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