Directed by Drew Goddard
Distributed by Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Drew Goddard’s directorial debut is not one that will soon be forgotten. The Cabin in the Woods is nothing short of a game-changer of a film. Not only did Goddard and co-writer Joss Whedon create an incredibly entertaining movie, to some degree, they’ve forced their fellow filmmakers to do the same. And as a horror fan, I’ve got a husband bulge about the entire thing.
Described by Goddard as a “love letter to horror cinema”, The Cabin in the Woods draws upon loads of horror clichés and somehow creates something entirely fresh from that which had become stale and repetitive. The movie entertains with humor, scares and great F/X throughout, walking the audience through a three-act play that climaxes with the ultimate life or death decision.
The flick is played out by a stereotypical teen horror cast: the whore (Anna Hutchinson), the athlete (Chris Hemsworth), the scholar (Jesse Williams), the fool (Fran Kranz) and the virgin (Kristen Connolly). However they find themselves being manipulated in an all-encompassing, Hunger Games-style fashion with every aspect of their person being tweaked and adjusted to fit the needs of those in control, making the whore more whorey, the jock more jockey and so on. All this being done for an outcome to “placate The Ancient Ones”, a reference to the fact that those in control must appease an unseen group of “giant evil gods” (which this reviewer has to assume is a reference about filmmakers trying to impress the movie viewing audiences) or risk the destruction of the entire world. Sounds pretty complex for a film that initially looked like another teen slasher, huh?
The cast is put together perfectly. Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford as the aloof, seen-it-all-before duo at the helm of the controls, Sitterson and Hadley, are uproariously perfect. They brilliantly play off each other with dialogue that at times feels like it was pulled from Pulp Fiction. And the kids in the Cabin who these puppetmasters are manipulating fill their roles wonderfully, especially Kranz as Marty, the fool. He delivers one hilarious line after another. And each of the teens have their spotlight moments…one particular make-out session with a moose comes immediately to mind.
The Cabin in the Woods is deliciously deceptive to the uninformed viewer. Anyone going into the flick with no idea about the plot will certainly be led around by Goddard and Whedon just as Sitterson and Hadley lead the teens to their fates. As the story comes together, as one layer is pulled away to reveal a next, even deeper step, the picture starts unfolding until Hell literally breaks loose… and then the real fun begins.
Although Whedon and Goddard consider The Cabin in the Woods a loving tribute to horror, it is very much a kick in the ass to the genre as well. Just the fact that the storyline of the film works so well proves how repetitious horror can sometimes be. The Cabin in the Woods proves that the “formula” referred to within the movie has simply been overdone and filmmakers should look to raise the bar and work more creatively. And if that should happen, if we begin to see the cliché five teens in the woods scenario begin to disappear, then we may be able to point to The Cabin in the Woods has having some responsibility for the improvement of the genre.
Additionally, those who have already embarked on this cinematic journey will certainly want to go out and grab a copy of the DVD or Blu-ray because the replay value of The Cabin in the Woods is nothing short of off the charts. If the devil is in the details, then this film is downright demonic. There is so much to discover in this flick… so much time and effort went into making everything amazingly perfect that you can go back and watch it multiple times, always finding something you may have missed on previous viewings. There is a lot here! Also watch for the foreshadowing elements you couldn’t have noticed on your first viewing. There’s plenty there, along with some great tributes to some of our favorite horror movies from the past.
If you have the equipment Blu-ray is easily the route to go here and the 1080p transfer is incredibly detailed, even in the movie’s intentionally dark and murky scenes. Skin tones are as natural as can be and the black levels are deliciously deep. The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix will be giving your home theater set up a workout and a half as every thump thunders and scream shatters the air in the most delightful of ways. Everything is just spot on.
Both the Blu-ray and the DVD are has some great special features that will help you appreciate how much work went into this experience. Full features on both the practical F/X (entitled An Army of Nightmares featuring Heather L. Anderson of AFX Studio…the savvy viewer will recognize Mrs. Anderson as the former Heather Langenkamp who played Nancy in the Nightmare on Elm Street series) and the CGI F/X (entitled Primal Terrors) are included as well as a tour of the cabin and the woods by co-writer/producer Joss Whedon. For an additional laugh, check out Kranz’s Marty’s Secret Stash feature in which you get a tour of Marty, the hardcore stoner’s, favorite smoking paraphernalia. A full overview of the production can be seen in We Are Not Who We Are (yet another fine tribute to a fellow horror title!), a full look at everything that went into the film. By the time you’re done checking out all the special features, you’ll feel like you were part of the crew. In terms of Blu-ray exclusives there is a fun picture-in-picture bonus view mode called “It’s Not What You Think: The Cabin in the Woods” which brings bits of the special features into the main feature itself.
The Cabin in the Woods is spooky, gruesome, insanely intelligent and witty beyond belief. The story is incredibly unique and captivating and the characters are magnetic. It’s a wonderful breath of fresh air for the horror genre, the likes of which we have not seen in a long, long time. A true gem.
o Marty’s Stash
o Hi, my name is Joss and I’ll be your guide
4 1/2 out of 5
5 out of 5