Stop! If you have not seen The Cabin in the Woods and you are about to read this review; don’t. Go see the movie, immediately if possible, and come back here so we can go over the film both knowingly aware of the greatness that this film is.
I am someone who isn’t particularly fond of horror films, my knowledge of them isn’t terribly deep, and I think the genre as a whole is mostly full of a lot of crappy movies. The Cabin in the Woods is not a crappy movie. The creative forces behind the film, producer Joss Whedon and director Drew Goddard, co-wrote the film and they seem to be speaking to me directly with the voice behind this film. The film is being called a deconstruction of the genre, but I think it might eviscerate it along the way. It isn’t the first film to successfully play with the genre, Shaun of the Dead and Tucker and Dale pop to mind, but Cabin goes further than both of those films try to go.
Cabin embraces the utter silliness of the genre, while relishing in the imagination it can sometimes show. The film is surprisingly epic and is structured around an idea that allows Whedon and Goddard the ability to endlessly play and never be hampered by the genre’s clichés and short comings. The film openly plays, twists, and subverts the things that hold the genre back, busting out and becoming a powerful beast on the other end. The film effortlessly builds tension, makes you laugh, surprises at every turn, and feels incredibly original even as it runs through every trope in the genre.
What stinks about the movie is, well nothing really with the film itself, that you can’t talk about things until both parties have seen it. The film’s ideas and developments are really that precious and should be avoided at all costs, but I can’t wait till people actually see this so I can discuss it openly and we can revel in its awesomeness. As the film goes on things go as you might expect, but it never tries to act like it is making any crazy revelations. When the film does take a turn though, it will have you on the edge of your seat and deliver some of the most fun you will have in the theater. At one point the film introduces a possibility that had me thinking, “If they [blank] this is going to be fucking amazing,” and they do it in a way that still caught me off guard. I don’t know the last time I saw a third act kill it and take a film to another level like this did. The film is a joy and an absolute blast and I really hope that it excels beyond the simple cult cannon which this already has a firm lock on.
The characters aren’t stereotypes in the slightest at the start, but are turned into them for the sake of entertainment. It’s a knowing wink at how stupid we make characters in this genre and how no one in their right mind, literally, would act this way. The blonde isn’t really a blonde, the jock is a sociology major, the virgin is close enough, the brainy guy is the best athlete, and the stoner guy is actually quite smart/philosophical (even if it is half baked). They are only made to be stereotypes by the control and even that is too weak to work its magic sometimes; a brilliant play against tropes if you ask me and another reason this movie works so damn well.
Technically the film is shockingly competent, featuring great effects, affective camera work, and solid performances from everyone involved. Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford are perfect, Chris Hemsworth continues to show that he is a charismatic star (yes I know he did this before Thor), and all the newcomers know exactly how to play to their parts. The characters become stereotypes, but the film is skillfully able to work around that and gives enough depth to make mostly everyone compelling and interesting, people we can root for. Kristen Connolly nails the lead role and I was pleasantly surprised in her performance having never seen her in anything else. Fran Kranz might steal the show though and will clearly be a fan favorite after more people see the film. Anna Hutchison is about pitch perfect as well getting to play the sex side of things and she doesn’t miss a beat. Jesse Williams’ character was the film’s only weak point, but it was not really do to his performance; the character is the one element underwritten in the whole film.
In the end, it’s the big ideas, inventive storytelling, and genre jumping ease that makes The Cabin in the Woods so great. It is the best film released so far this year, by a long shot, and I can only imagine this film’s enjoyment grows on multiple viewings. Scary, hilarious, original, and above all else fun, the film has almost no shortcomings. It inspires creativity inside the viewer, a feat that few films can do. The creative force behind the film has me eagerly anticipating their future efforts; Goddard is a talent to watch and I am sure after people get to see this we will see him back in the director’s chair in no time and as for Whedon, you only have to wait a couple more weeks for The Avengers; too bad I don’t think that could top this.
The Cabin in the Woods is an A+