Director: Drew Goddard
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Jesse Williams, Kristin Connelly, Richard Jenkins
Like any low budget horror movie, The Cabin in the Woods follows five college aged students as they head to a deserted cabin in the woods for a little rest and relaxation. Naturally, someone knows someone who knows someone who owns the cabin. All of your favorite horror movie characters are represented: the jock (Hemsworth), the brain (Williams), the horny blonde girlfriend of the jock (Anna Hutchison), the smart brunette (Connelly), and the stoner (Frank Kranz). They head out in their camper to find this cabin off the dirt road and off their GPS signal. An eerie stop to get gas leads to an unpleasant encounter with a creepy older guy running the desolate store. The clan drives off and finally finds the cabin. They are ready for some sun, swim, drink, pot, and sex. Later that evening, a game of truth or dare leads them into the cellar to find a haunting display of toys, dolls, writings, and clothing dating back to previous owners. Their weekend of excitement comes to a screeching halt when they realize this cabin is not quite the paradise they were hoping to enjoy as three zombies are released from graves buried on the property.
***SPOILER ALERTS from here on out***
This all sounds pretty clichéd like something straight out of Sam Raimi's Evil Dead trilogy. The kicker in this script by Goddard and Joss Whedon is that all of the actions against the students are being controlled and manipulated by a group of media personnel as part of a game/reality show. They are led by two men (Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford) who seem to be in charge of what happens to the unsuspecting group of students. There are cameras set up all over the cabin and surrounding property so they can manipulate and call the shots as they see it all unfolding. The goal is for the virgin to be the last one standing.
I don't want to give too much more away. The best part of this movie is the element of surprise. It works best, if like the students, you have no idea what is going to happen next. The brilliance behind the movie is that there is something new and fresh happening throughout the whole movie. You never know where the ride is going to take you or what will pop up next. Like Scream, The Cabin in the Woods is one big homage to the horror genre. It plays with standard horror movie characters, styles, and clichés but completely one ups them by taking it to the next level and doing something so completely original in the second half of the movie. Most of your typical slasher films released these days are boring paint-by-numbers gore fests. They are either remakes or sequels of previous movies. It is refreshing when a director and screenwriter dare to make something new and fresh to challenge the audience. I love hearing the audience laugh or jump during a great horror movie. The Cabin in the Woods is definitely that kind of movie. People laughed during the funny stoner one-liners but also jumped and got startled numerous times. Not only does the movie speak volumes about horror movies, it provides an interesting commentary on reality shows. You have the producers and personnel on the show rooting for these people to get attacked or killed. They are having a big party to celebrate how the show is going all the while the heroine is getting the shit kicked out of her in the background. There are so many reality shows out there where the producers manipulate the show and situations so the villain comes as the winner, the tears are flowing like a waterfall, and catfights are normal. They do this because it attracts ratings. Why is it that society is drawn to the dramatic downfalls and craziness of these types of shows and the people involved? Trust me when I say that The Cabin in the Woods is one of the best horror movies released in years. You may think it looks super cheesy, but there is so much more to it than students heading out to some dumpy cabin. It is a fresh, witty, sharp, intelligent ode to a mostly stale genre.
RATING: **** 1/2 (4.5 out of 5 stars)