Monday, November 9, 2015

The Cabin in the Woods

Major spoilers in the second half of this review. 
I saw this film cut for TV.

I don't watch a lot of horror movies -- in fact, you could almost say I never watch horror movies. As a rule, I am not a fan. Even so, I was interested in this one even way back in 2012 when it came out -- drawn in by Joss Whedon's involvement and it's impressively high Rotten Tomatoes score -- but it's R-rated content was more than I wanted to handle... so I waited three years for it to make its television debut.

A long and suspenseful wait. But worth it.

The film was co-written, and directed by Drew Goddard who recently left an impression on me by being the man responsible for the excellent adapted screenplay for The Martian. Goddard and Whedon's styles pair really well with similar senses of humor, and great attention to detail. The characters are very Whedonesque, and credit for the movie's smooth pacing and wonderfully matter-of-fact storytelling go to Goddard.

The cast is full of familiar faces -- with a few Whedon regulars. The young adults who go to the Cabin are Kristen Connolly as Dana, Chris Hemsworth as Curt, Anna Hutchison as Jules, Fran Kranz as Marty, and Jesse Williams as Holden. Then in the office setting, Bradley Whitford, Richard Jenkins and Amy Acker are responsible for raining terror down on the unsuspecting college students.

Switching back from the horror plot to the everyday life of office workers was neat and effective risk.

Even without watching horror movies I am fully aware of their pitfalls and their cliches. This film willingly hops right into all those "required" moments and then immediately and cleverly turns them around, poking fun at them with a sharp humor that points out the all the holes of the genre. For the first two acts, satire is the name of the game, and Goddard and Whedon win every hand as they use the cliches to their advantage. The plot moves along traditionally as obviously stereotyped characters bite the dust one by one in gruesome, terrifying, and brilliantly tongue-in-cheek ways.

The film's one real problem is a bit of a catch 22. It chastises typical horror flicks by doing the exact same things those films do, and while that makes it funnier in a way, and a great satire, it also means that it still has the essence of the films it is criticizing -- so it can't help but drag itself down a little along the way.

I suppose it had to be worth it though. For the most part.

Major Spoilers from here to the end!
Then the third act twists away from the typical (if satirized) mantra. At this point all the kids are dead except the main girl, Dana, (whose death we all know is optional) and the office is celebrating a successful event. But -- surprise! -- Marty, the dumb stoner dude who's been high the whole movie isn't actually dead! He's actually alive (and actually not that dumb) and his excessive smoking has actually kept him from being affected by the chemicals meant to create the cliches the lead to easier deaths. He and Dana escape to underneath the cabin where the control offices are, and that's where things get really interesting.

The film is pretty great up to this point -- it's scary, thrilling, mysterious, hilarious and very well-made -- but the final twist are what clinches the movies status as a mind-blowing and unique horror film. I expected that some twist of the type would come, but was still taken off guard by pretty much the whole rest of the film.

Got to be the movie's hero, but first had to be the movie's resident dummy.

First of all, Marty surviving was absolutely fantastic. Of the three guys, he has the least hero potential for the first two acts; he was the second person to "die" and probably the most boring character-wise (though he was the sensible voice of reason). He was the goofy comic relief. Then suddenly he becomes the hero (though Dana's heroine is still the main character) as the whole story turns round on its head. Dana stays the same in our perceptions but also becomes more endearing (and she's definitely a Whedon-writ female). The two don't get to add enough depth of character fast enough to be satisfying before the film ends, but what is left wanting is part of the charm and the cool brilliance.

I love the final scene. I can't even remember all of what the two unexpected heroes talk about after the climactic battle, but loved it out of some sort of principle because it "wasn't supposed to happen." So they sit on a staircase and share a joint, covered in blood from head to toe, and then the Earth is obliterated.

Because that's what happens when a horror movie doesn't follow the rules.

Worth it!


  1. Hey awesome review! I don't usually watch horror movies either but this looks like fun.
    And if you want to watch movies your way you have got to check this site out. You can edit out anything you dont want to watch or hear. And its only costs a buck a movie. xD cant wait for more reviews. I like your blog cause you review lots of stuff that isn't mainstream. And I have a movie recommendation "Hidalgo" Its got Viggo mortensen (Aragorn from LOTR) in it and its awesome!

    1. Thank you Daniel! Even though it was serious about it's horror, that fact that it was satire and there was lots of comedy definitely helped me enjoy it so much more!

      Thanks for sharing that website! I'll check it out.

      I appreciate that, and I'm glad you enjoy the less mainstream reviews! Most of the movies I watch are less mainstream, and I like recommending the more hidden gems like this one. I have actually seen Hidalgo, and I agree! You can't go wrong with Viggo and horses! :D