Starring: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Richard Jenkins, and Bradley Whitford
Directed by: Drew Goddard
2012 is fixing to be Joss Whedon’s year. At the time I am writing this, we are exactly a month away from the release of his long-awaited summer blockbuster The Avengers. A film that brings together a group of super heroes in the biggest way possible. How Whedon is going to pull this off is anyone’s guess. However, one must not discount it as anything other than living up to the hype and redefining the comic book film sub genre of action film. In the meantime, however, Whedon and his frequent Buffy the Vampire Slayer collaborator Drew Goddard (who also wrote Cloverfield) have redefined horror with Cabin in the Woods. A film that has all the characteristics of a horror film from my childhood. Yet, Whedon and Goddard have taken clichés and turned them on their head with this movie. It is a film that will satisfy all fans of Whedon’s past work. It is a film that will satisfy many, many fans of horror. But, in the end, I believe it will also satisfy
all fans of movies in general.
There is so much I want to say about Cabin in the Woods. I want to tell you all plot points given to prove that this is not your typical horror/comedy mash-up. However, doing so would not be fair; as there are so many twists and turns in this baby that revealing what they are would take away from the overall experience of the film. I apologize for talking it up a bit too much, but once you see the film, you will know exactly what I mean. All I will give is a basic outline of the plot brought forth before me. Five college kids go to a secluded cabin owned by one of their cousins to unwind. As well as engage in sex, booze, and other forms of college age fun. Now, before comments start flowing in that this is an Evil Dead knock-off, let me put my hand up in a stopping motion right now. It is not. In fact, Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell should be proud, because not only did that film and its execution help give this one its set-up, its sequel sets up Cabin in the Woods’ overall tone. Yet, I would say this movie, like it does with every other horror film and cliché it pays homage to, takes it one step further. We are also introduced to characters portrayed by Jenkins and Whitford, two of the most hilarious characters I have seen for quite some time. How their parallel plot comes into play with the rest of the film would be giving too much away. Lest, like everything else, it is not what it seems.
Now, as a fan of all things Whedon, I was wondering just how much this movie would feel like past universes he has created. However, people who were not fans of things such as Buffy and Angel need not worry, as with the exception of Hemsworth wearing a letterman jacket (Buffy) and the presence of actress Amy Acker (Fred from Angel), those bits of his career are left scarce, and we get a whole new universe. What is clear is that as Whedon and Goddard’s little horror film starts to unfold, so does its smartness. Sure, there is plenty of gore to keep gore hounds satisfied (check out the use of a bear trap in this film), but If you thought Scream redefined the genre, this movie takes it one step further. Whedon’s smart dialogue being sprouted off by this cast was really music to my ears, yet what really surprised me was the direction by Goddard. This was his first director gig, and he pulls it off wondrously. His set-ups and their executions really had me at the edge of my seat, and the truly hilarious situations that were brought before me had me laughing harder than I have at any horror film. Whereas I thought Scream was using its humor to almost talk down to the genre, making its scares less effective, Cabin in the Woods uses it to throw the audience off kilter, and once again use it as an enhancer of its scares.
Is Cabin in the Woods a game changer? No, not really. But, while Hugo felt like Scorcese’s love letter to old Hollywood, I felt like Cabin in the Woods was Whedon and Goddard’s love letter to horror. And, better pulled off than Scream or any other film in the genre, if I may say so. They know the horror stereotypes that we grew up with. Yet, much like Whedon took ‘the little blonde girl who gets chased in horror films’ and turned it on its head with Buffy, so he does with many more here. And, that is part of its charm. Sure, not everyone will get it. Because, they will take a look at the title Cabin in the Woods and automatically assume that this is all it’s about. But, the title is its set-up, not its setting. And, how everything comes into place really plays into what we as horror fans come to expect. In addition, there is the presence of one of the best and out there cameos in the history of horror (nope, not giving it away here). I hate overhype more than anyone. But, if Cabin in the Woods was what Whedon had up his sleeve for horror, it really makes me look forward to what he is going to soon pull off with the sad to say watered down super hero film as well.