Cabin in the Woods, The (2012)
Directed by Drew Goddard
The Cabin in the Woods is a genre-defying horror comedy that celebrates the usual tropes instead of maligning them. Written by Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon, the film sat on a shelf for over two years before it is finally being unleashed on unsuspecting audiences next month.
Because of the pedigree, the established milieu that Cabin is nestled upon is already on a shaky foundation: Whedon has a playful but respectful eye toward this type of story, and fans of "Buffy" and "Angel" should be expecting to see a different spin on a familiar premise. So here's the rub. The basic setup was already revealed in the film's first trailer. If you're a tried and true horror fan, the title alone and the involvement of Goddard and Whedon should get you in the seat. But knowing that there is an added, let's say, more scientific element thrown into the mix should raise eyebrows and increase interest in The Cabin in the Woods, which is exactly why the marketing of the film highlights certain aspects that make the story all the more compelling.
Forced into stereotypes unknowingly, Dana (Connolly) takes the role of "the virgin", Jules (Hutchison) becomes "the whore", Holden (Williams) becomes "the egghead", and finally, Curt (Hemsworth) tackles "the jock". Refreshingly, it's "the stoner", Marty (Kranz), who realizes things may not be what they seem.
When the laughs subside (momentarily of course) and the scares begin, The Cabin in the Woods transforms from a film teetering on parody into a cat and mouse game with real stakes. Remarkably, the environment engulfing our characters becomes even more believable as the story opens up to even more fantastic sequences. By the time the credits roll, there are so many layers to unravel, there's very little chance that you'll even remember that the trailers (and this review to an extent) let you in on the film's little secret. Because then you'll know the big secret.
Not to get you too excited, but there are certain scenes in The Cabin in the Woods that are so gloriously set up and executed that you're likely to remember the reason why you fell in love with horror movies in the first place. It reinvigorates your childlike sense of wonder to see something so uproariously funny mixed with over-the-top action and spot-on references to the films we and the filmmakers cherish.
The Cabin in the Woods is this generation's Scream, and although it won't redefine or reinvigorate the genre like Craven's savior of a film did, it accomplishes something greater. Who knows what the impact of Goddard's first film will be, but the way it manages to avoid satire entirely - while still establishing a world that champions what we love about the genre - is downright miraculous. A universe is created that the characters inhabit where Goddard and Whedon are gods, and we are all damn lucky to be living in it, too.
The Cabin in the Woods hits theaters on April 13th. Go see it, and let's make this thing a monster.
4 1/2 out of 5