- Special Effects
The Cabin in the Woods
Director: Drew Goddard
Writers: Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard
Cast: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford, Amy Acker, Tom Lenk, Sigourney Weaver
Cinematography: Peter Deming
Production Design: Martin Whist
Art Direction: Michael Diner, Kendelle Elliott, Tom Reta
Hi my name is Michele and I am a Whedonite. Which for those of you not hip to the lingo, that means that I am a big fan of all things Joss Whedon. I’ve watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly. I’m stupidly excited for The Avengers in May. And waiting for The Cabin in the Woods to finally premiere in theaters was like torture: Saw IV style. As a horror movie buff, I was intrigued by Joss Whedon’s description that the movie was a “loving hate letter” to the genre. Along with fellow Buffy writer Drew Goddard, the two set out to both have a lot of fun and do a “critique of what we love and don’t love about horror movies” (quotes from Whedon’s interview with Total Film). It certainly sounds like something that would be right up my alley.
Like most horror film fans, I’m a little fed up with the genre at this point. Most of the stuff we’re getting nowadays is either torture porn, fake documentaries, or so-terrible-it’s-funny creature features on Syfy. And I’d rather not mention the terrible re-boots that have been floating our way (like The Thing). So the allure of an original horror film that can possibly bring back some old school luster of a really good scary movie classic is tempting. The tag line for the film is “you think you know the story.” After seeing the trailer I thought I understood what was going to go down. I went in to this movie with a lot of expectations and excitement. Was it able to live up to the hype?
The story starts like most horror movies, five friends pack a keg and head to a remote location for some good clean college fun. The diverse bunch includes a jock, a stoner, a scholar, a bimbo, and a “virgin”. On the way down the road past the point of cell phone reception, they stop at a creepy old gas station to get some scares from the local hick who warns them of bad times ahead. Of course being smart and hot college kids, they ignore the obvious and continue on to the cabin. They are blissfully unaware that a group of mysterious ”puppeteers” are controlling their every move, down to the extra pheromones in the blond girl’s hair dye to make her more promiscuous. The freaks start to come out at night as monsters rise from the grave and kids start dying. But there is more to the story as they start fighting for their lives and limbs, all the while being watched and guided by two men in a booth.
I suppose it’s a little weird to talk about how funny a horror movie is, but when you have Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard writing the movie there are always going to be some good jokes. That’s what I love about the many shows Whedon has done, there’s always that element of fun in the dialogue that makes you enjoy what you’re watching. Not even a scary movie is immune to the laughter. It’s a little hard to talk about without spoiling the joke, but I’ll give it a shot. Some of the funniest aspects of this movie have to do with the puppeteers as opposed to the victims. When you open what is supposed to be a standard horror with two old white guys in a golf cart instead of young nubile flesh getting ready for slaughter, you know that you’re being put off balance. And that is what makes this movie so great, the mixture of the expected with the unexpected. The comedy inherent in the overdone genre of horror and the scares that come with an original premise, combine to give any fright film fan a sense of euphoric joy. I promise, you will be laughing as you jump out of your seat in terror.
Seeing as this movie is a celebration of sorts, an homage to the great horror movie classics, it is fitting that the typical group of kids are used. All of them are pretty, and all of them represent a different popular group. We have the three standard guys: a jock, a book worm, and a stoner. Each of them plays to their type brilliantly. My favorite guy happens to be Fran Kranz who plays Marty, the pot-smoking philosophizer of the bunch. He has the best one-liners of them all, and you root for him to figure out what’s going on from the start. But what was interesting to me were the 2 girls that tag along for the ride. First we have the stereotypical blond girl, who gives us the obligatory tit shot. But then we have the “virgin”, who is typically the one who survives according to the horror movie rules (see Scream if you need a complete list). What I enjoyed about this movie is the refreshing idea that it is nearly impossible to find a virgin college girl. So our “pure” red-head isn’t really so pure after all, but simply refrains from having sex in the few hours of fun before the killing begins. It’s great to finally see someone being honest about these often used stereotypes of youth. We need only look around at our own generation to see how stupid these symbols of stock personality have become.
Once again, it is hard to talk about this without spoiling something. And I would hate to deprive anyone of the awesomeness of seeing the absolute shitshow of blood and guts on the big screen. For about half an hour, my jaw was literally open wide. I was astonished and delighted at the amazing display of gore. If you are a fan of horror, then you will be smitten with the most lovely scenes of death ever put on camera. You may think that I’m getting your hopes up too high, that it’s bound to be disappointing. But I can promise you that no words can possibly take away from the beauty of the bloodbath. Even if you think the rest of the movie sucks (which it definitely doesn’t), you will be back in a theater wanting to see the symphony of destruction one more time.
Was it scary?
I found myself asking this question the day after I had seen the movie. My normal reaction to watching a movie that terrifies me is to have a little trouble being in the dark for the next few days. I have to turn on every light in the house to make sure there is nothing about to jump out at me. Watching The Cabin in the Woods didn’t make this happen. I found that a bit odd considering that there were some scary moments in the film, a couple of times where I jumped out of my seat. The problem, I think, is that I enjoyed the movie too much to be frightened of what I saw. I left the theater smiling, not glancing around with wide eyes looking for the thing that would attack me. I had so much fun watching the blood and gore that I forgot to get afraid of the monster that causes it. The movie certainly gets creepy, and the premise is definitely original for the genre, but I still can’t say that I was so scared I couldn’t sleep for a week. That’s the only thing this “loving hate letter” was lacking, the ability to terrify me to the point of exhaustion. As much as I enjoy a good night’s sleep, I do like to have my fear interrupt it once in a while – just to keep life interesting.
Overall: 4.5 out of 5
If I could have written a review that simply said: THIS MOVIE IS FREAKING AWESOME GO SEE IT IMMEDIATELY, I would have. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute in that darkened theater while The Cabin in the Woods was on-screen. It perfectly fits my sensibilities as a movie buff and fan-girl. It’s got the humor to keep me laughing, and the blood to keep me screaming. It’s got some bumps and jumps in the night to keep it interesting. But it also has a new outlook on the horror genre that makes you think about every scary movie that you love. I understand that it probably won’t be the film for everyone. In fact, a lot of my friends refuse point blank to ever watch anything frightening. But for those of you who love the gore, the chills, and the screams, you will not be disappointed in this trip down murder memory lane. And for those of you that love to mix a little laughter in with your creepy creatures (like every episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer), this is the right one to see on the big screen. In conclusion, IT’S FREAKING AWESOME GO SEE IT IMMEDIATELY.