Spoiler Free Review: The Cabin in the Woods
With the ominous trailer tagline of, “You think you know the story… think again”, The Cabin in the Woods‘ premise suggests horror fans have something to be excited about. Today’s ‘horror’ movies frequently end up being an even mixture of gratuitous nudity and creatively stomach-turning deaths, without much thought towards a plot. While this movie does begin in a stereotypical manner, it swiftly turns into something unexpected. In that respect, The Cabin in the Woods delivers. Fans of the genre will also likely appreciate the many references and nods to other scary flicks. Seeing a movie like this with too much previous knowledge simply ruins the fun, so try to avoid the spoilers before you see it for yourself.
In the beginning we are introduced to five college students as they load into an RV. They are headed on a trip to a remote – you guessed it – cabin in the woods. There’s the typically attractive couple consisting of the jock Curt (Chris Hemsworth) and his bubbly girlfriend Jules (Anna Hutchison). Occupying the roles of the charming academic and the good girl are Holden (Jesse Williams) and Dana (Kristen Connolly) respectively. Last, but certainly not least, is Marty (Fran Kranz) the lovable stoner. The latter character has some of the best lines in the film as he points out some of the group’s obviously illogical choices. Every moviegoer knows the irritation of watching a character do something that will almost undoubtedly result in death. Amusingly, this typical viewer annoyance is mocked by having a character point out the mistakes as the plot progresses. In one such example, the audience stifles a collective groan at a character’s suggestion to split up the group. Comic relief is offered when Marty pauses before responding, “Really?”
There are a variety of haunting hints that the group chooses to ignore before the action starts. On the drive into the secluded forest, a creepy gas attendant offends the group and warns them about the direction they are headed in. Upon arrival at the admittedly dingy and grim cabin, the group finds an unsettling two-way mirror behind a violent painting. Oh, there’s also the cellar door that flings itself open from ‘the wind’ – don’t worry, sarcastic Marty notes the unlikelihood of that explanation.
To say anything else on the plot details of The Cabin in the Woods would give away some pretty clever twists and turns. One aspect that is present from essentially the very beginning of the film – and that viewers could likely surmise from the trailer – is that the group is being watched. The two key ‘watchers’ are played hilariously well by Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford. If it weren’t for the flashes to those two guys, the first part of the movie would honestly seem a bit dull. The story appears to go through the run-of-the-mill motions of a generic horror movie before it gets interesting.
Satirically dark and witty, the movie is undeniably well-written. Unlike many current films in the genre, it provides rounded characters that the audience truly wants to root for. As promised, the film takes a common story and makes a rapid transition into the unpredictable. Despite all of that, the movie fails in one respect… it isn’t scary. If you are looking for a good, edge-of-your-seat kind of thrill, you may want to look elsewhere. The few startling moments are done in a predictable fashion, so nothing comes across as very frightening.
The Cabin in the Woods offers a lot – humor, suspense, even a social commentary on human nature if you are inclined to look deeply enough. Scary or not, the movie is still worth seeing, even if only for the surprising and unbilled cameo near the end (now don’t run to Google and ruin it for yourself!).
The Cabin in the Woods is currently playing in theaters nationwide. It was written by Joss Whedon and directed by Cloverfield‘s Drew Goddard.