It’s not often that a movie comes along and redefines a genre, but that’s exactly what The Cabin in the Woods has done. And its done so with a level of cleverness, care and originality that’s almost never seen in horror.
I’d hate to be a director or writer trying to get a standard “Tweens Gone Camping” horror flick funded or seen by any size-able audience going forward. That genre is now dead. Much like Scream essentially murked the standard Slasher genre as we knew it, Cabin has made every film, in its slice of the horror pie, that came before it superfluous and badly defeated. And that is a great! How many of us die-hard horror fans (and casual fans alike) can literally regurgitate the entire plot of this heavily overused and incredibly tired sub-genre?
Let’s see. A group of walking stereotypes head out for a trip “off the grid” where there is conveniently “no cell service.” There’s always a hot blonde, a reserved yet cute virgin-esque girl (Kristen Connolly) who is destined for greatness, a comic relief stoner (Fran Kanz), a jock who bangs the blonde and a nerd who is vital to plot exposition. Oh, don’t forget the creepy gas station harbinger (or Jud Crandall) who always tries unsuccessfully to dissuade the doomed group. What else? Once the arrive the moronic group discover books with mysterious Latin (and promptly read it aloud), explore basements or attics, play around with mysterious objects and sometimes stumble upon horrifying newspaper clippings. From there something is awakened and they all die, save the good virgin girl and maybe the guy she’s into if the screenwriter was feeling generous.
Well, guess what? Cabin has all of those things too. In fact, every convention is represented and then some. Over the first act of the film they play out exactly like everything else you’ve ever seen. Minus one little (okay MASSIVE) point. Right from the start we know this group of hormones heading for a weekend of drugs, sex and death are being setup by a mysterious group of people in what appears to be some sort of secret lab. The two company men (Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford) in charge of this lab are knee-slapping rib-ticklers. Like laugh-out-loud-spit-up-your-drink-Eddie-Murphy-Raw-hilarious. On top of that, it’s captivating as all get out to see the lab juxtaposed (the film cuts back and forth) with the teens as the mystery unfolds.
The brilliance doesn’t stop there. The characters, play both for and against their clichés. The Jock (Chris Hemsworth) isn’t all meathead and the Blonde (Anna Hutchinson) isn’t only a warm place for a penis to be inside of. Every character is written incredibly well with charm, realness and often hilarity. Writer / first time Director Drew Goddard (Cloverfield, Lost) and writer Joss Whedon (Every Nerd Thing Ever) have created some of the most likable characters in recent horror memory. Nothing like the typical asshats that we fans have become accustomed to rooting against.
Cabin is mostly a black comedy first, horror flick second (Think a little like Evil Dead II – and you will due to the sheer number of homages). Don’t expect a ton of jolts or tension ratcheted up so high that you are white-knuckling your seat, but do expect a ton of intelligent and thought-provoking fun. Of course, this wouldn’t be much of a horror review if I didn’t comment on the amount of blood spatter. Legions of Gorehounds crave the gruesome, and while they won’t be let down, this isn’t Hatchet or “Insert your favorite gory flick here.” But you’ll be happy to know that all told some 20,000 gallons of blood are loosed on screen.
Bottom line: This is the horror comedy made for lovers of horror genre and it is absolutely genius. The Cabin in the Woods is the must see horror movie of the year.
Snore Factor: Z (One of the Best)
Don’t watch the trailer until you see the movie. Trust me, it’s better that way.