Director: Drew Goddard
Writers: Joss Whedon, Drew Goddard
Stars: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Fran Kranz, Richard Jenkins
Release date: April 13th, 2012
Running time: 95 minutes
Best part: The clever references.
Worst part: The irritating supporting characters.
Despite its simple title, The Cabin in the Woods is far from your normal cliché ridden slasher flick, so far in fact that it questions the very genre itself. With a witty sense of humour and a strong thirst for blood and gore, this is one of the most influential horror films of the past decade.
The Cabin in the Woods sounds so simple that it must be a ruse. This trick is, of course, what five teenage friends discover during their stay in a small country shack. The inhabitants are met with various twists and turns as their sanity and loyalty will be tested to a great extent. These friends are (forcefully) based on five well known stereotypes of horror, picked off depending on their moral codes. There’s Curt ‘the jock’ (a pre-Thor Chris Hemsworth), Jules ‘the slutty dumb blond’ (Anna Hutchinson), Marty ‘the stoner’ (Fran Kranz), Holden ‘the sensitive guy’ (Jesse Williams) and, most importantly, Dana ‘the virgin’ (Kristen Connolly).
Sadly shelved for four years due to economic problems with MGM, director Drew Goddard (writer of Cloverfield) has created a visually thematic and referential ode to several great horror flicks and elements of decades past. The major secret of the film is based on a Truman Show/Death Race 2000 style discussion of the effect of modern reality TV within the public sphere. With the dialogue cleverly yet valuably speaking up about the dangers of using innocent lives as the subjects of sickening games, run by two charismatic industrial technicians Richard (an always convincing Richard Jenkins) and Steve (Bradley Whitford), both the technicians’ and victims’ points of view are assuredly established. Instead of using the Wes Craven/Kevin Williamson Scream series method of simply pointing out clichés and influences, what makes The Cabin in the Woods the most ‘meta’ horror film in Hollywood existence is that it breaks down each individual horror symbol and trope and explains their true importance in pop. culture.
If there’s one problem with this 80s style gory yet unique horror spectacle it’s that, much like the equally stylish and culturally relevant ode to pop culture Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, its straight aim at the narrow hipster/cinephile target demographic may limit the film’s cultural reach. Despite this, this subversion of horror clichés, symbols and ideologies are what makes this modern slasher flick a must see. It’s derivative yet self-aware of its influences which have shaped the very fabric of Hollywood horror. What you expect from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly creator Joss Whedon (also the writer/director of the recent blockbuster hit The Avengers) is in this deceptive and smart horror film. With a taste for satire and self-referential humour, Whedon’s writing style has once again created a stylish composition of different genre elements after his take on a revered superhero squad. Both Whedon and Edgar Wright (director of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) have proven their value of being inside the fanboy state of mind. The film and TV creations of both directors have proven repeatedly that being popular and relevant can mean cleverly speaking up about the obvious elements of pop culture itself.
“Yeah, uh, I had to dismember that guy with a trowel. What have you been up to?” (Marty (Fran Kranz), The Cabin in the Woods).
Much like Whedon’s take on superheroes, vampires and space travelling adventurers, the visual style of Joss Whedon’s vision is second to none. The cabin, designed specifically to represent a visual reference to Sam Raimi’s ground-breaking Evil Dead films, is a simple yet strange labyrinth filled with ornaments and illusions from cults and tribal rituals past. This is a stark contrast to pristine hallways and command centres looking like a cross between J.J. Abram’s Star Trek and Tony Scott’s The Taking Of Pelham 123. Let’s not forget that this film holds the creatures of both historical fables and Hollywood cinema inspiring the film’s creation. All manner of blood thirsty ghosts, ghouls and goblins from the 1930’s Universal Studio’s Classic Monsters era, to George A. Romero zombie flicks, to, most importantly, the spirits risen from The Evil Dead (pun intended) are, literally, on display. This gleefully leads up to the 3rd act bone-chilling and disgustingly nostalgic blood-bath and vital cameo from one of classic sci-fi horror’s most important faces, which no creature that goes bump in the night should ever keep you from witnessing.
Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon, bolstering their already sterling reputations, tear the horror/cabin-thriller genre to shreds. Like the movie’s final third, Goddard’s style delivers constant surprises. Deserving of major critical and commercial acclaim, the movie says what we were all thinking.