View The Cabin in the Woods trailer here.
Joss Whedon. His name alone turns the heads of countless fanboys and fangirls. Yet, The Cabin in the Woods spent years in limbo due to MGM going under, and most of us had resigned ourselves to perhaps never seeing this little horror project he cooked up with Drew Goddard (writer, Cloverfield). But now it’s finally here, two years after its initial project release date. And, not surprisingly for a Whedon creation, it still feels miles ahead of its time.
Whedon and Goddard’s so called ”loving hate letter” to the genre, The Cabin in the Woods is one of the freshest films I’ve seen in years. Playing through all the tired tropes of horror, the audience is given new perspectives as well as new, unexpected heroes. It’s at this point I would normally spell out the basic premise and give a few hints towards the story’s direction. But trust me, you don’t want to know. Cabin is so many types of movie rolled into one, in a way thoroughly Whedon-esque but also very obviously influenced by Goddard as well. To reveal anything would spoil what should for all viewers be a truly unique experience. Not to mention, I tried to explain its plot in full today to a friend, and wound up confusing her more than anything else.
Which leads directly into one of Cabin’s two problems: the narrative is fantastically tight at points, but then at times seems to fall into predictable patterns. The two writers coming together here produce some memorable, highly engaging moments. Yet sporadically things can feel awkward and almost rushed through, culminating in hazy mythology and more questions than answers. The other issue is with the editing, which can pause at strange times and stretch predictable sequences out too long. Some of the film’s best moments are preceded by unexpected lulls, turning moments of added suspense into uncomfortable pauses, just prior to gratification. Part of it may have to do with Goddard’s inconsistent direction style, but to be honest it’s not an issue most will notice. Because every square inch of The Cabin in the Woods is jam-packed with more than enough cleverness to keep you distracted.
It’s also nice to see some lesser-known talent hog the spotlight. Sure good ol’ Thor shows up, but Chris Hemsworth was still building himself into the ranks back in 2009. And it’s a wonder we haven’t seen more of Kristen Connolly prior to this, for she really holds her own as the main protagonist. Fran Kranz (Dollhouse) appears, and although he’s quite the typecast oddjob, he brings some necessary levity to what would otherwise have been an extra dark world.
Horror, comedy, action. The Cabin in the Woods takes the best parts of all three and shucks off the rest. With a few notable exceptions, its story is fairly unpredictable, begging the audience to simply enjoy the ride deeper into its creators’ psyches. It satisfies so many inherent visual cravings, while telling a story that’s never really been told before. It’s catchy, creative, and easily one of the best movies this year has offered. If you see one movie this month, make it The Cabin in the Woods.