Not since Sam Raimi’s “Evil Dead” or Wes Craven’s “Scream” has a horror film been as funny and genre bending as “The Cabin in the Woods.”
“Five friends walk into a cabin. Bad stuff happens.” The film takes this joke and long played out idea and warps it. From the beginning, it’s clear that there’s a bigger story, that this is more elaborate than the typical teenage slasher film, and it is. It is so much more fun.
Originally filmed in 2009, the movie’s release was put on the back burner as MGM went bankrupt. Posters teased the concept of the film early on when it was promoted at Comic-Con International three years ago.
They read: “If you hear a strange sound outside. Have sex.” “If an old man warns you not to go there. Make fun of him.” And a personal favorite: “If something is chasing you, split up.”
Joss Whedon, creator of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and the writer and director of the upcoming “The Avengers,” co-wrote the movie with Drew Goddard (“Cloverfield”), who serves as director.
Whedon has described the film as “a very loving hate letter to horror films” and that is exactly what it is. The film plays to the typical horror film archetypes and cliches while also sending them spinning on their heads. It takes the idea of possibility and does whatever it wants with it.
It begins like many horror films do. Five college students pile into a van to spend a weekend at a cabin owned by Curt’s (Liam Hemsworth) cousin, clueless to the terror that will soon greet them.
Curt represents the cliche jock, his girlfriend Jules (Anna Hutchinson) is the dumb blonde, their friend Holden (Jesse Williams) is the nerd, Marty (Franz Kranz) is the stoner, and Dana (Kristen Connolly) is the innocent virgin.
But the terrors that greet the group are actually being orchestrated by a group of nerdy scientists.
The film opens with two of them (played wonderfully by Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford) talking. It is made certain that they are a part of a larger, more elaborate experiment that will lead back to the woods.
In fact, the teenagers prove to act like lab rats. Here, the architects are puppeteers pulling levers and buttons in front of a wall of television screens. They even take bets on what kind of wrong decisions the group will make when they encounter different scenarios.
When the group arrives at an old decrepit gas station and a creepy looking attendant warns them not to go forward and they refuse his advice (of course), the puppeteers applaud.
Who is giving the puppeteers the power to monitor the group in this way? And why do they have to do it in the first place? The conclusion is a whole other story and not worth spoiling.
The movie is so ridiculous and outlandish that you have to love it. It should be applauded for going off the map in such an entertaining way.
James Kendrick, a writer for the Q Network Film Desk, is right when he describes “The Cabin in the Woods” as “like a senior thesis about the modern horror genre masquerading as a movie.”
Audience goers who are looking for another remake or a cliche should bow out. This is a film for the horror fans.