The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
Director: Drew Goddard
Writer: Drew Goddard, Joss Whedon
Starring: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford
I have a confession to make: I am legitimately addicted to a very specific website on the internet. This website will consume hours of my life if I step into it even briefly, I have to stop myself from visiting it often, and I fear telling other people about it because I am afraid it will consume them as well. A joke about pornography. But seriously, the website I refer to is TvTropes, a wiki site devoted to the many conventions or ‘tropes’ that Film, Tv, Comics etc frequently use. They give some inventive names to the tropes, often based on a famous example of it, and each page links to multiple other tropes that essentially becomes a veritable maze of storytelling devices and conventions.
I say all this because this obsession of mine often colors my feelings of entertainment lately, if a trope is used it sometimes will hurt my opinion of it or make me love it even more, but more often than not, it’s once the tropes are subverted or averted or lampshaded (click at your own risk) that I can go from like to love. Most genre-bending films do this, and sometimes more successfully than others (Hot Fuzz is a prime example) and thankfully, The Cabin in the Woods not only does this incredibly well but makes it immensely entertaining the whole way through. WARNING: Minor Spoilers follow regarding the premise.
This film has two very different plotlines happening at once while also complementing each other. The part of the story anyone who has seen the trailer knows is that five young people go to a Cabin in the Woods for a getaway, and then weird shit starts to happen. Sounds like a lot of horror films right? The other side of the coin is where things get interesting however: Little do the young teens know there are technicians of sorts behind the scenes of the Cabin pulling strings and essentially orchestrating the events that occur within. Apparently this is something they do often, for (at first) unclear reasons, but there’s a sense of importance to the proceedings. What follows is a simultaneous homage and deconstruction of the horror genre, and perhaps one of the most original films I’ve seen of this kind since Scream.
Even revealing the above makes me feel a little bad for anyone who is reading this and hasn’t yet seen the film, but it’s incredibly hard to talk about without revealing something. I’d love to reveal more but I really think the less you know about the movie the more you’ll enjoy the twists and turns the story takes, climaxing in one of the most amazing third acts of any film, ever. Honestly, I’m so excited to see the film again because the amount of references and jokes in that scene ALONE merit multiple viewings. If there was one aspect of the film I didn’t enjoy, it’s just the very last shot – something that was inevitable but also a little TOO far, in my opinion. But it’s a minor gripe, and I had such a fun time watching this movie that I can forgive something as small as that.
The actors are all pretty awesome here (and with Joss Whedon co-writing, the dialogue is fantastic), specifically the two technicians played by Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford (two actors I adore) and the ‘stoner’ character played by Dollhouse’s Fran Kranz. There’s a ‘cameo’ at the end that felt a little silly and unnecessary (and had too much exposition), but aside from that, the actors all do exactly what they need to do. There are a couple Whedon favorites that pop up here and there too, which is always a treat to us Whedon fans.
Again it’s hard to discuss too in depth without spoiling things, but I will say this – the acknowledgment of the horror film conventions are done in a way that is clever and interesting without being too smug (often a danger with this kind of movie). All the silly and sometimes frustrating things characters do in horror films are more or less addressed and explained, while still feeling like it’s coming from a place of affection for the tropes they are lampooning. There’s a reason horror fans want the characters to follow the conventions – it’s more entertaining that way.
I feel the only other thing I can really say about this movie is simply: go see it. If you’re a horror fan, or a Whedon fan, or just want to have an incredibly entertaining evening at the theatre, I can’t recommend this movie enough. If you’re not into horror films, I still feel you can enjoy this movie because it’s generally more of a comedy than a straight up horror. And one final thing for those that have seen the movie: Why do they even have that button?