The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

by Steve Habrat

To say that you have no idea what you are in for in The Cabin in the Woods is a complete understatement. You can’t even fathom the twist that is waiting to be sprung on you half way through this monster of a horror movie. That, my friends, is something you need to be excited about. I’ve said it multiple times, horror has hit rock bottom, from countless remakes, sequels, and retreads, leaving us only a handful of notable films to celebrate. It is truly hard to believe that there is such a shocking lack of vision and creativity working in Hollywood. I can’t believe they are paid millions to repackage and resell recycled garbage that we have already seen before and much better at that. The Cabin in the Woods lays waste to that approach; at first giving us the same weary old setup and then suddenly launching a shock and awe campaign that you will be truly unprepared for. It’s the first real crowd pleaser horror movie to come around in a long time, one that demands you see it in a packed house with tons of other unsuspecting viewers. You will be in for one wild night at the movies.

The Cabin in the Woods follows five college students, virgin Dana (Played by Kristen Connolly), slutty Jules (Played by Anna Hutchison), athletic Curt (Played by Chris Hemsworth), polite Holden (Played by Jesse Williams), and stoner Marty (Played by Fran Kranz), who head to an isolated cabin in the woods for a weekend of debauchery. After exploring the eerie basement, the group finds a worn out diary that they proceed to read from, conjuring up a bloodthirsty force in the woods that slowly descends upon the cabin. Meanwhile, a strange organization watches the kids from hidden cameras placed strategically around the cabin. It turns out that this organization has an agenda all their own and they are hiding a horrifying secret that threatens the world.

Considered a “loving hate letter” to horror by its director Drew Goddard and producer Joss Whedon, The Cabin in the Woods adoringly tips its hat to the classics every chance it gets. Keep an eye out for a hilarious nod to Evil Dead II, a siege on the cabin that is evocative of Night of the Living Dead, and a sequence that would have felt right at home in the calmer moments of the original Friday the 13th. It also helps that the early premise is loosely based on the original 1981 The Evil Dead.  When the twist is revealed, The Cabin in the Woods evolves into a new breed of horror movie that embraces every single subgenre you can possibly think of. I hesitate to say anymore about it other than it does go for broke and it comes up a winner because of it. Fans of the genre will be left beside themselves and at times it was almost overload, so much to take in that you will be flirting with heading back to the theater to experience it again. It’s absolutely exhilarating.

The Cabin in the Woods does have a talented cast behind the wheel, not a weak link in the bunch and then springing a surprise guest on us in the final moments. I loved Chris Hemsworth as the jock Curt, the overly confident hero who uses his strength in some of the most hysterical ways possible. Wait for the scene where he comes face to face with a zombie girl. Fran Kranz also shines as the squinty-eyed stoner Marty who begins to suspect there is more going on than meets the eye. And then we have Richard Jenkins as Steve Hadley and Bradley Whitford as Richard Sitterson, who are members of the mysterious organization who steal every scene they are in. A good majority of the laughs come from their end, especially in a gambling sequence and in their deadpan observations while they watch the kids.

My one minor complaint with The Cabin in the Woods is that I wished it had been scarier than it turned out to be. Sure, it is loaded with jump scares that will have the easy targets filling the jeans, but I wish it had really freaked me out. The audience I saw the film with had a ball with the fake out scares, gasping every time that music blasted over the speakers. I did enjoy the campy melody that The Cabin in the Woods carries, right down to the self-aware chucklers like “We should split up!” In fact, the film is often times more of a comedy than it is a horror movie, but I think that is precisely the point of The Cabin in the Woods. Nothing really scares us anymore, never sending us home from the theater with a handful of sleepless nights. The Cabin in the Woods points out that horror isn’t just failing in America, but is crumbling all over the world, and simply not doing the job that it is responsible for.

The Cabin in the Woods turns out to be a blood soaked, anything goes party that takes absolutely no prisoners. It opts to wipe all the prisoners it could take off the map and then firebomb the map. As an evaluation of the sorry state of horror, it is spot on and leaves you itching to see more horror films like it. In a way it gives horror fans hope, that there is still some individuals out there in the industry who posses creativity and will take a few risks. It baffles me why the film has been shelved for so long and why the studio was so iffy about it. Well written, directed, acted, and featuring the mother of all horror movie finales, The Cabin in the Woods is an adrenaline shot jabbed right into the feeble heart of the horror genre.

