To save you some time, I’m going to let you know that this review will be very lite in film details and completely spoiler free. I strongly believe that this film is best watched “cold” in that you know as little about it as possible. If you want to know what the film is all about, go watch it. If you want to know what I thought, read on.
The first inkling that The Cabin in The Woods was something different came from the somewhat perplexing poster which showed a wood cabin twisted & deformed like some sort of architectural Rubik’s Cube, accompanied by the line “You think you know the story“.
Truth be told, I didn’t have a bloody clue. The poster did however provide us with a few facts. It was Directed by Drew Goddard (writer of Cloverfield and 9 episodes of Lost) and written by Goddard and Joss Whedon (Director and writer of upcoming The Avengers) who also Produced. With Goddard & Whedon at the helm it went a long way to explaining why very little detail was know about this film.
A quick check online did provide some interesting history. The project began filming in March 2009 and completed on May 29, 2009. It was slated for release on February 5, 2010 and then delayed until January 14, 2011. Then on June 17, 2011 MGM announced that it would be delayed indefinitely. However, with MGM in financial difficulty and facing bankruptcy New (MGM) Executives sold the distribution rights to Lionsgate, who on July 20, 2011, announced a release date of April 13, 2012. So here we are.
A little further digging and I find out that the film stars Chris Hemsworth, Kristen Connolly, Anna Hutchinson, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins. As for the plot, well the official plot synopsis reads: “Five friends go for a break at a remote cabin in the woods, where they get more than they bargained for. Together, they must discover the truth behind The Cabin in the Woods”. Not much to go on there then.
It wasn’t until the trailer finally hit that everything became clear.
I jest of course, sure the trailer gave use some very welcome visuals of the stereotypical teenagers taking a break in a wooden cabin, in the middle of nowhere, next to a creepy lake, with those “friendly locals”. This was teen slasher territory 101. However, there was a one second shot of a flying eagle hitting some sort of “optical wall”, which just jumped out and shouted, “wait, what was that”? And of course there was that line once more.
You think you know the story. You think you know the place. Think Again.
Okay, now I was intrigued, this was a film I had to watch. So imagine my excitement when not only did I get the chance to see the film at a very early screening (almost two months before its release date) but it was to be introduced by none other then Joss Whedon. Result!
On the day of the screening I think Whedon’s peeps had forgotten to tell him that he would be expected to introduce the film. It was as if he’d been dragged out of bed, thrown in front of a small group people and told to talk for five minutes, which he did of course, whilst looking like a rabbit caught in headlights. He was funny and considering the movie he’s working on at the moment, rather humble. The Cabin in the Woods was clearly a film he felt passionately about and was pleased that finally we would be getting to share in it.
So how was the film?
I loved it. It really does give the Horror/Slasher genre a well deserved kick up the backside. Of late most horror films are simply vehicles for Writers & Directors to push the limits of gore and violence to the extreme, whilst any plot or storyline takes a lazy backseat to the effects departments best and worst.
The Cabin in the Woods is a wonderful two fingers up to those films. It takes all of those classic stereotypes and idiotic decisions we have become so accustomed, and bored of, and weaves humour and originality into them. You know the types, “Let’s split up” or “I’ll investigate the attic by myself, you wait here” the ones where you sit, groaning at the screen with disbelief that it’s happening again.
Deliberately “borrowing” from many classic horror movie scenarios The Cabin in the Woods sets out its stall in a very typical fashion with Teens in a ramshackle cabin surrounded by creepy moonlight woods. However, very early on it lightly sprinkles scene after scene that intersects the story and keeps you guessing as to the “real” direction of the movie.
The key actors are excellent in their designated roles. Chris Hemsworth plays Curt the typical college jock and leader of the group, his girlfriend Anna (Jules Louden) is the sexy blonde. Kristen Connolly plays Dana who is getting over a recent failed relationship and coupled up with Jesse Williams as Holden the brainy newcomer. Finally there is Fran Kranz who is brilliant as Marty Mikalski the paranoid stoner of the group, who, through sheer luck and a dope enduced haze seems to be the only one that might realise things aren’t quite what they should be.
It would be criminal not to mention Richard Jenkins (Steve) and Bradley Whitford (Richard) who lighten the mood perfectly just when you need it.
Goddard’s direction is solid and moves along at a good rate, you get the feeling that he’s keen to get to the meat of the movie. The film is visually polished, the art direction, design, sound and visual effects suite the genre/s beautifully, everything fits, right down to the last detail, which seems even more appreciated when you better understand where the film is going.
The writing is really where this film shines. Like a good episode of Lost it keeps you guessing throughout. Anybody that tells you they worked it out, is either lying or has seen the movie before. It’s very well devised and does make you wonder where or what these guys were doing when they came up with the story.
Although there are moments of horror, the odd scare here and there, The Cabin in the Woods is certainly written with humour and fun at the fore. Plenty of throwaway one liners and in jokes that play exactly to the tone of the movie, it isn’t self-effacing, screaming “look at me”, no it’s subtle and very clever. It keeps you guessing right up to the end and when it is ALL finally revealed, it’s well worth the wait. Pay attention as it is a visual feast of horror and fun.
One last time. You think you know the story. You think you know the place. Think Again. True, very true!
The Cabin in the Woods is released on 13 April 2012 (UK) – Cabin has a Facebook page