|release date||April 13 2012|
|writer||Drew Goddard, Joss Whedon|
|starring||Chris Hemsworth, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford, Kristen Connolly, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Brian White|
|tagline||You Think You Know The Story.|
|trailer 1||Trailer #1|
Lionsgate’s wonderful The Cabin in the Woods was released on Friday and looks to have wrangled in about $15 Million for the weekend. While it’s obviously not a record breaking hit, those aren’t terrible numbers either. A Cinemascore of around C indicates that about half the audience loved it and the other half hated it. Fair enough. But for those of you who loved it, I’d encourage you to spread the word to similarly minded friends and horror fans. Every time a new and original horror film is released it’s a crucial moment – the studios are watching. And they know that while horror fans often clamor for new ideas and fresh blood, they often fail to show up at the box office. This is one of the reasons we get so many remakes and sequels.
You’ve already read Mr. Disgusting’s Review and David Harley’s Review, so I figured I would write less of a formal review and more of an informal (super-spoilery) addendum on why I love the film as well. As always, we love you even more when you write your own reviews.
In this R-rated horror film now in theaters everywhere, “A group of friends at a cabin retreat scratch the surface of something so massive and horrific that they can only begin to fathom it as time quickly runs out. If you think you know this story, think again. ‘Cabin in the Woods’ is a mind-blowing horror film that turns the genre inside out.”
Head inside for my spoiler heavy remarks.
If you’ve chosen to click the link above and read my thoughts on the film I’m going to assume that you’ve seen the movie. So not only will I not be recapping the film, I’ll be spoiling the hell out of it as well.
The ideas behind The Cabin In The Woods are plenty. The miracle is how it turns those ideas into a movie.
The Cabin In The Woods isn’t a spoof, it’s not making fun of horror. It is a horror film that also wants to explain why horror films exist. It could have easily been only a commentary on the genre, but why commit itself to being a dry exercise when it could actually be the movie it’s commenting on? I think that’s where part of the genius of this film lies – not in the complicated mechanics of the plot (which are actually spelled out with remarkable simplicity) – but in the tone of the piece itself.
Cabin could have easily been all over the place tonally and it’s a miracle that it isn’t. I mean, if I broke down the film scene by scene and explained it to someone who hadn’t seen it, they would think I was insane. So many elements of the film are almost custom made to clash against each other, yet they don’t. In lesser hands it would be impossible for the opening scene to not feel like it belongs in a different movie, but it belongs here. In fact, all of the scenes in the control room, particularly the tequila celebration when Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford’s Sitterson and Hadley think they’ve got the ritual all sewn up, are potential disasters rendered miraculous. Aside from the fact that the movie is peppered with great dialogue and populated with well written characters – and even aside from its genuinely complex plot mechanics and structure – the true triumph of the film is not how far it goes into its deconstruction (and it’s a marvelous deconstruction) but how satisfied you feel by it on every level.
Let’s take the aforementioned scene at the party in the control room. There are so many elements that are just primed to go careening out of control. The betting pool, the intern, the quiet conflict between Brian White’s Truman and Amy Acker’s Lin. But it’s grounded by two elements: the semi-offscreen battle taking place and its subtext. Right there in that giant screen in the background Kristen Connolly’s Dana is being brutally beaten on the dock. Within an inch of the life she’s fighting for. And you can see it, even if most of the characters in the room are ignoring it – after all, as far as they’re concerned their work is done and it doesn’t matter if she lives or dies. But that visual remaining there never lets you forget that this character you’ve spent most of the movie caring about is in deep trouble. You’re almost anxious for the party scene to cut away fully to the dock so that you can attend to her. It’s a complete and total visual anchor.
The other grounding element of that scene – and every scene featuring Whitford and Jenkins – is the subtext. Why do they feel so relatable when they’re doing such terrible things? Doesn’t that make them terrible people? The fact is you know, hang out with and love people who do terrible things for a living in real life. Some of them are in your family. People work for cigarette companies, oil companies that pollute our planet, people build bombs designed to kill as many people as possible. This isn’t some idea I’ve just happened upon, both times I’ve spoken with Goddard he’s talked about how these people are very much informed by his experience growing up in Los Alamos, New Mexico. A town whose economy is centered around the Los Alamos National Laboratory, where some of the brightest minds in the country have dedicated their professional lives to constructing bigger and better nuclear weapons. Does that make them bad people? It’s not for me to say. In real life these questions aren’t easy to answer at all. But Goddard grew up knowing these people and I can assure you that you know people who do horrible things as well, no matter where you live. It doesn’t mean that you can’t or shouldn’t love them, it’s just the way it is. And that’s why these characters don’t feel out of place in the context of what they do or in the film itself.
