The Cabin in the Woods, from the promotional material, looks like another generic horror movie where stupid kids go to a remote cabin where they are murdered by all manner of terrors. And that’s the point—it’s supposed to look routine because the surprise is that it is nothing of what you suspect. To say any more would ruin the twists in this brilliant story from the mind behind genre-bending classics like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along-Blog, Joss Whedon. Great performances from Kristen Connolly (in her first leading role) and who was at the time an unknown Chris Hemsworth (Thor) ground this heady concept film.
Drew Goddard makes his feature directing debut, co-writing the scrip with Whedon (who invariably steals focus because he directed the biggest movie since Avatar with The Avengers) and does a good job corralling the various elements into a coherent whole with The Cabin in the Woods. Shot on a (comparatively) shoestring budget, The Cabin could have taken shortcuts that would have made the film look cheap which would have lessened the movie’s impact. It works because the “things that go bump in the night” are frighteningly real. Terrifyingly so.
You’ll notice that I haven’t discussed plot. Intentionally so. To talk about what happens in the titular cabin would ruin it for you. What I can tell you is that the performers in this movie are universally excellent. Jesse Williams (Grey’s Anatomy) proves he can handle the big screen, as does Fran Kranz who owns every scene he’s in. Better, the actors put nuance into their roles that you only catch on multiple viewings, once you’re in on the cosmic joke that underpins the circumstances of the film. The characters are archetypical—because that is what is required by the story—and the actors bring them to life.
Even if you’re not into horror movies, The Cabin in the Woods will entertain you by going in directions you will never expect. Gory, yes, but smartly written and directed so that it’s not just full of cheap scares and torture porn. One of the smartest movies of the year—maybe too smart for its own good—The Cabin is a delightful treat for fans of clever and original cinema.
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