Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard have set a new standard in meta-horror storytelling with The Cabin In The Woods, one that is so incredible the film world is improved by its existence.
The worry with a film hyped by its supposed amazing twist is that there’s no way it’ll match the build up in your mind. Have no fear in that regard, you can go in to this movie with full knowledge that Cabin is a deconstruction and analysis of every trope found in the horror genre with nary a dent in your enjoyment of the events as they unfold. The twist is not the thing, the entire third act with a full on explosion of pure horror geekgasm is what you’ll never see coming. Even if you think you know, the truth is that you’re in for a great surprise.
This is the story of five college kids heading to a cabin for the weekend, but that overwrought cliché is the end of any sort of normalcy. Whedon and Goddard have created a masterful collection of archetypes, who themselves are only playing a part forced upon them by an unknown entity, that are interesting enough to keep you engaged, but never too much so that you linger on a death. The pace moves quickly, and the writing reflects that. Even in moments when horror elements are at the forefront in honest brutality there’s a breezy reaction to events. It’s not often that a dismembered hand is thanked so graciously.The story touches the satire button with a light graze, but never pushes with vigor. Whedon and Goddard deftly maneuver their characters right to the edge of every cliché, especially as you guess what the real truth is and ignore the truth you’re told very early in the film. The nerdy, but strikingly beautiful and vulnerable, virgin (Kristen Connolly) is instantly likeable as she establishes a verbal repartee with the blond beauty (Anna Hutchison). Even the stoner (Fran Kranz) turns out to be even greater than his most epic of bongs. Seriously, that is the best pot smoking device to ever grace a movie screen.
Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins steal the film in their bits as they get the best comedic moments, especially one that involves a phone call that had our entire audience roaring with laughter. Cabin In The Woods begs to be seen with a large audience as everyone reacts to the moments. It’ll be easy to spend the rest of this weekend exchanging “Remember when _____ was getting violently killed, but it was in the background?” anecdotes with others who’ve seen the movie.
The story, for all of the hype this mysterious twist is getting, is a bit simple. Think of Cabin as a wonderful playground for anyone interested in horror, and possibly an even greater one for those who don’t care about the genre. By the end of the film you realize that what the story is really about is the pure pleasure and joy that comes from monster movies. Who wins, who survives, who gets the girl all don’t matter because you’ve just been entertained and got to see everything you hoped would be there.