Year: 2009 (U.K release 2012)
Director: Drew Goddard
Screenplay: Joss Whedon
Starring: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth and Anna Hutchison
Synopsis ruins it.
WARNING: I do not wish to spoil this film for anyone. There's a good chance that other films I reference within this review may say too much even if it doesn't appear to. To be honest, other reviews out there have correctly mentioned that the trailer says more than it should. Warned you have been.
Horror is a section of cinema; which as of late, has been overloaded with found footage, overdone remakes and so called torture porn. Search the right sites, and the hardcore fans still find their fix. However for a viewer such as myself whose tastes dips in and out of the genre, horror films and their ongoing trends (ANOTHER Zombie movie?) have left my interests flagging.
Delayed for two years due to squabbles over 3D and studio bankupacy, comes The Cabin in the Woods, a "loving hate letter" to the horror genre. A film which carries all the traits, tropes and otherwise on it's sleeve, ready to remix and redistribute. Yes, it's post-modern and meta (a bug bear for some). However, Drew Goddards début feature is one made by genre fans (co written by one Joss Whedon) for genre fans. Much like Scream all those years before it, the film feels like it's soaked up all it can from the likes of Sam Rami, Sean Cunningham and the like and rearranged with a fresh and topical eye.
Cabin in the Woods is a deceptive beast. It's wafer thin story could be written on a napkin but it's secrets visuals and playful design are what make the film what it is. Like Drag me to Hell or Evil Dead (the films set design owes a lot to the latter), the film evokes the same devilish desire of the to see what happens next to these poor, clearly-too-old-to-be-teens when they creep around a corner. However, for the first time in ages, we're given a slasher film in which the characters we follow not only have a certain degree of intelligence to them (mostly due to the scripts streetwise smarts towards the proceedings), but we also like them, giving what happens an extra wicked kick.
These characters are slenderly drafted yet more than appealing enough and that's the point. Cabin needs us to be somewhat invested in these characters as the film constantly plays on our knowledge what we know about characters in movies.We are give just enough to whet the appetite before the devices that are in place, tug and tease at the seems. What exactly happens I will not say exactly, however fans of Buffy should smile, as well will many fans of various horror movies that the film happily riffs on, even lesser seen one such as My Little Eye. Credit is due to the cast who infuse the film with a particular charm and remind us of the Bruce Campbells and Shemps that littered those early Raimi films. The stand outs being Fran Kranz and Richard Jenkins, who steal scenes like their going out of business. The film toys with the actors as archetypes and us as spectators and does so with a crackling energy that doesn't falter even during it's outrageous third act, which is so fun that it doesn't lose tread despite some of it's wayward aspects.
I've tried to review the film as best as I can without ruining too much but it really is best to go in as blind as possible. Cabin in the woods is a boisterous meta-slasher, which boldly plays on the idea of expectation and free will. All this while being a lovable homage to a genre that often loses it's way. It doesn't have the fear factor of the classics it mimics, but it gleefully subverts the material we think we know so much about and cheerfully gives us something new to play with. I'm sure I missed a good chunk of the movie, but that was only because I was laughing so hard.