Grade: A

Posted on April 10, 2012, in REViEW and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I wanted to write a review for it but was afraid to say anything at all about it lest I spoil it in some way. Needless to say, I loved the bejeezus out of it. I love the implication that modern horror is literally a paint-by-numbers affair. “Ok, so these students- with their five archetypes- all do ______ and it causes ________ (this kind of monster) to be unleashed on them. Just choose the monster out of our holding cell of monsters”.

    My only teeny tiny gripe was the ending. It was brilliant when it was holding onto a little bit of subtlety. Then Sigourney Weaver shows up and spells everything out to the letter. I didn’t want or need that. Only a minor gripe, though.

    I also bet a lot of money this movie is going to be loved by critics (it already is) and hated by the average movie-going public. It’s got so much buzz around it and the critics love it, so it’s going to attract non-horror fans… who of course won’t get it, and will crap on it. And even the average horror fan, to be blunt, might not get it.

    • It’s funny you say that it will be loved by critics but loathed by the mainstream public. I was playing around with the Fandango app on my phone the other day and I noticed that this movie was labeled “I’ll Pass” but ‘The Three Stooges’ was labeled with “Go”. It’s things like that that convince me the world is going to end in December. How could you want to see ‘The Three Stooges’ over this movie?!

      The only thing I thought was kind of lame the final shot of the movie. I won’t reveal it but I’m sure you know what I’m talking about, John. It seemed a little bit goofy, like they had some money left over and just threw it in for the hell of it.

  2. I’m really surprised by the warm reception this is getting from … the planet? It was funnier than it was scary and that’s not what I signed up for. SPOILER ALERT! Death by mer-man was hilarious (unless it was a hat tip to “House of 1000 Corpses”) as were most of the scenes with Richard Jenkins and the guy from the “West Wing.” There were so many laughs that it was about one click away from “Shawn of the Dead”/”Tucker and Dale” (both infinitely better) territory. It even felt more SCI-FI than horror. (In fact, Dr. Who would have been quite at home with the basic premise.) Everyone keeps talking about how it breaks new ground for horror and then talks about how referential it is. Huh? There’s a fine line between a writer or director paying homage and ripping off. Every time I thought, “oh look! “Hellraiser!” oh look! “The Strangers!” or oh look! “IT!” — it takes me out of the movie and seems self-congratulatory on the part of the filmmakers. There have been plenty of new(ish) non-remake horror movies coming out — they just never get wide releases. (The Innkeepers, Grave Encounters, Atrocious, Let the Right One In, The Orphanage, Yellowbrick Road, Burning Bright, Lake Mungo, Poughkeepsie Tapes) Matters were made worse by the fact that the trailers blew the premise for me. I hadn’t read any spoilery reviews but still didn’t find myself too surprised by anything. One great show-stopping bloodbath scene does not a good movie make. I’m not being contrary; I was just really looking forward to it and was really disappointed by the first two-thirds.And can we put a moratorium on zombies and scary little girls in movies for at least a decade? Even though I didn’t hate it, I think i’m agreeing to disagree with you on this one, Steve. But different strokes for different folks. Like “Drive” — it’s one of those movies that leaves me wondering if everyone else saw the same movie I did.

    • I really thought you’d dig this one, Will. I’m really surprised that you weren’t too keen on it. Personally, I loved it and thought the ending was just a blood soaked romp. Like you, I didn’t find it scary and thought it relied too heavily on the jump spooks but I thought it was fun. It was like the new ‘Scream’ and you know I wasn’t thrilled by ‘Scream 4’. I really enjoyed the-everything-and-the-Manson-Family finale and I thought it worked quite well. I really didn’t like the final frame of the movie, with the giant demonic hands coming out of the ground. That was really stupid but other than that, I thought Whedon and Goddard made a heady evaluation of the current state of crappy horror. And I really liked all the references (I know, you want to kill me but I’m a sucker for that. I even liked the ‘Evil Dead II’ nod and I’m not big on that movie).

      I’m seeing ‘The Innkeepers’ tomorrow and I’m super psyched about it. I really liked ‘The Orphanage’ and “Let The Right One In’ but I wasn’t big on ‘Grave Encounters’. You know how I am with those ‘Paranormal Activity’ type horror movies. I just can’t get into them. I added ‘Lake Mungo’ to my Netflix queue but have yet to watch it. I loved last year’s ‘Insidious’ but I know my sister hated it. I guess I haven’t had much faith in the genre as of late and ‘The Cabin in the Woods’ was a godsend.

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