The Cabin in the Woods
“The Cabin in the Woods” is the kind of movie that I would love to discuss in detail, but can’t because it would rob the picture of it’s element of surprise. Many of my favorite movie-going experiences are ones where I went in not knowing much about the film and was able to enjoy everything unfold as it happened onscreen, and “The Cabin in the Woods” is one of those great experiences.
I’ll give a very basic plot so as to not ruin the central conceit. Five college students go off for a weekend of partying and fun at a cabin…in the woods. That sounds a lot like “Evil Dead” or any other generic 80s horror movie right? Well, there is much, much more to the plot than that, but I won’t divulge too many details. Crazy monsters are terrorizing the college students, but it’s not as simple as that.
What I liked most about these characters is both their easy likability and how they don’t easily fall into the clichéd stereotypes. The innocent “virgin” isn’t much of a virgin, the arrogant jock is actually friendly and smart, the token stoner idiot is more knowledgeable than he seems, etc. As the plot starts kicking into high gear, the idea of always using stereotypical characters in horror movies gets turned on its head. Ultimately, “The Cabin in the Woods” reveals itself to transcend horror boundaries and becomes a reinvention/rejuvenation of the genre much like “Scream” was in the 90s. It is simultaneously a love letter to horror and a criticism of the tired tropes that get repeated dozens of times in the genre. The final scene of the film, where one character is forced to kill another to survive, could almost be seen as a middle finger to the “torture” subgenre that has sprung up recently with “Saw” and “Hostel.”
Since “Cabin” is very much a horror comedy and not a straight ahead scare fest, there are some very funny moments that poke fun at conventions of horror movies. There is one about audiences wanting to see cheap nudity and gratuitous violence in horror movies that had be doubling over, and another where one character questions the idea of splitting up was great too. For it’s first hour, the movie chugs along at a speedy pace successfully chugging out jokes, some decent scares, and surprises along the way, but I kept asking myself where it was going and if there was more to the story than what was revealed. Perhaps this was intentional on director Drew Goddard and writer Joss Whedon’s (who is handling “The Avengers”) part because around that time the final half hour goes completely bonkers in a good way. My friend who I saw the movie with said it could be interpreted as “the ultimate horror movie,” and in that last climax where everything but the kitchen sink is thrown in it just about earns that title.
While I did compare “The Cabin in the Woods” to “Scream” not too long ago, the two could not be more different. “Cabin” takes it’s meta aspects much further than “Scream” did by not only referencing the clichés of horror movies, but also dissecting them and integrating into the plot why they work the way they do. That is not to say that the movie is an intellectual exercise. On the contrary, it’s a smartly conceived thrill ride in the vein of “Inception” where the cleverness never threatens to overcome the sheer entertainment value. Don’t let anyone spoil it for you, and go see this genuinely original movie.