Movie Review: Cabin in the Woods
Even billed as a horror movie that is not what you think, Cabin in the Woods is still not what you think. From a bizarrely hysterical and esoteric opening to a sudden title sequence that harkens back to campy scary movies, Drew Goddard’s wonderfully satisfying genre-bending story is filled with reverence for and subversions of bloody and gratuitous horror films.
It is a project driven thoroughly by the mind of Goddard and partner Joss Whedon, both of whom have earned much deserved regard for their creative story-telling (See Lost, Buffy, Firefly, Dollhouse, et alia). The stubbornness of both men forced this film to linger for a while, creating a piece that is more about making movies and having fun than some would prefer, or even understand.
(The only clue to give away the fact the movie has been waiting to be released for some time is seen in what writers do with Chris Hemsworth, who, since the movie was made, has become the mighty Thor).
The plot, they would like you to believe, centers around five friends heading to a cabin for the weekend, which, you’ve guessed it, is off the grid. They are all attractive, of course, and curious, and naturally not wise enough to heed the warnings of a grotesque gas station attendant. But kids never do really, right?
That would be a case of purposefully exaggerating the stereotype. Yet, the characters are simultaneously subversive to their caricatures. There is the jock (Hemsworth), but he isn’t dumb, crude, or in need of asserting his masculinity, though he does have a sexy blond girlfriend (Anna Hutchison). There is the pothead (Fran Kranz), but he possesses cunning and a bit of practicality. And a potential romance between two characters (Kristin Connelly, Jesse Williams) features neither the scared, insecure female, nor the pompous, sex-driven male.
The film proceeds in a similar manner, erecting and embracing past horror movie tropes while simultaneously undermining and sabotaging them, thus resulting in a film that is neither a grisly psychological drama nor a horror spoof. It doesn’t fall in place between different versions of horror films because it doesn’t exist on the same plane as any other; it is itself it’s one genre, or perhaps companion piece to scary movie literature.
Night falls and the five friends do something they shouldn’t have, summoning something that wants them dead, and forcing them to fight off forces that may or may not be within their control.
While the quintet of college kids may not be fully in command, Goddard certainly is, with every line and image in the film put there with pride and purpose. Much of it too, is worth a second viewing.
One side note and this is not a spoiler: Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins should have their own weekly sitcom, and this will very evident within the first two minutes of the movie. The two brilliant actors have the perfect comedic timing in a movie that is in fact quite hilarious.
It is subtle, however—the humour, the subversion, the homage, and while it is there to catch, it will be missed by some still. But as Whitford and Jenkins ride along in a golf cart in the opening of the movie, please do hop aboard, trust them, and let them take you on one strange and silly ride.