Reviews

The Cabin In The Woods

4

Horror set in...a cabin in the woods.

The opening credits of The Cabin In The Woods see Egyptian etchings of ritual sacrifices shimmering in blobs of CG blood. A strange juxtaposition, intriguing.

Then come Hieronymus Bosch-style paintings of writhing, torn bodies arranged into hellishly elaborate torture shows. Cut to… two middle-aged office workers (Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford) driving down the street, discussing the day’s work before them: grey environment, white shirts and, for a horror movie promising nubile teens in stock scenarios, unexpected.

Slam! THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (block caps, blood red) takes up the entire width and depth of the screen. Then we’re on campus listening to MOR rock and watching hottie Jules (Anna Hutchison), jock Curt (Chris Hemsworth, pre-Thor), scholar Holden (Jesse Williams), virgin (well, almost…) Dana (Kristen Connolly) and stoner Marty (Fran Kranz) loading up a camper van.

They’re heading to a cabin in the woods, but as for everything else, all bets are off... So shrewd and playful is this mainstream horror-comedy by Drew Goddard (whose writing credits include Lost, Alias, Cloverfield, Angel and Buffy The Vampire Slayer, here making his directing bow) and Joss Whedon (director of Avengers Assemble, Serenity... wait, this is old news), you just know the clichés are there for a reason.

It starts with the archetypal characters and continues with their encounter, en route, with a local redneck (aka The Harbinger). “I’ve seen plenty come and go,” he gravely intones, and moments later the camera is offering the obligatory overhead shot of their vehicle wending its way up a mountain road. OK, time out.

You know that bit in movie reviews where the journalist bleats about how they can’t say any more because it would give too much away? Well, this is it. And this time you better believe it, because to even talk about The Cabin In The Woods in general terms, with evasive hints and contextual references, is to alert viewers to dog-leg plot turns they’d be better off stumbling upon alone.

Only, this review has 400 words left to run. So, we’ll tread carefully, respectfully, and be sure to give away less than you’ll glean from the trailer, but you might want to clock out now and return when you’ve seen the film.

SPOILER ALERT!

Still here? OK, don’t say we didn’t warn you. A postmodern celebration and dissection of the horror genre, The Cabin In The Woods delivers few tics and tricks we haven’t seen before. But Halloween did little that hadn’t been done before either, and nor, for that matter, did Citizen Kane; the beauty of Cabin is that it takes bits and pieces from here, there and everywhere and blends them into a vibrant entertainment.

One of the central conceits – that horror movies tap into our subconscious fears, which are rooted in ancient and primal terrors – was explored in Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (“They’re like something from our nightmares,” says one of Cabin’s characters. “No, they’re something our nightmares are from,” replies another), while Scream, Cube, Hostel, My Little Eye and Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon explore other ideas stashed in the Cabin.

Individual movies are explicitly referenced (Hellraiser, The Creature From The Black Lagoon, The Evil Dead, The Strangers) and sub-genres nodded to (torture porn, zombies, werewolves, monster movies, the mythic, gigantic beasts of H.P. Lovecraft and, in two hilarious sequences, J-horror).  

Laughter lines

Of course, it’s arguable that all this pulling back of the curtain and drawing attention to the genre’s mechanics hinders viewers from truly investing in the characters: we are, after all, watching a movie, a fact we’re never allowed to forget.

But we certainly like the protagonists, who, it should be noted, subvert expectations as frequently as they cleave to them. The dialogue, meanwhile, is laugh-out-loud funny.

Take the scene where the friends huddle in the cabin’s basement surrounded by iconic bric-a-brac such as dolls, bridal gowns and puzzle boxes. “I’m drawing a line in the fucking sand here,” yelps pothead Marty as Dana opens a cobwebby journal. “Do not read the Latin…”

It’s to Cabin’s credit that it still works so well despite being shelved for three years, first saddled with a post-Avatar 3D conversion (thankfully no more) and then buried by MGM’s filing for bankruptcy.

In the meantime, some of its tropes have surfaced in, bizarrely, Hostel: Part III, and, naturally, the fourth installment of Wes Craven’s famous franchise. But this is the real scream, sure to appeal to fans and non-fans alike.

Verdict:

A super-entertaining, super-slick love/hate letter to horror with a final 20 minutes that’s stunningly bonkers.

