Cult favorites Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard seek to turn the Horror Genre on its head with its multi-genre bending The Cabin In the Woods. The movie borrows humor and supernatural elements from Buffy The Vampire Slayer, several cups of pseudo hipster (meta) awareness, and a pinch of horror from Wrong Turn (a full rip off); throw the concoction into a blender to see what comes out.
There is no denying the Horror Movie genre has grown stale, we had the genre redefining Scream movies several years ago, then the SAW and Hostel films revived the genre by going all out torture porn and now we’re back in this stage where Horror needs a new direction. Unfortunately this is not the direction to return to.
This is a genre that requires the audience to go along for the ride (no matter how ridiculous it may be) and part of that ride is having the fear and tension build to the point where you are jumping at every bump or floor creek. This movie has none of that and every time it starts to suck you in, it completely switches tone and destroys any attachment to the would be victims and everything else that goes on.
As an audience member, I could never enjoy the primary horror movie because it is constantly interrupted by long stretches of silliness in the control room. Is this silliness funny? It’s cute in small doses, but there was too much of it. The humor kept reminding me that I’m not watching a horror movie and there is nothing at stake – other than the deaths of people we never get to know. Why invest my time in anything that is going on when the movie clearly doesn’t seem to care.
Whedon and Goddard’s script did not provide enough time to really get to know, nor care about, any of the victims. The movie’s central conceit and idea that there is a mysterious organization that sets up teens to be killed in horror movie fashion never works because the movie becomes more about why this is going on instead of what is happening. A horror movie is all about the what and not why.
Goddard does an adequate job of directing this movie but I couldn’t help but think I was watching some of the lamer episodes of Buffy – the season 5 Initiative episodes come to mind, but some of the forced humor from Season 7 also is included.
Meta, insider gimmicks and comedy in horror works fine when used sparingly. The Scream movies are known for being self-aware but they didn’t overuse the gimmick (until the 3rd one) and never forgot that at the end of the day it was a HORROR movie.
Goddard is so in love with his conceit that he beats you over the head with it. I get it, there are puppet masters that set all this up, we don’t need to be reminded every 5 freaking minutes. This is a case where less would have been more.
Every time we get a brief glimpse of the hillbilly zombie monsters or a death, we get a quick extended cutaway to control room shenanigans, or a clip of Japanese girls killing a ghost. This totally destroys the horror moment that just happened prior. The movie also commits the “sin” of simply not being as funny as it thinks it is. I love Joss Whedon but his fanboyish dialog tricks have gotten stale.
The movie would have worked a lot better if it followed a more traditional structure. Drop hints and save the big reveal and “spoiler” until the end, don’t make it the entire basis for the movie. The last 10 minutes of the movie is great and finally brings it all together neatly but by then it is much too late to redeem the first 2/3rds of the entire affair.
Final Grade C-