It’s always a nice thing whenever a new horror film comes along that has some semblance of freshness about it, so when it has bags of it it becomes one hell of a cinematic treat.
So is the case with The Cabin in the Woods – directed/co-written by Drew Goddard (Cloverfield) and produced/co-written by Joss Whedon – a hugely enjoyable horror that picks apart horror conventions and presents them in a modern, original form while at the same time still feeling like a horror should. And it somehow manages to poke fun at the many clichés we’ve come to associate with the genre without looking down on it.
“You think you know the story. You think you know the place. Think again.” The Cabin in the Woods sets things up as the typical horror: a group of friends, all exemplifying the stereotypes (the jock, the nerd, the slut, the stoner and the virgin), travel to a remote cabin in the middle of the woods. When the group start being attacked we soon realise there’s even more to the nasty situation than meets the eye.
This was clearly made by people who love and understand horror and the functionality therein, who know how to give an audience the necessarily thrills (and a lot more on top for good measure) without insulting their intelligence. Scream did something similar back in the 90s and while I think we’re past of the point of a post-modern horror changing the game for good as Wes Craven’s franchise did, The Cabin in the Woods will be remembered in years to come as one which successfully took aim at the genre while still respecting its integrity.
One of the fantastic things about the film is in spite of it playing within the sandbox, so to speak, that we’re used to it is never predictable. Just when you think you can guess which direction it’s going to go the film throws another surprise in your face until it gets to the point where anything can happen – how many horror films can you really say that about these days?
It’s also very funny at times. It’s not exactly a horror-comedy bur rather it injects comedic relief, mainly through Fran Kranz’s character of Marty, into a narrative that hurtles forward at a pleasingly brisk pace. Kanz’s comedy off-sets the rest of the ill-fated group nicely, which includes Chris “Thor” Hemsworth and Kristin Connolly as our would-be lead. The characters are cliched, sure, but there’s a reason for that. An example of where the film plays around with the genre while still keeping its feet planted firmly within it.
The whole thing builds towards an ending that surpasses all expectations, because even if you can work out part of it in advance there are still many more pleasant surprises to come. In what may be one of the boldest movie endings in quite some time (which could have buckled under the weight of ridiculousness if it didn’t commit to it fully), the film leaves a lasting impression as well as delivering a thrilling experience in the moment.
Through an intelligent lens The Cabin in the Woods delivers an exciting, playful and often genuinely scary experience that has the ability to keep you on yours toes without feeling like it’s throwing in twists and turns just for the sake of it. The divisive ending should provide for many a post-film discussion and will not allow you to forget this refreshing meta-horror anytime soon.