Spoiler-free. I swear.
Directed by: Drew Goddard
Stars: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, and Fran Kranz
MPAA Rating: R
Why do we watch horror movies? Or, more appropriately, why do we still watch horror movies? Haven’t we seen it all before? How many FRIDAY THE 13TH‘s or HALLOWEEN‘s will we sit through as the clichés pile up in predictable fashion? Or how about the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY movies, the FINAL DESTINATION‘s, or the SAW‘s? Maybe we hope that we’ll see something new or original in the latest installment. Or perhaps we secretly desire the familiarity, finding comfort in a safe, recognizable scare. These are the types of thoughts that must have been going through the minds of Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard as they sat down to write THE CABIN IN THE WOODS. What terrors do they bring to light in their new film, and do they succeed in delivering the goods?
THE CABIN IN THE WOODS is about five college students who decide to spend the weekend in a family member’s cabin in the woods. They go there with plans of drinking alcohol, swimming in the lake, and maybe engaging in some sex and drugs as well. What they discover is that they have stumbled into a horrific situation with seemingly no escape.
If the description sounds too vague or too commonplace, that’s on purpose. There are secrets in the film that should not be revealed to anyone, and this reviewer wouldn’t dare list them here. Just know that the more spoiler-free you are, the better your viewing experience will be.
What I am comfortable stating is that the film successfully plays with the conventions and trappings of the horror genre in ways that are both expected and unexpected. It’s a clever, playful movie that switches between horror and comedy frequently, often at the drop of a hat. It manages to be a really fun horror film whilst also being a tribute and love letter to the genre itself. Sort of like SCREAM, but very, very different.
The aforementioned writing duo of Whedon and Goddard have crafted a superb script that manages to be thoughtful and smart whilst also exploiting every moment for maximum entertainment value. Goddard also directed the film and he does so with gusto, especially in the film’s glorious climactic moments. The acting all-around is very solid, especially the victims at the heart of the matter. They each bring an interesting dynamic to well-worn stereotypes, resulting in a refreshing cast of characters that are worth investing in, even though we can be certain they won’t all make it to the end. The production work itself is all very well-done, from the sets to the music to the effects. There is some questionable CGI, but not enough to break anyone away from the fun.
So, in summation, THE CABIN IN THE WOODS is the real deal. A genuinely intelligent and very funny, scary movie. Avoid the trailers. Avoid anyone who may spoil the movie for you. Don’t read anything else about the movie. Just go see it. You will not regret the decision.
THE CABIN IN THE WOODS is now playing in theaters nationwide. It comes very highly recommended by this critic.
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