The Cabin in the Woods
Starring: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchinson, Fran Kranz, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford
Directed By: Drew Goddard
Horror movies are a difficult genre to discuss. What’s scary and or entertaining for some is completely lost on another person. The stuff that will scare me in a horror film isn’t necessarily the same thing that will scare another person. What makes a horror movie typically memorable though is when it takes the conventional horror we are used to and flips it on it’s head. “Scream” took the tired slasher genre and made it’s audience and characters self aware of genre rules and tropes. The “Saw” franchise took the psychological thriller aspect of horror and added a twisted torture aspect not predominately apparent in most horror. “Cabin in the Woods” attempts this same kind of genre revision with the campy horror films where teenagers party in a cabin in the woods and are killed one by one by a malevolent force.
While I probably won’t go into heavy spoilers, it’s best to see the movie as fresh as possible. (Don’t watch the trailer, don’t listen to people talk about etc. and you’ll get maximum enjoyment out of it.)
The movie begins like most horror movies you’d expect them to. A group of friends are about to head out for a weekend of debauchery, sex, and a break from school. There’s the main girl Dana (an extremely cute Kristen Connolly), who had an affair with a professor that ended badly, Jules, her best friend whose dating Curt (an unrecognizable Chris Hemsworth), a football player, and his friend Holden, whose a potential set up for Dana. There’s also Marty, the classic sarcastic stoner. All of them fit a typical horror movie trope for a slasher or cabin in the woods genre horror movie. (The main girl, the whore, the jock, the nerd, the stoner) except theres a twist in this case. The opening also showcases two men (Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford) who are working in a mysterious lab that is actually surveying and controlling every move of the five teens. This side subplot gradually unravels itself and makes it the unique, fun aspect of the film that separates it from being a run of the mill horror film and a genre reinvention.
Like when Scream made the characters self-aware of the idiotic decisions people make in horror films and yet still follow the conventional slasher format, it was a breath of fresh air into a tired genre. Cabin in the Woods attempts to do the same thing and eventually throw everything but the kitchen sink into a mishmash of horror genres and tropes into an unexpected, over-the-top love letter to horror film fans. The movie does start off shaky but is refreshing to see such typical characters be unlike their typical horror roles and eventually slide into the cliched stock characters we are used to seeing. The real fun of the film is Jenkins and Whitford’s characters who are sarcastic, juvenile and in charge of the bigger side plot and an absolute joy to watch making bets on, and commenting on the film while it is going on. It’s almost like watching The Evil Dead with commentary by writer Joss Whedon and director Drew Godard. Jenkins and Whitford are the highlight but Kristen Connolly is a serviceable scream queen and a pleasure to watch on screen and carries the film well. Hemsworth is very good as the jock, Curt and easy to see how he would eventually become a star (this film was shot in 2009) but unfortunately doesn’t get the deserved screen time but it works for the story in the long run. Fran Kranz as the stoner, Marty does fine and what he is supposed to in the role but for me became too much of a caricature of whom his character was supposed to be.
Don’t watch Cabin in the Woods expecting scares or even a typical horror movie but instead a mish-mash of genre elements from the past 30 years blended into a horror-comedy cocktail served to please the likes of most nerds and fans of the genre.