Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Cabin In The Woods, The (2012)

Director: Drew Goddard
Notable Cast: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Richard Jenkins, Bradly Whitford, Sigourney Weaver

So for my first review into my long list of horror films to pummel my through this October, I felt it necessary to finally watch "The Cabin In The Woods." Over hyped with reviewers claiming it to be one of the best horror films ever and such, it was hard not to go into it with a bit of hesitation - despite my own excitement to see Joss Whedon taking a crack at co-writing a horror film. I will initially state that I certainly do not believe this to be one of the best horror films ever as it has plenty of its own issues to contend with (and essentially being more science fiction/fantasy more-so than horror in my opinion), but "The Cabin In The Woods" is a fun and goofy experience that will attract Whedon fans more than true horror fans.

When five friends, on break from college, decide to go visit a cousin's newly purchased remote cabin in the woods for a little R & R, they think they are in for a fun and wild weekend of drinking, sex, and general youth debauchery. What is in store for them, all under the watchful eye of office workers setting up some kind of event that is taking place in multiple places throughout the world, is nothing of the that sort. When the dead arise to play, it's these young people who will have to survive...and uncover a mysterious reason to their sudden demise in the woods.

Beating zombies to death with a coffee mug bong...quintessential teen horror humor?
Before I really get into reviewing the actual film, I must say that I did go into "The Cabin In The Woods" with a chip on my shoulder. Whedon has made mention that this film was meant to revitalize the horror genre as a "loving hate letter" that was meant to mock torture porn horror that had devolved the genre. Revitalize? A devolved genre? I mean, I'm not one to really love torture porn films (in fact, I sincerely hate that term as it really is used derogatorily for many films that are better than what that would indicate - but that's another discussion to be had), but after seeing "The Cabin In The Woods" it was essentially nothing more than an homage film with a clever twist and one that uses many of those techniques of "torture porn" to garner it audiences. Please, I enjoy your movies Joss Whedon, but I'm not a fucking idiot and your snobbish comments to your "loved" genre leaves quite a bad aftertaste considering what the film presents and underestimating your audience.

Now that my rant is over, it's hard not to enjoy "The Cabin In The Woods" in many ways. It's got a great play on the cliche characters it uses and many of the homages to horror film structures, elements, and even direct moments (including some Cenobyte looking characters with a puzzle ball at the end) that work to please the horror fan in me. Hell, even the Whedon/Goddard script has strong fun quips of dialogue (including a fun and silly moment when the group decides to split up) and some interesting twists to why this particular horror story is being played out...that releases a blood bath of epic proportions with a massive variety of monsters and horrors at the end. Goddard has an eye for great comedic timing and visually he uses both CGI and practical effects to a pretty strong balance. Even the casting and acting is fairly strong for a film of this type and for these reasons, I enjoyed "The Cabin In The Woods" as a horror fan and Whedon fan.

"Please let this cabinet be pine and not press board..."
But long after the credits had rolled and as I thought about the experience I had with the film (and its rather disappointing and lackluster ending that tries far too hard), the more I began to withdraw from its fun and clever atmosphere. The best way to describe how I feel about the film now is to compare it with another homage horror film like "Dead Snow." While "Dead Snow" distinctly homaged many horror elements and styles in its snowy zombie tale of kids trapped in a remote cabin, it treats its sources with delicate hands of individuals that truly love and care of the genre. "The Cabin In The Woods" does this on a surface level, but appearances can be deceiving. This film treats its horror elements as more of a sweet topping while the main foundations of the film lie distinctly within the science fiction genre. And then these horror moments, zombies attacking a loving young couple in the dark woods or the like, are treated with a very obvious "wink wink" style of homage - as if it didn't trust us to pick up on what it is saying. A move that leaves me a bit irritated the more I think about it. Particularly when one thinks about some of the things Whedon had to say about the film before its release.

Then again, I'm obviously the black sheep of the reviewing family on this one as it has plenty of wide spread love across the world. And I will admit, that I definitely had fun with the film and its satirical side remarks on corporate business, office workers, and why these cliches play out the way they do. In fact, I'll give the film the benefit of the doubt with a 3 blood drop rating just for that. The dialogue is witty with actors able to do the job and the special effects are quite impressive (wait til you see the merman!). I just wish that conceptionally the film didn't treat me like I don't know my favorite genre and had a better ending that carried a bit more depth to it.

Now its off to continue my horror marathon...

Written By Matt Reifschneider


  1. The rushed ending and random unicorn pushed this movie over the edge....right into making it feel cheep and cheesey. Maybe that's part of it's cult love now. It left me disappointed but strangely satisfied and confused at the same time.

  2. Yeah, this whole movie reeks of Whedon's smug "I'm so clever" attitude. After loving Avengers I thought maybe I was ready to accept other works of his, but this left such a bad taste in my mouth. I also enjoyed the pseudo-Cenobyte, but it's just there to bait people into recalling Hellraiser. It serves no purpose to the actual movie you're watching. I did enjoy the merman, though, that was pretty good.

    I haven't seen Dead Snow yet, but it sounds better than this.