There’s no new or particularly novel way to say that The Cabin In The Woods is a dish best served cold. Actually that’s not too bad, encompassing a literary reference via a Star Trek movie, being as this meta-comedy-horror is all about references and playing with conventions. More importantly, however, it’s a film that is improved exponentially by knowing as little as possible before entering the theatre. So while we’ll try to remain spoiler free, our best advice is skip the trailer, skip to the verdict and come back later when you’ve enjoyed what might be the film geek’s geeky treat of the year.
When a Scooby Doo quintet – featuring Chris Hemsworth as Curt/Fred and his Daphne-esque (save the blonde hair) girlfriend Jules, the weed loving Marty taking on the role of Shaggy and a couple of Velma’s in Jesse Williams’ Holden and Kristen Connolly’s Dana – venture for a weekend away in a remote cabin they find themselves…well that’s enough really. Teenage kids in a Cabin. In The Woods. Just know that in true wink, wink fashion “Things Are Not Quite As They Seem”…
By giving as little away as possible, we’ll focus instead on the guys behind guys. It is a truth universally acknowledged that those in want of a film career could do a lot worse than plying a very successful trade on the gogglebox first. With the combined TVography of Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Alias and Lost, Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard have made themselves well known to legions of fans more than happy to venture from their televisual cocoons to enjoy their output of Serenity and Cloverfield. But this background has it’s hurdles.
For when events in Cabin In The Woods begin to vacate themselves from the rails the knowledge of who’s behind the twists and turns is, at times, an unwanted distraction. Knowing that the biggest puppeteering hand is a writer for Lost instils a creeping fear that perhaps the ‘plot behind the plot’ might not be completely thought through. That perhaps every question being raised might just be leading you down the garden path to ‘Pissed Off No Closure Close’. Thankfully (and possibly because of Mr. Whedon’s intervention) everyone involved has every intention of making sure they know the destination, with or without GPS.
While the destination might leave as many viewers aggravated as it does enthralled, the greatest trick that Whedon and Goddard pull off is in actually making you care about the teens under the swinging sickle. After years and years of “hurry up and get to the killing” Cabin In The Woods returns to the heroine of Halloween and the hope that the victims will survive. By doing so, it not only engages the audience on a dramatic level but also magnifies the scares ten fold. If the film has just one legacy, let’s hope it’s this. If it has two, the other should be; when a title screams “script writes itself”, never under any circumstance should the script be allowed to write itself.
Legacies notwithstanding, if nothing more The Cabin In The Woods shows what happens to the Mystery Machine gang when they don’t have a snack munching canine to fall back on.
The Whedon of the year? We’ll have to wait until April 26th and Avengers Assemble to decide that, but The Cabin In The Woods is inventive, funny and, most importantly for a horror film, genuinely bloody scary. The film makers intent was to take the genre back from gorenography and it’s ilk of butchering characters for no other reason but sadistic kicks. In that respect it’s Mission Accomplished.