Film Details

User Reviews

    • thedanieljson

      Apr 9th 2012, 12:17

      5

      I shant post any spoilers, just tell say that this is the most fun I've ever had in a cinema. Non-stop laughs and shocks, brilliant subversion, etc etc, just go see it.

      Alert a moderator

    • Heisenberg

      Apr 13th 2012, 10:38

      5

      Seen this last night at a midnight showing with the missus, and she was demanding it be good for staying up pretty late to watch it, and she was very pleased. I have to say i enjoyed this so much, its funny, there are scares, and it does mess with your mind, and the last 20mins are indeed stunningly bonkers, and beautiful for it. As @thedanieljson said, just go see it.

      Alert a moderator

    • jamieneish

      Apr 13th 2012, 13:00

      Nice review, here's mine (it's spoiler-free) - http://emptyscreens.com/2012/03/28/review-the-cabin-in-the-woods-2011/

      Alert a moderator

    • moviemandan77

      Apr 14th 2012, 12:18

      3

      Movie Man Dan's review You've probably already heard a lot about Joss Whedon's horror-comedy hit, although even that's probably far more than you should. So while it's true that Cabin In The Woods is certainly best viewed in ignorant bliss, that doesn't mean you shouldn't know a little about it, if only to find out if its the sort of thing you really might enjoy knowing something about? Confused? Well don't be. For without giving anything too much away, CITW belongs to a very post-modern genre of film that, thanks to Wes Craven's Scream, has become a little too self-referential for its own good. Where CITW succeeds is in not taking itself any more seriously than it needs to to be a rollicking good ride. The set up however is, deliberately, as clich├ęd as they come. Five teens head to a remote cabin in the woods for a boozed up weekend, only to discover they're not alone, and that something pretty nasty wants them dead. At the same time, and this is no spoiler if you've seen the trailer, a group of what looks like office workers are preparing for some kind of big weekend themselves. STOP - that's enough said about that. With a set up that could have come from, and indeed is certainly inspired by pretty much every slasher horror movie from the last fifteen years - Cabin Fever, Wrong Turn, Texas Chainsaw Massacre - CITW manages to blend genuine scares with a witty tone throwing in a few fun cameos once the teenage cast quickly begins to dwindle. Of course once you get home and actually think about the film, it doesn't make a lot of sense and it's certainly true that perhaps the film makers could have played their cards a little closer to their chest than they do, instead revealing the true nature of the film pretty early on. However with some good characterisation, particularly from Fran Kranz as the perpetually stoned Marty, and plenty of jokes, CITW manages to make a thrilling ride of its bizarre premise. Most of those thrills come in the film's stunning third act, which wreaks all kind of unimaginable hell on the victims as the two separate worlds come together. With more gore and blood spurted than in the entire Saw franchise, this is CITW's trump card and it certainly pays off. It may be one trap door you enjoyed seeing opened, but it's also one you wish had stayed closed. VERDICT - Visually and narratively it's great fun, but probably not quite as inventive as the hype is making out. To find out for yourself you really are going to have to go down to the woods - well, cinema - today.

      Alert a moderator

    • BigPaul

      Apr 14th 2012, 13:27

      5

      To put it simply this film is just awsome. I cant think of a film that can go from genuin scares to laugh out loud and back again so effortlessly. Its just a shame that this film is coming out the same year as Avengers assemble, Dark knight rises and Prometheus (just to name a few), otherwise Cabin In The Woods would get more recognition, in this day and age when 99% of films are sequels, re-boots and comic/novel adaptations then a genuin original story is delight. "Good mummy hand"

      Alert a moderator

    • Siban1982

      Apr 16th 2012, 20:35

      2

      Found it predictable, not particularly laugh out loud funny, and a little dull for the first half even though it feels like the beginnings of an Evil Dead remake. Be warned there's zombies in it... yes zombies... zombies again... want to sell a movie? Add zombies... seems to work until you get totally flippin bored of zombies, which I for one am! A slightly original premise but the best parts go unused and unseen for the majority of the film. Best described by my mate as a feature version of Buffy The Vampire Slayer except without the vampires (I think) and if you're not a fan of that c**p then I doubt you'll like this but I'm probably wrong. It's worth a look I suppose but 4/5 star ratings? Hmmm... so you'd compare this movie with something as classical as The Thing or The Fly or even The Evil Dead?! Yep, see ya!

