropes and turn them on their head? Not particularly, but Goddard takes these typical and over-played-out scenes to do something different with them. There’s no shouting “Don’t go down there, you’ll get eaten”, rather a “Yes, you keep heading towards your inevitable death because we all want to see you how you will die.”
It’s obvious what’s going on early on so the bigger twist doesn’t come as a complete surprise, but the way the two stories play out alongside each other is done brilliantly, and it is the revelation of how they come together that you will want to stick around for.
Another thing that can be applauded in The Cabin In The Woods is the cast of decent actors (for a change) who perform solidly throughout and are what make this such a fun experience to be a part of. As the directorial debut for the author of Cloverfield, as well, Goddard handles the genres perfectly and give the cast a decent script to work with. I thought having The Avengers’ Chris Hemsworth would be enough, but it is actually Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) and Hadley (Bradley Whitford) who provide the most entertainment.
Again, it’s all about the end of this film that will take your appreciation from liking this film to loving it. These last twenty minutes are a great piece of cinema and really reflected Goddard’s previous work with Whedon on both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel as a writer.
Overall, The Cabin In The Woods is a clever take on the horror genre with a lot to enjoy and enough monsters to keep all horror fans happy.