Director: Drew Goddard
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Kristen Connolly, Anna Hutchinson, Jesse Williams, Fran Kranz, Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins
Review Written By: Michael Dalton
The Cabin in the Woods has a very simple, superficial horror plot. Five young people go to a cabin in the woods. However, alongside these scenes of party preparation, we see office workers in what is a seemingly top secret agency of some sort, discussing the importance of the work they are about to do. These two separate storylines will then merge into what is one of the year’s more entertaining and unpredictable films. The Cabin in the Woods is essentially a more elevated and extreme version of Scream. Scream is one of my favourite films of all time as it manages to mock and celebrate horror films as well as succeed in being an effective one. While The Cabin in The Woods is also a film that concurrently critiques and celebrates the horror genre, it is a film that delivers more laughs than it does scares. In fact, it’s probably the funniest film of the year.
If there is one big flaw with The Cabin in the Woods, it is that it is not that scary. If you scare easier when it comes to films, or have not seen as many horror films as most fans of this movie will have done, you may feel differently. However for the vast majority of the film it doesn’t seem as if it is trying to be scary and therefore it may be unfair to criticize the film for not being something it didn’t intend to be. However if you are a fan of horror you will appreciate and enjoy this film, just perhaps not in the way you would expect to appreciate and enjoy a “horror” film. However the lack of legitimate scares in The Cabin in the Woods is made up for with what has to be the most insane ten minutes of cinema I have seen all year. Despite not being terrifying, the third act of this movie, is every horror fans dream nightmare. If you’re expecting scares and subtlety, The Cabin in the Woods may not satisfy your expectations, however adjust them to what the film promises to deliver and you’ll have one of the most satisfying theater experiences of the year.
The Cabin in the Woods gets better and better as it builds to its chaotic climax. Unlike most of the films I have seen this year, or even most of the films I have ever seen, Cabin in the Woods promises so much and was able to deliver in ways I didn’t and couldn’t even imagine. If anybody says The Cabin in the Woods is predictable, they are lying. The film also has a great deal of substance despite the bombastic nature of its surface. There are essays that could be written about this film and what different characters within it represent. It can be seen as a deconstruction of horror films, the attitudes of those who create and consume them and the conventions they have came to expect and demand. However it also can be interpreted in a broader context, as a piece of social commentary about utilitarianism. However Cabin in the Woods is not a film which is constantly reminding you of how smart and deep it is, its primary objective is one that very much should be the goal for every horror and genre filmmaker, entertain your audience.
At just over ninety minutes, The Cabin in the Woods absolutely flies by. In fact at times the film goes too fast and I cannot wait until I have the film on Blu-Ray and can freeze frame to explore and revel in the density of some of this film’s shots. I was not bored or distracted for a single second. This is a film that grabs you and keeps you from start to finish. The pacing is superb and the way in which the film cuts between its two parallel storylines, is expertly and creatively done. Drew Goddard (The writer of Cloverfield) co-wrote and directed this film. Not just for a debut filmmaker but for any filmmaker, this is a directorial achievement to be proud of. Goddard handles the action sequences and tone perfectly. However, there is no scene in this, which punches you in the gut as much as the opening sequence of Scream does. Wes Craven was a seasoned, experienced and legendary horror filmmaker. While there are a few moments where Drew Goddard builds some genuine suspense (The scene in the cellar) he never really hits it out of the park in regards to the horror of the film and that may be down to his relative inexperience in the genre and filmmaking in general.
However that is not to say I would trade in Goddard for Craven as despite not scaring me, Goddard (Along with his cinematographer Peter Deming) has delivered some of the ultimate shots and sequences of the horror genre. Goddard and Whedon have also delivered a masterpiece of a screenplay. It is perfectly constructed, constantly keeps you guessing and builds up a mystery so well over the course of the film. Although if there is one area where they slightly falter, the reveal of, “what’s been going on the whole time” is rather sloppily done through expository dialogue, however given who was delivering that expository dialogue, they kind of get away with it. Also upon further reflection I’m not entirely sure how you could have explained it visually. It also has to deal with the issue of giving answers, which is as never as easy is asking questions. Personally I could have lived with never finding out the secret behind the cabin in the woods, however I know I’m in a minority on that one.
One of the best compliments I can give The Cabin in the Woods, is that I wanted to spend more time in its world. Some of my favourite films are the ones that evoke the idea and feeling of there being a tangible world beyond what you are seeing on the screen (An example would be Inception). The Cabin in the Woods does that and I would love to follow both sides of the story into their own worlds (Although one significantly more than the other) In fact forget the S.H.I.E.L.D TV spin-off that we’re getting, who else wants a spin-off TV show about the top secret organization in this film?
In regards to the performances, Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford are the stars of the show. As the ones who are entrusted with running the operation, the two of them have a great camaraderie with one another and every scene with their characters is perfect. I could watch an entire movie, an entire TV series that just focused around the two of them, in that control room, pushing buttons. Whether you’re a fan of horror or not, this film is worth seeing for their scenes alone. Fran Kranz is undoubtedly the standout of the younger section of the cast as “the stoner” While in fleeting moments both he and the scriptwriters try a little too hard in regards to his character, he, along with Jenkins and Whitford provided the film with the majority of its laughs and enjoyment.
Overall while The Cabin in the Woods is not without its flaws, they are slight and do not detract from one of the ultimate cinematic experiences of my life so far. Yes its “importance” may be being slightly overstated, but this is an artfully made, well thought out and extremely entertaining piece of filmmaking. It demands and I am sure will reward repeat viewings. It is arguably the most self-aware, meta-textual and academic film the horror genre has ever produced whilst being one of the more ridiculous at the same time. I could write on forever about Cabin in the Woods however I will conclude my review with a sentence that will leave you no illusions as to what I thought. It’s one of my favourite films of the year so far.
By Movie Parliament Prime Minister,
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