The Cabin in the Woods
Release Date: April 13, 2012
Director: Drew Goddard
Writers: Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard
Stars: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth and Anna Hutchison
MPAA Rating: R
If you are a diehard horror fan looking for the next classic slasher film, The Cabin in the Woods isn’t that movie.
But that’s not to say you won’t enjoy it. The film isn’t a traditional slasher film. It is, instead, a satire of the genre written by people who clearly have a lot of love for horror films. It is written with care and it is filled with little nods and inside jokes to other slasher films. So the more you love horror movies, the more you will get all of the little Easter eggs and jokes throughout the film.
I won’t say too much about the plot, since having the story unfold and figuring out what the film is all about is half the fun. It’s best to go in blind and find out the details as the movie goes along. All I will say is that, as the name suggests, it is a movie featuring a group of teens going to a remote cabin in the woods. These teens fit specific archetypes – the virgin, the slutty girl, the jock, the intellectual and the unpredictable stoner.
The brilliance of the film is that it takes these horror tropes and turns them on their head. The group of teens fit a profile you’ve seen in countless slasher films before. The setting of a lakeside cabin without cell phone reception or anyone else nearby is another well-worn horror movie cliche. There is even a hillbilly gas station attendant who alludes to scripture and warns the teens about going up to the cabin. All of it feels incredibly familiar. But that’s the point. The film explores why we see these cliches in films over and over again. Perhaps it is more than mere coincidence that teens are constantly finding themselves in peril at the hands of supernatural killers.
If you are a fan of Joss Whedon’s writing, particularly Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you will enjoy this film. Whedon excels at creating witty dialogue, heroic female leads and supernatural hijinks, all of which are present in The Cabin in the Woods. (The dialogue in the scenes involving Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford are particularly fun.) Being a horror film, the genre also allows Whedon to do something else he loves – killing main characters. Like in most of his work, he does it here with gusto.
It’s not a particularly scary or gory horror film, which may disappoint some diehard fans of the genre. But the film still earns its R rating with nudity and copious drug use. And while they seem tame compared to films like Saw and Hostel, there is still a few great bloody scenes.
The performances are all pretty solid. Jenkins and Whitford are by far the stars of the film, but Chris Hemsworth is good as the jock Curt and Fran Kranz steals most scenes he’s in as Marty the stoner. Kristen Connolly holds her own as Dana the virginal protagonist, but she’s not quite on the same level as other Whedon heroines like Sarah Michelle Gellar and Summer Glau.
If you are a fan of Whedon’s work or a fan of the horror genre, I recommend giving this film a try. It’s a fun take on a genre in need of something fresh and inventive. And if you go in with an open mind and without knowing too much about the plot, I think you’ll really enjoy watching the carnage unfold.
Written by Joel Murphy. If you enjoy his reviews, he also writes a weekly pop culture column called Murphy’s Law, which you can find here. You can contact Joel at firstname.lastname@example.org.