It’s widely acknowledged that films within the horror genre can be incredibly formulaic and easily slotted into one of the sub-genres of horror; be it vampire, werewolf, slasher, zombie, you get the idea. So, as I settled in to watch The Cabin in the Woods, I thought from the trailer that I knew what I was letting myself in for. However, this film far surpassed my expectations.
The Cabin in the Woods comes with the following brief synopsis:
“Five friends go to a remote cabin in the woods. Bad things happen. If you think you know this story, think again. From fan favorites Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard comes THE CABIN IN THE WOODS, a mind-blowing horror film that turns the genre inside out.”
The film starts off in typical horror style with a group of friends setting out for a weekend getaway off the beaten track but if you’ve seen the trailer, then you know that this certainly isn’t your run-of-the-mill fright flick.
Starring Kristen Connolly (The Happening), Chris Hemsworth (Thor, Snow White and The Huntsman, Star Trek), Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz (Donnie Darko, The Village) and Jesse Williams, the film conforms to the genre norm of having a hot young cast up front to do the running around, drinking, fornicating, screaming and dying horribly; while being ably supported by Richard Jenkins (Let Me In, Wolf), Bradley Whitford (Scent of a Woman, Billy Madison) and Amy Acker (Angel, Catch Me If You Can).
Oh, and there’s a lovely little cameo near the end that I defy you not to smile at!
The events revolving around the cabin are monitored, guided and controlled akin to some dark version of The Truman Show; and if that’s where things stopped, The Cabin in the Woods would be a solid horror film worthy of merit. However, there’s a far more sinister hand at work behind the scenes than merely providing murderous reality entertainment and it is the parallel plotline of the puppetmasters at work behind the scenes that really starts to set The Cabin in the Woods apart from the rest of the pack.
As always, I appreciated the practical effects involved in The Cabin in the Woods but on a critical note, there was a considerable amount of CGI. In my opinion, the CG effects were only used where necessary in all but a few scenes.
The Cabin in the Woods is the brainchild of Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon. The two have collaborated for years together on the likes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the Angel TV series; a fact which shines through here. The wise-ass humour, characters and general feel of proceedings all seems very familiar stylistically but I would suggest that this is no bad thing.
For some, horror films are now all about how grotesque the next torture scene is or how diabolical the situation the hapless protagonists find themselves in. That’s very much not the case with The Cabin in the Woods.
This film, to my mind, is a veritable love letter to the genre and there’s more than one nod to various films; the titular cabin and its set-up are a little reminiscent of The Evil Dead to name one. Additionally, I could not help but feel that the film was acting as a bit of a mirror, showing the viewer how desensitised to horror they had become by having the characters demonstrate this on-screen and on that note, I will say no more about the plot and its intricacies, for fear of robbing the movie of its true potential.
The Cabin In The Woods might just prove to be the shot in the arm that mainstream horror needs. I’ve tried hard to think of another horror movie that has been so incisive within the genre and all I can think of is Wes Craven’s Scream; taking the stereotypical cast of a teen slasher flick and throwing an entirely novel element into the mix, creating a heady brew and some strong horror entertainment indeed.
The Cabin in the Woods gets its general worldwide release on Friday the 13th of April 2012.