The Cabin in the Woods is an exceptionally hard motion picture to review. Audaciously unique, it’s highly recommended that you seek to watch this movie at the earliest opportunity…but I can’t tell you the exact reasons why. When you watch Cabin, you should be completely oblivious and without any idea about what to expect. This review will be very light on spoilers, but I recommend you watch the movie before reading the rest of what I have to say. Trust me, you need to get The Cabin in the Woods in front of your eyes as quickly as humanly possible. The directorial debut for Drew Goddard (Cloverfield scribe) who penned the screenplay with Joss Whedon, this is a smart film which reinvigorates stale slasher archetypes whilst always remaining engaging and amusing.
At the beginning of the film, five college pals – sensitive intellectual Holden (Williams), virginal good girl Dana (Connolly), stoner Marty (Kranz), jock Curt (Hemsworth) and Curt’s promiscuous girlfriend Jules (Hutchison) – set out for a weekend getaway to an isolated cabin in the middle of nowhere. Suffice it to say, they find various unnerving eccentricities upon arriving at the cabin, and their alcohol-drenched, drug-laden activities are soon interrupted when deadly forces become unleashed.
The Cabin in the Woods uses a mind-blowingly original idea as the set-up for a commentary to highlight that horror movies aren’t often original or imaginative. It starts out in the most hackneyed way imaginable, ticking off all the eye-rolling slasher clichés in the book as a bunch of attractive college students with stereotypical personalities converge for a weekend getaway at some secluded cabin. On the way to their destination, they encounter such clichés as a hostile local and dilapidated roads, and, as the group start having fun at the cabin, they find themselves under siege by some malevolent force. Admittedly, Cabin is a little slow to start during this period, but intrigue levels often remain high and the film soon picks up steam. When the full scope of what’s actually happening – and what could potentially be happening – is revealed, The Cabin in the Woods completely cuts loose and goes bonkers, leading to one of the most creative, delirious and jaw-dropping final acts in motion picture history.
It’s fascinating to see Cabin unfold before your eyes, as Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard’s spot-on script introduces fresh ideas into the slasher genre whilst simultaneously adhering to the standard formula. (You have to see the film to understand how this is achieved.) This is not a smug satire of horrors like Scream; instead of an air of superiority, Whedon and Goddard aimed for a euphoric sense of invention. Through this, the script demonstrates that hackneyed clichés can still be effective if they are applied in an original fashion. On top of the creative storytelling, the script is smothered in witty dialogue and features surprisingly complex characters. As with any Whedon screenplay, chief among the film’s pleasures is its healthy sense of humour.
Luckily, Goddard’s filmmaking is every bit as sure-footed as the writing, resulting in a technically competent motion picture with attractive production values. Furthermore, the cast is sublime from top to bottom. Chris Hemsworth, who looks awkwardly younger here than he did in The Avengers, actually filmed his role of Curt back in 2009, long before he was known as Thor. Newfound fans of Chris should bear in mind that he is part of an ensemble here, and is by no means the central character. Fortunately, his performance is great; Hemsworth makes for a good jock. But the standout, easily, is Fran Kranz as the token stoner character. The little-known Kranz – who said he couldn’t stop smiling for days after reading the script for Cabin – is terrific with one-liners, and he inhabited his role of Marty to great effect. (At one point in the movie, Marty’s character radically changes, and Kranz effortlessly sells it.) Meanwhile, Kristen Connolly espouses tremendous charisma as Dana, and Jesse Williams did a solid job as Holden. Also in the cast is the perpetually-reliable Richard Jenkins, who absolutely hit this performance out of the park. I can’t tell you exactly who he plays, but rest assured that Jenkins took the role and ran with it.
Production for The Cabin in the Woods wrapped in 2009, and the film was completed by the year’s end. But delays ensued, as the film was targeted for an ill-advised 3-D conversion that never came to pass (thankfully), and the studio, MGM, did not have the money to fund a marketing campaign or proper distribution. Thus, it sat on the shelf for years, leading to speculation that it was a total dud. Thank God Lionsgate were able to buy the rights from MGM and distribute the picture, as The Cabin in the Woods is anything but a dud. Goddard and Whedon’s movie is a fucking triumph – an endlessly enjoyable and dazzlingly daring motion picture experience unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. If you like horror movies or movies in general, or, fuck, if you just like having fun, take a chance and watch The Cabin in the Woods. You will thank me.