On the surface this may appear as your classic (i.e. cliche) horror flick – but under its creaky wooden shell is a film far smarter and funnier than you would expect.
The Cabin in the Woods (2012) is a mystery horror-thriller written and directed by Drew Goddard (with some help from Joss Whedon). It follows a group of youth during a weekend trip to the titular cabin, who get embroiled in the machinations of a mysterious underground company and steadily begin to discover that something isn’t quite right about their surroundings.
Cabin in the Woods could almost be described as an anti-horror film as much as a throwback – the premise hinges on the ideas and cliché of the slasher genre, but they are also equally twisted, upended and manipulated by the sheer writing prowess of Whedon and Goddard. Without spoiling anything, fans of classic horror (or simply meta films) will be surprised at the consistent surprises and twists Cabin throws the audiences way. It expects the audience to know these tropes and hence plays with their expectations as deftly as a masked serial killer would play with its victims.
The script however is not free of dull tropes itself. While the first and second act do a stellar job of deconstructing horror clichés, the third begins to fall on movie clichés on its own accord. Rather than leaving it as an intelligent commentary, Goddard and Whedon decide to simply jam in the blood-soaked final act of a twist thriller, and while it is certainly entertaining, the final resolution is a shadow of what act one and two promised. Its a shame, and ends a very smart film on a particularly dull note.
As the cast goes, Cabin doesn’t boast many huge names (outside of Chris Hemsworth), but still manages to deliver solid performances across the board. The main youth protagonists all play on genre stereotypes, meaning that the roles are not particularly taxing, but there’s no obvious weak link in the main cast. However, the real stars of show is absolutely the two mysterious technicians Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) and Hadley (Bradley Whitford). Their role is steadily revealed over the course of the film, but their screen presence and healthy dose of humour is apparent from frame one. Not only do they elevate Cabin in every scene they steal, they still manage to balance some serious acting moments with a sense of humour and some genius writing. It makes the movie almost a disappointment when it returns to our youthful main cast, even though the balance between the two groups is handled very well.
The Cabin in the Woods is basically a remedy for anyone sick of tired horror tropes and clichés. At the risk of sounding like a cliché myself, this is a smart, funny and entertaining film packed with clever commentary and twists. Well, in the first two acts anyway. Aside from the disappointingly standard ending, Cabin is an easy recommendation to anyone who loves horror, thrills or simply intelligent movie-making.
General Audiences: Highly Recommended
Film Buffs: Highly Recommended
Cultists: Highly Recommended