Review: The Cabin in the Woods

Attempting to review a film that has this many twists and pleasant surprises is an unenviable task.  So, allow me to be as succinct as I can without giving a whole lot of plot details from the anticipated The Cabin in the Woods (opening April 13th) which may make this review quite short and vague.

Horror has seen its fair share of films which have attempted, for better or for worse, to deconstruct the genre on either a narrative or technical level.  

The Cabin in the Woods trumps them all and is, hands-down, one of the smartest horror movies I’ve seen in years.  

It’s a timeless, endlessly entertaining and biting look at the genre, adapting to all genre archetypes in the sharpest way possible and never once talking down to its audience.  Cabin knows you’ve likely seen it all and experienced every cinematic fear.  And so it shamelessly calls upon everything you can imagine, spinning them in wildly different directions and doing so at the service of a sinister plot which is pretty goddamn brilliant.

The previews you’ve seen are just the tip of the iceburg: A group of 20-somethings venture out to a cabin in the woods for a weekend of booze, drugs and sex.  This troupe is grounded by Kristen Connolly’s Dana, the timid good girl, in some respects.  Her company includes the jock, Curt (Chris Hemsworth), his girlfriend, Jules (Anna Hutchison), the stoner, Marty (Fran Kranz), and the handsome Holden (Jesse Williams).  

Upon arrival, the cabin is unassuming, until they start to poke around in the basement and make a discovery (of course).  Meanwhile, somewhere else on a parallel storyline, we’re introduced to Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford’s characters and, my God, are they incredible.  Easily the best characters in the film who dish their roles out with such fine-tuned precision.

Quite frankly, to say much more is really ruining a lot of the fun.

From one horror fan to another, here’s what I will say: You will not be disappointed by the “horrific” aspects of the story.  Director Drew Goddard and co-writer/producer Joss Whedon know what you want and deliver on all levels.  Pure insanity is the best way to describe one chunk of this film.  You want blood?  You’re going to get it.  The “threats” are inventive and will have any fan worth his or her salt grinning from ear to ear.  The mythology – the backdrop of Cabin, if you will – that Goddard and Whedon create is a terrific throwback to a specific old school author that I don’t want to name here because, again, it’s giving too much away.  But trust me, you’re going to be thrilled.

Goddard’s direction is assured and he knows how to make the balance of the scares/comedy work.  There is one moment – that is the film’s tip o’ the hat to J-horror – that destroyed me.  Sheer brilliance.  But it’s just one piece of Cabin‘s massive puzzle that needs to be seen first, digested and then seen again to peel away the various layers that are apparent on both a story and visual level.

Trust me, The Cabin in the Woods knows what it’s doing.  All of those horror film theory books you’ve read?  This movie’s read them, too, and it’s one step ahead of you in telling its story.  Honestly, I’d love to sit down with each and every one of you at a bar and just dissect the hell out of the movie, spoilers and all…alas, I can’t do that here.  All I can do is say: See this movie.

You want a rating?  F**k it, I hate giving ratings, but I’ll give it this…  Flawless victory: 10/10