It’s human nature. Which ultimately is what The Cabin In The Woods is really about. While Goddard’s specific personal experiences may have informed this, it’s not at all about those specific experiences. It’s about the big picture. The Cabin In The Woods is about our desire for blood. And our desire to punish youth. These aren’t straws I’m grasping at and I’m not pretending to have happened upon some wholly original take on the film – Goddard has more than hinted at this himself in various interviews.
We are the Gods that demand the blood of the young. The blood of the athlete, the blood of the fool, the blood of the whore, the blood of the virgin. The Director, as played by Sigourney Weaver, never explains why the Gods desire and demand these things – they just do. There have always been various theories as to why audiences enjoy seeing people killed onscreen. Some of these theories work and some of them don’t make a lick of sense. But there’s no one explanation – and the movie doesn’t pretend that there is. It just is.
It’s also worth noting that while Cabin very much uses the construct of the horror film to discuss this, the horror genre is by far the least harmful byproduct of humanity’s bloodlust. Compared to public executions, stonings, bullfights, wars and the way we use sites like TMZ to systematically exult and tear down youth culture – I’d argue it’s actually a remarkably healthy outlet, and I think the film argues that as well. It’s much less destructive than what happened in the Roman Coliseum. And with the apocalypse at the end it acknowledges that our bloodlust is so deeply ingrained that an attempt to circumvent it would probably do more harm than good. It’s just part of who we are, and if we deny that one component who’s to say that the whole construct of society won’t come tumbling down around it.
The Cabin In The Woods is both a question and an acknowledgment of a core truth. It simultaneously solves its own mystery but leaves it up to you to find the answers (however contradictory that may sound). That it’s able to say so much and leave so much unsaid is part of its genius. That it’s able to go to so many disparate places in 95 minutes and unify their tone into a complete and satisfying movie – that’s the real magic.
Lionsgate’s uber slasher The Cabin in the Woods couldn’t have been released at a worse time (for us) as we’re still working 24/7 at building out this brand new site. It’s still unclear to me how the review database is going to work, but poking around has me extremely excited. For the sake of time, we’re adding David Harley’s thoughts on Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon’s beast right here on the front page, a perfect place for you guys to chime in and then move to write your own reviews. Personally, I too was a fan, so whose review do you agree with more?
In the R-rated horror flick now in theaters everywhere, “A group of friends at a cabin retreat scratch the surface of something so massive and horrific that they can only begin to fathom it as time quickly runs out. If you think you know this story, think again. ‘Cabin in the Woods’ is a mind-blowing horror film that turns the genre inside out.”
Read David Harley’s review below!
The biggest question surrounding The Cabin in the Woods* has nothing to do with the numerous surprises or unique framework, but rather why nobody picked it up to get it out of MGM bankruptcy hell sooner – the post-conversion nonsense certainly didn’t help much either (neither did all the legal tape associated with it, but I digress), and thank God they didn’t go down that road. The film plays out as an assimilation and exploration of horror tropes, seen from one perspective and lived out by another, that culminates into the most batshit insane third act since Dead Alive‘s lawnmower and rooftop brawl combo. It’s almost as if geek favorite Joss Whedon and wunderkind writer Drew Goddard cracked open their heads and let all their horror memories flow out, and then scrambled them up into this really weird, engrossing meta approach. Cabin in the Woods might not change your life and time will tell if it serves as a template for where the genre heads next, but one thing it’s definitely not is unoriginal.
Although the marketing is touting a “huge secret,” the truth is that the film doesn’t blindfold the audience and pull the rug out from under them in the eleventh hour. From the very first frame of the credit sequence, Goddard and Whedon begin laying the groundwork for dual perspectives, which sees a group of clichéd teen archetypes (Chris Hemsworth and Kristen Connolly among them) heading off to a relative’s cabin in the middle of nowhere and two white collar workers (Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford) in an office of sorts at the complete opposite end of the spectrum. The connection between the two is unclear at first, but becomes apparent when the kids arrive at the lodging for their weekend getaway.
