Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard’s “The Cabin in the Woods” contains every clichÃ© and overused trope in the entire horror genre. It is also the most wildly entertaining, surprising and unique horror movie released in years.Those two sentences may seem to contradict themselves, but that’s the point.
Whedon and Goddard have pulled of a Hitchcockian bait-and-switch with this movie. It’s almost a trap that they’ve set to lure in unsuspecting slasher-movie fans and give them something they never would have expected. The film plays with the expectations that the audience has built up after seeing hundreds of similar movies, and right when they start to get comfortable with what’s going on, everything goes out the window.
The basic plot involves a group of “college students,” who of course all are played by actors who look to be at least in their thirties. There’s Dana “the virgin” (Kristen Connelly), Curt “the jock” (Chris Hemsworth), Jules “the slut” (Anna Hutchison), Marty “the stoner” (Fran Kranz) and Holden “the nerd” (Jesse Williams). In typical horror movie fashion, they decide to visit Kurt’s cousin’s new cabin in the middle of nowhere for a vacation. Marty describes the trip as an attempt to go “off the grid” as he takes puffs on a massive joint.
After they make it past the over-the-top creepy gas station attendant, down the dirt road and into the woods, naturally it isn’t long before all kinds of horrific and supernatural circumstances happen.
We’ve all seen this before. The film is counting on scenes like this. As the film progresses, the audience is introduced to another film-within-a film element. There are technicians filming everything they do in a giant government facility. None of this was an accident. There’s clearly some kind of conspiracy here, but it is up to the audience to try to figure out what exactly is going on. Luckily, Marty is essentially an extension of the audience. He spends most of the movie questioning why people are make certain decisions. Anybody who knows how stoners, like Marty, enjoy to watch and nitpick movies will appreciate this meta element of the character.
Not much more can be said without entering spoiler territory, but the film is infinitely more fun if it’s gone into without knowing what to expect. If it is possible to avoid all trailers for this film before seeing it, that would be ideal. It is understandable that the studios don’t know how to market this. Non-horror fans may avoid it thinking it is a stupid slasher flick, while the target audience of huge horror and sci-fi buffs won’t want to see the marketing as it gives too much away.
Hopefully the star-power of “Thor’s” Chris Hemsworth and the knowledge that it’s written by master-geek and “Avengers’ director Joss Whedon will be enough to pull viewers in. Fans of Whedon’s previous work such as “Firefly,” “Serenity,” and, of course, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” will recognize multiple homages to his previous work in the film. Those, as well as the many other winks at past horror films are all intentional, and will make this film worth seeing a second or third time.
“The Cabin in the Woods” is an important film, because it has challenged Hollywood to revamp the horror genre by creating a movie that both celebrates and lambasts the horror audience. It delivers everything a horror fan would want in a film, while also making them feel guilty for enjoying it as much as they do. Hollywood will keep making teen slasher movies, but after seeing this film, it will be nearly impossible to think about them the same way.