Movie Review: The Cabin in the Woods

What is it about Joss Whedon’s sarcastic dialogue that makes a girl melt? Whedon can put an astute line in a tense situation and manage to keep up the mood without devouring it. He and Drew Goddard bring wit into a genre that consistently demonstrates very little. The dialogue is easily recognizable. “You know what, I don’t even think Curt has a cousin.” That’s such a Buffy line. This is a stylish and inventive horror film that tips its hat to horror fans. In the last few years I have become jaded in terms of what to watch. I had almost given up hope for a fresh and original mainstream horror film to make it into theaters and manage to keep me entertained all the way through. It’s impossible not to spoil the film. I should go ahead and warn you of spoilers because I am confused on what is constituted as a spoiler in this case. Don’t let the title fool you. Whedon calls the film a “very loving hate letter” to the genre. If you’re not a horror movie lover then you might not “get it.” This is not a spoof. CITW offers a reason for why all of these films use the same formula every single time. There are so many noticeable references to other horror films thrown at us, I doubt non-horror fans will be able to catch on to this.

By now we all know the rules. Don’t drink and do drugs. Don’t have sex. Don’t split up. Like Wes Craven’s Scream, Cabin in the Woods pokes at the genre. While pulling this off, they still manage to scare the viewers. It’s hard to make me jump three feet above my chair but audience members did scream. You know how horror films end their opening scene with a loud scream and the movie title appearing in large, bold letters? We get this unexpectedly at the end of the opening scene. Whedon and Goddard play with us from the very beginning. It’s not hard to see from the trailer that this is not your average “young hotties massacred in the woods” film. We see from the get go that someone is behind the scenes, using the troubled youngsters as puppets. The film continues to throw twists and turns from every direction. Yes there is a dark cabin and we do get the archetypical five characters; the burnout (who is my favorite,) the scholar, the blond whore, the jock, and the closest thing to a virgin they could get. There’s even a disgustingly creepy redneck at the “gas station.”  Roger Ebert mentioned how he would love to see a montage of the demented rednecks at gas stations in horror movies on You Tube and I am with him on this one. Someone make this happen if it hasn’t already. There’s even a basement that may or may not store numerous items that could conjure up evil spirits. While we are given the simple formula most horror movies throw in our direction every time, it’s not exactly what you think.

You could also look at this film as a metaphor. The white collar men behind the scenes are the filmmakers and the viewers are the Gods.  In the end, the Gods were discontent and this is a metaphor for horror audiences not getting what they want because the director (man behind-the-scenes) screws up big time. A lot of people compare CITW to Evil Dead and I have no idea why. Sure there’s a cabin in the woods with dead things running around and there’s a lot of humor but CITW is so much more than that. I’ve seen a few incorrect comparisons for the film like The Hunger Games. Please never compare this movie to The Hunger Games ever again. If you’re going to compare The Hunger Games to another film, it should be Battle Royale. Scream is the only comparison I agree with only I thought CITW was far superior. The film was actually shot in 2009 but the released date was delayed because Whedon and Goddard wanted to convert it to 3D. However, it went to 2D instead.

Whedon tends to use strong female characters in all of his work. Throughout most of the film these characters reminded me of the Scooby Doo gang. The burnout especially reminded me of Shaggy.The stoner is always my favorite. Fran Kranz, from Wheon’s Dollhouse, owns the best lines out of the entire cast, “He has a husband bulge.” He’s an intellectual stoner with perhaps one of the coolest bongs I have ever seen that not only can be used as a weapon, but it can be shaped down to look like a thermal coffee mug so he doesn’t have to endure any harassment from police officers. This guy is my hero. I am not familiar with Kristen Connolly’s work as an actress but she didn’t let us down as the good girl. She’s quite attractive with beautiful eyes and locks. Chris Hemsworth just may be one of the sexiest men alive and a talented actor in my opinion. This is pre-Thor mind you. He plays the jock. I happened to be very pleased with Anna Hutchison’s performance as the dumb blond. She delivers what might be the most erotic make out scene I have ever seen….. With a stuffed wolf head on the wall. It’s hard for the audience to decide if they should be turned on or weirded out. You know that girl. The blond that does whatever she can to make everyone notice her. That girl use to be my room mate. Jesse Williams as the scholar just didn’t do anything for me. He wasn’t a bad actor by any means. I just didn’t care enough about his character. Then we have the three behind-the-scenes; Amy Acker, Richard Jenkins, and Bradley Whitford. Jenkins never lets me down and saying I am an Amy Acker fan is an understatement. I LOVE Amy Acker. She is one of my favorite characters from Whedon’s ‘Angel’ and one of the coolest villains of all time. Every time I see Whitford I think of Billy Madison. “Ew gross, did you see that guy’s balls?” Teenager replies, “Yea, they were weird looking.” I enjoyed the two white collar dudes monitoring the cameras and releasing “pheromone mist” to change the fate of the victims. Other than working for pure evil, they are just a couple of normal guys that are having to deal with baby proofing and marriage. I especially love the scene where they are celebrating to “Roll With the Changes” by REO Speedwagon.

Several items that will conjure up a number of supernatural beings are waiting for the Scooby gang in the basement. There’s a diary with Latin writing that conjures up a family of zombies that enjoy pain. The puzzle sphere that’s an obvious nod to Hellraiser. A necklace that will conjure God knows what. The music box connected to a ballerina with a sharp toothed mouth for a face. One thing puzzles me, which of these items belongs to the killer unicorn? We get such a wide variety of supernatural beings; zombies, gigantic snakes, aliens, ghosts, unicorns, clowns, a molesty tree that’s an obvious nod to Evil Dead, demons, evil twins, witches, spiders, were wolves, and mermen. The only thing missing is an HP Lovecraft-like creature. Unless I missed that. Expect blood and I mean buckets and buckets of blood! Gore fans will not be disappointed.

I wont spoil the ending completely. Surprises are better. I think most of the audience is either going to completely love it or hate it. Although, the majority seems to love it so far. Its rating on Rotten Tomatoes is over 90% and Roger Ebert managed to give it a positive review. This coming from a man who despises horror movies. Do yourself a favor and see this movie as soon as possible.