      Alert a moderator

    • mishterlusk

      Apr 18th 2012, 10:59

      4

      yo, @TheKingOfCinema I like to consider myself a 'real & true horror fan' as well and I found this movie a hell of a lot of fun, totally refreshing, and definitely not offensive. And I'm not alone. Your listing horror era's/actors is baffling and totally irrelevant. This movie is great. I managed to drag my brother along for the first time since I took him to see The Last Exorcism (bad idea) and he now trusts my judgment better.

      Alert a moderator

    • cinders

      Apr 18th 2012, 11:29

      2

      c

      Alert a moderator

    • cinders

      Apr 18th 2012, 11:36

      5

      Cabin in the woods = Funny, scary, original, quirky, bemusing, definatly a Marmite movie. I for one loved it (I think !). Will need to watch several times though.....

      Alert a moderator

    • cinders

      Apr 18th 2012, 21:51

      Opinions are what makes the World go round, and I dont expect everyone to agree with me. In MY opinion, I did find the Movie entertaining, fact. You did not, it seems, up to you. In the same way as some folk might think your user name a tad presumptious.......;)

      Alert a moderator

    • SaveFerris

      Apr 19th 2012, 13:43

      3

      It's not a GREAT movie in the sense that it has amazing acting, spakling dialogue and beautiful directing, but it is great fun. If you were to put it up against Wrong Turn, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Cabin Fever, and all that, then this is miles ahead. It's bold and inventive and offers something different to what horror crowds have seen in recent years. If only the characters had more emotional depth and weren't so selfish; there's no one to root for. Which makes it fall short of being "the next Scream", which a lot of people are saying it is. The difference is that in Scream, you cared whether the characters lived or died even whilst the film was taking the p**s out of horror conventions.

      Alert a moderator

    • FBKBaker

      Apr 20th 2012, 12:36

      Looks like a good horror. after i did a review on it at http://www.moviezya.com/the-cabin-in-the-woods/ i know for sure it worth watching.

      Alert a moderator

    • filmfreak2

      Apr 23rd 2012, 12:27

      It is amazing !! I have just found great stream online in HD , here is link http://www.yebako.com/2012/04/16/the-cabin-in-the-woods/ This site is becoming number one in USA,,enjoy

      Alert a moderator

    • symonds

      Apr 24th 2012, 12:29

      1

      Is this review some kind of joke? it's a terrible movie. Overlong episode of Angel at best.

      Alert a moderator

    • symonds

      Apr 25th 2012, 7:43

      TheKingofCinema I actually like Angel and was upset when it was cancelled and as TV show it works great, as a movie...not so much.

      Alert a moderator

    • FBJRider

      Apr 25th 2012, 20:38

      5

      Best film I've seen this year, until tomorrow of course. Through the beginning the setting up for a typical 'cabin in the woods' I thought it would be way too predictable but then Whedon pulled the rug right from under my feet. I thought I knew what was coming next but then realised I hadn't a clue, I loved the ending it could've gone anyway and I think it set itself up nicely for a sequel.

      Alert a moderator

    • smellyhands

      Apr 28th 2012, 23:55

      Such a great little film. Breath of fresh air. Siban1982, how can you say that it was predictable? Its an original idea for once from Hollywood. Originality can hardly be put into the same category as predictability. And Dalidab, Sigourney Weaver as the main villain? Really? There was no main villain. There were gods and monsters. Surely they were more villainous than her.

      Alert a moderator

    • ChrisWootton

      May 4th 2012, 10:51

      3

      Yeah, it was alright.

      Alert a moderator

    • elfymwah

      May 11th 2012, 12:34

      I was so looking forward to seeing this film, yet I'm sad to say I was left bitterly disappointed. I can appreciate the postmodern approach of the film, and maybe I don't know Joss Whedon's work quite as well as others do, but I just found the whole thing completely self-indulgent, bizarre and marketed completely wrong. Don't even get me started on the end. Avoid!!!

      Alert a moderator

    • 4bs7162

      Jun 11th 2012, 17:08

      5

      Amazing, the cabin in the woods is a complete thrill ride into the descent of darkness and pure comedy. money well spent going to see this movie. It has mind blowing effects and monsters. the actors do very well in it there is a Virgin, athlete, w***e, junkie and a scholar. the last 20 minutes of this film is pure fun and enjoyable. but the final twist is something you won't expect.

      Alert a moderator

    • Jareth64

      Dec 31st 2012, 12:05

      3

      Entertaining enough but not as dazzlingly original as many have made out. In fact I got bored fairly quickly. There were, however, some great scenes towards the end!

      Alert a moderator