A very clever meta horror comedy on the classic horror in the woods formula. This film is so unpredictable and clever you should stop reading this review, avoid the trailer, and watch the film.
Five university kids head off in an RV to go to a cabin in the woods for the weekend. Leading them is handsome football player Curt (Hemsworth) and his girlfriend Jules (Hutchison). Jules’s best fried Dana (Connolly) is nursing heartache and has been set up with another football player named Holden. Also in on the action is Marty (Kranz), a stoner philosopher. The cabin they head to is so remote it does not show up on GPS and the only person around is a sinister garage owner who issues a stark warning about the history of the place. What the five do not know is that there is more to this cabin than they could have ever imagined.
Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard certainly have the talent to overturn an entire genre. They have created or worked on some of television’s biggest hits including Lost, Alias, Buffy, Angel, Dollhouse and Firefly. In movie terms Goddard wrote Cloverfield while Whedon helped write Toy Story and derailed the Alien franchise with Alien Resurrection. Here they give a post-modern twist to the horror genre and it is so brilliantly inventive, funny, clever, and unexpected.
To talk about the film in detail is to risk exposing the plot and spoiling what surprises there are. Just know that like the Scream franchise this is a post-modern horror comedy which deconstructs characters and tropes and the horror genre which has become flooded with puerile torture porn trash and lacklustre instalments of once challenging franchises gets a slap to the face and comes up with a smile.
“I am drawing a line in the f*cking sand, do not read the Latin.”
Like a good genre movie it builds itself up in familiar ways and presents us with the character archetypes we are familiar with. Then it pulls the rug out from under us by subverting the tropes and conventions. Our five kids are not the moronic teens we are so familiar with. High school jock Curt is a sociology major whilst his team mate Holden can read Latin and even whips out a pair of glasses. Sexy Jules is no airhead, she’s a medical student while “final girl” Dana is no prude. The script is full of knowingness and genre savvy self-referencing but it never goes the way you expect it to and it morphs into something more interesting and unexpected. In terms of the general writing there are also so many lines and words that show-off Whedon’s skills whether it is a throwaway insult like “Celebutard” to the genre savvy “I am drawing a line in the f*cking sand, do not read the Latin.”
Goddard works with the script perfectly by parcelling out hints but never revealing too much, providing the goods then turning the tables by switching perspective. When you think about the order of events and the way the story develops you appreciate just how intelligent the proceedings are. What really impresses is the acting.
There are so many TV actors in here from the likes of Stargate, Supernatural, Dollhouse and the ensemble of actors inhabit their roles and deliver the dialogue with gusto and breathe new life into genre clichés. Hemsworth is a genuinely likeable screen presence as our brave jock hero, whilst Hutchison and Connolly develop a sweet and respectful relationship. Connolly is a great heroine and shows a lot of range in her performance with shyness giving way to convincing grit ruthlessness. Fran Kranz who I initially found to be irritating with his stoner act grew on me with a performance delivering the lines perfectly. Surely horror cannot go back to the dumb horny teen archetype. My other favourite performances come from Bradley Whitford (West Wing), Amy Acker, and Richard Jenkins (Let Me In) who almost steal the show with their office comedy. Whitford gets one of the best lines in a sequence that had me cracking up but it is so spoilerific… I’ll leave it for the end.
I liked this film a lot. Just when I want to give up on Hollywood it produces a film that nowhere else can and reminds me why I love movies and watching them at a cinema. The Cabin in the Woods is a love letter to a genre badly in need of change and it injects life into the genre by making it so unpredictable and intelligent! It is fun and should be seen by every serious horror and film fan.
The Cabin in the Woods
Release Date: 13th April 2012 (UK)
Running Time: 95 mins.
Director: Drew Goddard
Writer: Joss Whedon, Drew Goddard
Starring: Kristen Connolly, Fran Kranz, Chris Hemsworth, Bradley Whitford, Anna Hutchison, Richard Jenkins, Jesse Williams, Amy Acker, Brian White
SPOILERIFIC IMAGE AND LINE
“While these morons are singing “What a Friend We Have” in Shinto we are bringing the pain!”