The Cabin in the Woods

3 Oct


Director: Drew Goddard

Writers: Joss Whedon, Drew Goddard

Stars: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth and Anna Hutchison

Motion Picture Rating: 15

Runtime: 95 minutes



Call me a snob, but I prefer my horror flicks to be smart and clever as opposed to sopping wet with blood and gore. I don’t enjoy the torture porn of the Saw and Hostel franchises and that’s roughly where I believe  Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard were coming from with this effort. Past collaborators on the Buffy TV series, they apparently aimed to re-invent horror and to turn the genre inside out. Certainly that’s the position taken by the large number of online commentators and fanboys who have dissected this film.

The start is classic scary movie territory. Five attractive students set out from campus for a weekend of fun in the woods at a borrowed cabin. There is an athlete, a bitchy prom queen, a pot smoking goofball, a pretty ‘good girl’ and a smart, but reserved mate of the athlete. The five hit the road and stop hours later at the requisite redneck gas station. There the standard in-bred local insults and warns them in equal measure. Slightly spooked, the group press on and reach the isolated cabin in time for an afternoon dip in the lake. That night, over beers, some exploration of the cabin – of course it has a cellar – and a game of truth and dare, the horror begins.

I am not going to write much more about the plot as I don’t want to spoil it. However, the opening 10 minutes of the film plus the trailer reveal that there is far more going on at the cabin than a conventional story. We see Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford in a high tech facility seemingly preparing for the students arrival. The cabin is under surveillance and Jenkins and Whitford have a small army of assistants to monitor and potentially manipulate the goings-on.

There are lots of early nods to classic films here including Friday the13th, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Evil Dead. It’s fanboy heaven to spot them and whilst reassuring for the audience, there is also plenty of smart dialogue to freshen things up. The film is also scary once the group enters the cellar. It handles the horror very well in the first 60 minutes, but gears are then shifted and the final third is something else altogether. Whedon and Goddard throw convention out the window and all hell, literally, breaks loose.

Now I agree that the last 35 minutes is ground-breaking – in fact it is utterly bonkers – but does it really explode the horror genre? I am not so sure. There is subversion certainly and the mashed up sci-fi and folklore elements are cleverly added. It is entertaining, and there are smart lines and popcorn shocks galore, but for me this does not turn the genre inside out. Whedon and Goddard have delivered a quick, slick and fun movie, but I can’t see it stopping or altering the current flow of Saw and Hostel copycats. Not even a killer unicorn could do that.

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