Five college kids head off to a cabin in the woods for a weekend of fun and frolic. You know the rest… or do you?
If you’ve ever yelled ‘Don’t go in the cellar!’ or ‘Don’t split up! That’s not a good idea!’ at the screen during a horror movie, chances are good that you’ll enjoy Cabin in the woods. Co-writer/producer Joss Whedon and co-writer/director Drew Goddard know horror movies and they’ve come up a film that explores the tropes of many kinds – but they use the five friends heading off to a cabin in the woods as the base from which to explore and skewer. It comes as no surprise that Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead I & II are influences.
The five college kids – Curt [Chris Hemsworth, Thor], the jock; Jules [Anna Hutchinson, Wild Boys], his slutty girlfriend; Marty [Fran Kranz, Dollhouse], a stoner; Holden [Jesse Williams, Grey’s Anatomy], the nice guy; and Dana, [Kristen Connolly, As The World Turns] the good girl – are off to Curt’s cousin’s cabin for a weekend of hijinx [drinking, swimming in the lake – the usual…]. But first they encounter a creepy old dude at a closed gas station. Sound familiar? Well, brace yourselves. Things quickly begin to take odd side paths.
Right off the bat, we learn that these are not the archetypes we’ve come to expect from these movies. Curt may be a jock but he’s riding a scholastic scholarship and Marty’s a conspiracy theorist who frequently makes a great deal of sense – just for starters.
Then there are the two older guys in lab coats – Sitterson [Richard Jenkins] and Hadley [Bradley Whitford] – who seem to be working in a secret, very hi-tech complex of some kind.
More than this I cannot say with giving way to much up in terms of spoilers. Let’s just put it this way – there are reasons why otherwise reasonably intelligent college kids do stupid things like go into the cellar, or go for a walk in the scary woods, or, yes, split up [to ‘cover more ground’]. Whedon and Goddard have come up with a theory as to why this should be – and why it seems to always be five friends…
Cabin in the Woods is a tale of escalation. With each act, the stakes are raised until they reach almost cosmic proportions. Along the way, the script is littered with smart lines; wicked variations on all the tropes we’ve come to know and love [or be irritated by] in horror movies. It also mixes in a workplace dramedy to give us more possibilities – making figuring out the movie both more difficult and more fun.
Goddard directs the film with a bare bones, style that lets the performances and the witty dialogue play out in ways that play into our expectations before twisting them sideways. Cabin in the Woods moves a good pace – matching the dialogue to action in an almost musical rhythm.
The cast is uniformly excellent – even the bit-players are terrific – and the film looks great [cinematography by Peter Deming, Mulholland Drive, From Hell, the upcoming Oz: The Great and Powerful].
Cabin in the Woods is the perfect Friday the 13th release – it’s funny, scary and smart. Try it. You’ll like it.
Final Grade: A-