The Whedon makes horror awesome again
When five attractive young friends head to a secluded cabin for a weekend of fun, they get more than they – or the genre – bargained for.The Cabin in the Woods has been a long time coming. Shot in 2009, it was set to bow in early 2010, then was delayed for 3D post-conversion and later still fell afoul of the woes of MGM. Almost a full three years on from principal photography, audiences are finally getting the chance to find out if the wait was worth it.
It was.The Cabin in the Woods is a marvellously entertaining film – one which manages to interrogate the essential fabric of the horror genre while also delivering the expected scares and shocks and keeping up a constant flow of laughs. It’s an impressive feat, made all the more so by the fact that it never devolves into mere parody.
First time director Drew Goddard, who also penned the script with Joss Whedon, does a fantastic job of keeping the audience guessing. The film seems to revel in subverting your expectations at every turn, helping the plot and the characters to move in unexpected and often hilarious ways.
While it’s important to remember that Goddard is the director of the piece, likely most eyes will be on Whedon’s involvement, especially as the release of The Avengers creeps closer. Cabin does have the hallmarks of a Whedon production - the clever lines, the unusually sharp characters and some geeky references – but it’s more toned down than usual, perhaps for the better.
I’m going to try to avoid spoilers here, as even the trailer is best avoided. Suffice to say, there’s more going on than meets the eye at this particular cabin but the film doesn’t keep the audience in the dark for very long, while also leaving specific explanations til well into the third act.The Cabin in the Woods is riotously entertaining. Goddard guides the audience on a carefully planned course littered with gags, gore and some masterfully played jump scares. But there are complexities here too – touching on the stereotypes which appear in the horror genre as well as the all too familiar plot-lines and even commenting on the sadistic nature of the viewer/movie relationship itself.
The film does go off the rails in the final act and while it’s far from unexpected, perhaps even necessary, it reaches a level of ridiculousness that might turn some viewers off. The ending too is problematic, exposition heavy and ultimately a little less involving than it might have been.
The cast is mostly well appointed, with standout performances from Dollhouse regular Fran Kranz and the frankly fantastic Bradley Whitford – who gel perfectly with the tone and eloquence of the script. Hemsworth is fine in a pre Thor role and leading lady Kristin Connolly is easy on the eyes but lacks the vital spark that could have made her a truly memorable heroine.The Cabin in the Woods is a near perfect slice of movie entertainment, running its audience through the gamut of emotions and reactions at a breakneck pace and still finding time for some wry and knowing commentary on the very genre it belongs to. The script is fabulous, the performances arresting and the plot functions on so many levels that I’m sure everyone will find elements to enjoy. A slightly rushed finale notwithstanding, you won’t see a finer horror film all year.