|Screen One: The Cabin In The Woods|
Film: The Cabin In The Woods
Director: Drew Goddard
Written By: Joss Whedon & Drew Goddard
Run Time: 1 hour 35 minutes
Starring: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz
The Cabin In The Woods is almost impossible to review. Not because of the quality of the film being critic proof in any way shape or form (on, the contrary, it’s really, really, really frakkin brilliant) but because to even talk about the film constitutes itself as a spoiler. This is one of those films where the fun of it is figuring out just what the hell is going on and knowing anything about it, anything at all, will reduce your enjoyment slightly.
It’s not completely necessary to go in blind. I saw the trailers and all the promotional material and stuff, so I knew a fair bit going in. I still really enjoyed the movie (hence the score) and it still did not end up at all where I expected, but I know I would have loved it more if I went in blind, like my friends did.
So, the next paragraph will tell you in completely spoiler free terms my opinion on The Cabin In The Woods. After that, there will be an in-depth review and things will get slightly spoilerish (but no further than the first 20 minutes). You have been warned.
The Cabin In The Woods is a fantastic movie. It’s really funny, very dark and completely and utterly crazy, especially when the brilliant third act rolls around. It’s only held back by some extremely dodgy CG and not being especially scary. Regardless, you need to go and see this film right the hell now!
There. Now, if you haven’t seen the film, get the hell out now. The next paragraph will start properly talking about the movie. It will spoil a couple of things on purpose (but, again, nothing more than what happens in the first 20 minutes) and may, inadvertently, spoil things later on in the movie. This is your last chance. It’s your fault if you keep reading.
The Cabin In The Woods is so fantastic because it works on multiple levels. On the basest level, it’s a damn great slasher movie. One that creates likable characters that still, nevertheless, fit into their established archetypes and who, in the end, you feel really bad about seeing slaughtered in inventive ways.
On another; it’s a twisty thriller that continually reveals parts of its overall puzzle throughout (rather than dumping it all on you) and leads up to one final twist at the end that makes a tonne of sense, one throws everything that came before into blindingly obvious lights and one that you still won’t see coming.
On another; it’s a shockingly funny comedy with great lines zinging from everyone’s mouths and a tonne of great in-jokes and nods and references to the horror genre it so deeply loves. Plus, a lot of very black humour when it comes to how everyone meets their maker.
But, on its most satisfying level, it’s an extremely clever deconstruction of the horror genre that even attempts to answer just why we, the viewers, love watching horror movies, as well as kicking the genre in the teeth for just how downmarket and shoddy it’s gotten in recent years.
The plot, in as bare a form as I can make it, involves five teenagers of the most obvious archetypes possible. There’s Curt, the lovable jock (Hemsworth); Jules, the sexually active girlfriend of Curt (Hutchison); Dana, the virgin (Connolly); Holden, the smart-looking guy (Jesse Williams) and Marty, the stoner comic relief (Kranz). They’re off to a remote cabin in the woods owned by Curt’s cousin for a weekend of fun (and sex, obviously).
However, before we get to that, we’re introduced to Richard (Richard Jenkins) and Steve (Bradley Whitford), two office workers who are on their way to work. A female scientist named Wendy (Amy Acker) informs them that the Stockholm branch of their company has gone dark. Richard and Steve couldn’t care less and head off to their office unfazed. Their office, which appears to have total control over the cabin and the surrounding area.
What happens next, I’m not spoiling. Just know that it gets even weirder very fast. This, as noted above, is not a “twist” film in the conventional sense; the film does not hold the twist back until the closing 10 minutes. Instead, it slowly reveals it, over time and keeps changing, shifting. It never treats them as massive game-changing twists either, bar the final reveal, obviously. It just keeps going and going, quickening the pace with each change.
And do I mean fast paced. This is one of the quickest experiences I’ve ever had in a cinema. Even at a paltry 95 minutes, it still, somehow, feels much shorter. The film does not hang around. From the Lionsgate logo, we are a go and it helps keep the adrenaline up when you can’t feel it sag at any point.
All of the young actors have a tonne of fun in their roles with Fran Kranz being the standout playing an even crazier version of Topher in Dollhouse (his last big role). Jenkins and Whitford manage to do an amazing job of making you sort of like and root for the supposed bad guys, and the big name cameo behind it all (which, again, I will not spoil) perfectly encapsulates the desperate calm necessary for the character in that given situation.
The twisty plot may be the reason most people will see the film but one of the reasons that they will love the film is the surprising amount of humour on display. This is, simply put, a very funny movie. From the gang’s views on an old fashioned fuel pump (“It must be a bartering pump”), to a continuously funny speakerphone gag, to the black as all hell method in which one of the teens meets their end (made even funnier by the build-up to it) to a recurring gag involving a creepy schoolgirl in Japan, you’ll be amazed at just how funny this movie is. Especially come the final act, where enough Chekhov’s guns show up to arm a terrorist group for life.
Seriously, though, the third act is completely bat-sh*t bonkers as well as super exciting, darkly hysterical, perfectly set-up and expertly finished. The film is worth seeing for that utterly amazing final act alone.
It’s a good thing that the script and the humour and the twists and the acting and even the directing (solid, nothing flashy, perfectly fine for this film) is this great because this horror movie has one fundamental problem with it: it’s not scary. And I should know; I’m a wuss.
There are maybe three good jump scares in the film (one’s in the opening credits of all frakkin places) but the rest are ridiculously telegraphed and blatantly obvious when they’re going to happen. The third act sort of makes up for this by the sheer inherent terror involved when all hell breaks loose (and believe me, all hell breaks loose), but it’s still not really enough for a “horror” film.
The only other complaint I have is much minor. Cabin has been sitting on the shelf for almost three years now. This doesn’t show through in the script or the events that take place or the targets (sub-genres of horror) the film eviscerates; they feel just as fresh and modern now as they did three years ago. It does, however, show through in the CG which is… How can I put this nicely…? Crap.
It’s not too bad initially, but when “The Carnage” takes place (and, seriously, you do not want anyone ruining “The Carnage” for you. Punch them in the face if they try), it sort of makes it less awesome when you notice just how terrible everything looks. It’s not a deal breaker, but it is noticeable enough to help drag the score down (along with the whole “not scary” thing).
Regardless, though, you really need to see The Cabin In The Woods. Films this smart, this self assured, this funny, this surprising and this, quite frankly, awesome do not come around often. This is the kind of film that you need to see, so that you can convince your friends to see, so that they can convince their friends to see, so that you can all talk about it in excruciating detail whilst Hollywood green-lights 900 similarly smart, self assured, funny, surprising and awesome movies.
Simply put, if all movies were like The Cabin In The Woods, we film critics would be out of a job, because the medium would be filled with nothing but fantastic movies and that, simply, is not fun to solely read about. It’s the film that I didn’t know I was waiting my whole life to see, but I am so glad that I have. See it now.
5 out of 5.
Trailer 2: Cabin In The Woods
"The lambs have come to the killing floor!" That's a pretty creepy thing to say, assuming you're not talking about actual lambs. And even then...
Trailer: The Cabin In The Woods
When your movie is from the writer of Cloverfield, one thing is for sure: you're not going to have any clue what it's about when you're done with the trailer.
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