Saturday, 14 April 2012

The Cabin in the Woods - A Review

Editor's Note: There is no stinger scene after the credits. I waited to check. :(

Every review I've read or watched in the last few days concerning "The Cabin in the Woods" has started with the same opening paragraph, summarized here:
  • This Movie Is Amazing
  • Go See It Immediately
  • I Can't Tell You Why
And that's all you need. Seriously, just go. Don't even watch the trailer I'm about to show you, because it contains a spoiler.

But you know what? The whole damn movie is a spoiler. It is constructed of spoilers. To say this trailer spoils the movie is like saying Jaws is spoiled when I tell you there's a shark in it. The surprise is what makes the movie. But if you're still reading this far, then you've already ignored my advice, so I'll give you a little more.

The film centers around five stereotypical young adults who decide to take a trip up to a relative's cabin for the weekend. The stereotypes are obvious for those who are familiar with the genre: Headstrong Leader Guy, Quirky Intelligent Guy, Stoner Comic Relief, Bimbo Slut, and Innocent Virgin. Before you get a few minutes into the movie you've already set up expectations about what you're going to be seeing in the next hour-and-a-half.

And that's where they get you.

It's clear from the very first scene that something else is going on with this movie. The trailer already shows you that someone else is running the show from behind the scenes, manipulating the environment and characters. Suffice it to say that the minute you start to think you know what's going on, the movie twists and suddenly you're not so sure. Half the fun is trying to piece it together.

Okay, that's all you get in terms of spoilers. Everything I've told you thus far is stuff you could have gleaned from the trailer I told you not to watch. That's basically the first 20 minutes of the movie. The rest of it, that's where things get weird. And then AWESOME.

When you read the title "The Cabin in the Woods", you immediately think of a half-dozen cheap horror movies with the premise. Evil Dead, Cabin Fever, so on. But this is so much more than that. Where you might call this "a horror movie", I would call it "the horror movie", or even "the last horror movie". It's a movie about horror, which works on the most fundamental levels of the genre. I don't claim to be an expert on horror movies, but I picture Eli Roth and Wes Craven and Sam Raimi sitting together and watching this movie, and the first thing they say when the movie's over is "Well, we can't ever top that!"

The movie is acutely aware of itself, and you the viewer, as you're watching it. Compare it to Scream, where the characters are in a horror movie situation, and then they stop and talk about how "this is just like a horror movie", yet they still do all the stupid things that you'd never do if you were in that situation. What we get instead from Cabin is a movie where the movie shows you that trope in action, and then pulls it wide open so you can see all the little pieces that make it work. In fiction writing, that's called "Show, Don't Tell", and it's done flawlessly.

Speaking of the writing, we've got Joss Whedon (Buffy, Firefly, Dollhouse) and Drew Goddard (Cloverfield) behind the script on this one, and they did a fantastic job. The dialogue is great, with a side effect being that maybe half the movie is comedy, even during some of the more horrific scenes. The only time anyone ever feels overtly forced or engages in exposition-speak is when (SPOILER OMITTED), so it makes sense, and we're aware that it's supposed to sound clunky. And for any Whedon-fans out there, take a shot every time one of his actors shows up. Amy Acker (Fred from Angel), Tom Lenk (Andrew from Buffy), Fran Kranz (Topher from Dollhouse), it's like a reunion special in there.

If you like scary movies, go watch The Cabin In The Woods.
If you like intelligent deconstructions of genre conventions, go watch The Cabin In The Woods.
If you like seeing things that are inherently awesome, go watch The Cabin In The Woods.

Editor's Note: My one question: Why THE HELL would anyone design a BIG RED BUTTON that (SPOILER OMITTED)?!?


  1. It's funny, witty, original, daring, and altogether, entertaining as hell. This movie gives me faith that Hollywood is actually willing to do something outside the box in the name of entertainment. Sadly though, within the next year we'll soon be getting Saw 400 coming to theaters. Nice review.

    1. Glad you liked it, it was a spur-of-the-moment thing.

      I'm really hoping this movie makes enough money to give producers and filmmakers an idea of what a good horror movie can do for audiences and the genre as a whole.

      My friends and I were toying with the idea of a sequel or prequel, but even though we did come up with basic premises for both, it almost seems like having one would diminish the value of the original.

  2. Hey!

    Thanks for liking us on Alpha Omega Radio and the twitter feed! After checking out your site, I wanted to email you some questions (no I'm not sending you spam lol), but I couldn't find an email address on your site.

    You can email us at contactus[at] and hopefully we can get a discussion going. Thanks again man :)


    1. Well, this is about six months late. I totally forgot I was supposed to respond to this. You've probably noticed I'm not great at keeping to a schedule with this blog, since I work full-time. I'd love to help, but I'm probably not the sort of person you want for the project you had in mind.