The two point of views, which is undoubtedly the biggest reason why Cabin works, also acts as a double edged sword in the sense that one of them is significantly more interesting than the other. The group of friends, while not annoying, too smug, completely unfunny or any other negative adjective, seem like they’re there, at times, to merely serve their purpose in the structure of the movie. The inner workings of the film makes it a necessary evil for them to act cliché as the purveyors of their waking nightmare, comment on and play with those conventions, but aside for the screen presence of Hemsworth and Dollhouse alumni Fran Kranz (a stoner that isn’t completely obnoxious!) and one scene that drags on for big laughs, there’s nothing extremely captivating about their survival. The real meat and potatoes of the script – and the best lines – lie elsewhere.
Once Cabin enters the third act, the more predictable and familiar bits suddenly become a safety net of sorts in hindsight, a false sense of security, as the remainder of the film ventures off into what can only be described as a set piece that makes it extremely hard not to imagine Ballroom Blitz playing over. While frenzied and unexpected, Goddard and Whedon keep it from teetering over the edge into being pure overload; it’s certainly over the top, but not too much to take in.
Cabin in the Woods is fun and has some strange, unpredictable moments, but it’s more clever than flat-out brilliant. Goddard and Whedon really complement each other and make the material approachable and enjoyable for those lacking extensive genre knowledge, a feat considering all the nods it contains – especially to one of the greatest authors of all time. The protagonists aren’t interesting ninety percent of the time and left me waiting for Jenkins and Whitford to continue their shtick, but it’s great to see a team willing to go that far out on a limb, be that weird, and succeed more often than not over the span of one narrative.
*I really hate putting “the” in front of the title, it sounds better without it
These are the days we remember why we love Lionsgate. After collecting years of dust (due to MGM’s financial collapse), the mini-major is taking a pretty hefty risk with The Cabin in the Woods, Cloverfield writer Drew Goddard’s directorial debut. It only adds to the flavor that Joss Whedon (of “Buffy” fame) co-wrote the screenplay for the high-concept slasher that stars the newly minted Chris Hemsworth (Thor). The most difficult aspect of Cabin is how to sell the movie without giving anything away, I’m about to experience the same dilemma in writing this review…
While there is a pretty heavy turn of events, one of the film’s twists (if you can even call it that) is revealed in the opening scene. Cabin begins in an office atmosphere with co-workers Steve Hadley (Richard Jenkins) and Richard Sitterson (Bradley Whitford) comically riffing on a project they’re working on. It’s the mysterious setup that’ll engage the viewer until the big reveal. Simultaneously, the audience is introduced to the stereotypical “teens” that are about to embark on a journey to check out a cabin in the woods, recently acquired by one of their uncles. The two stories eventually collide into a bloodbath of epic proportions.
The strength of Cabin comes in the playful nature of the screenplay. Goddard and Whedon play everything tongue and cheek in a completely meta atmosphere. The two take loving jabs at the genre, making fun of the array of clichés horror fans are used to seeing, all without it coming off like a Scary Movie sequel. But the true magic happens in the full delivery of the promised “slasher movie to end all slasher movies.” It’s hard to elaborate without giving anything away, but it should be known that Cabin in the Woods will become an instant classic among genre fans. It’s immediate. To say it’s the Scream of the new decade is sort of a misnomer – seeing that people outside of horror may not “get the joke” – but for those on the inside, expect a heartfelt and blood-soaked homage to all of the films we’ve grown up watching.
Ultimately, Cabin is an extremely fun movie that’s beyond satisfying, especially for those expecting some sort of bloodbath. And even though there’s a pretty heavy amount of CGI, there’s an equal amount of unbelievable practical effects. Tonally, it all makes sense when you see it.
While Cabin in the Woods is a tough sell to the general public, we as horror fans can only pray it finds its footing. It’s one of those “gateway” movies that’ll open the world of horror to an entire new generation of film buffs. There’s something special about this slasher that hasn’t been felt since Warner Bros. released Trick ‘r Treat all those years back (and unlike Michael Dougherty‘s anthology, Cabin is blessed to have found a loving home.) While I wouldn’t go as far as to call it a masterpiece, it’s definitely the kind of project that will leave its mark, especially on younger viewers. And with Jason Voorhees nowhere to be seen (again), it’s the perfect movie to check out on Friday the 13th…