By Toussaint Egan
You think you know the story. Five unassuming college students go off on a trip to a distant new location in order to “get away from it all” and have a good time. On the way there they appear painfully ignorant to ominous signs that predicts this trip is probably not going to end well, choosing instead to eagerly bludgeon forward with willful disregard for their personal safety into the jaws of pure unrestrained evil. The Cabin in the Woods takes this tired and conventional horror format and turns it on its head in the best way possible, using the audience’s prior knowledge of horror movie clichés and turning that foreknowledge right back at them to both horrifying and comedic effect.
You’d be forgiven for watching the trailer or seeing any of the promotional material for this film and thinking that this was just another boring treasure trove of horror tropes stretched to fit a starring role for whatever celebrity of week that chose to be an “actor” that day. And yeah, on the surface, that is exactly what it appears to be. But The Cabin in the Woods is so much more than that. It’s not just a funny horror film, as you can find a dozen of poorly titled cheap knock off’s of Scary Movie, which is in itself a cheap knock off, at the bargain bin of your local Blockbuster or Redbox vendor. It’s a savvy self-aware tongue-in-cheek deconstruction of not just teenage horror movies, but of the horror movie genre in general. And I’ve already said too much.
It’s frustrating writing this review. Not because the movieis bad, far from it. It’s because so much of the experience of watching the movie is in going and assuming more of the same. There are so many twists and turns right out of the beginning of The Cabin in the Woods, that for me to explain anything other than “It’s about college students going out to a cabin in the woods and it’s a horror movie” would spoil the experience of watching it. The most that I can do is prattle off a list of words and objects from the film and let you connect the dots on a mental check list when or if you go see it (and you should go see it).
Cabin. Camping. Co-eds. Scenario. Merman. Railroad. Lambs. BMX Bike. Maintenance. Hillbilly. Bear Trap. Pheromones. Enough said.
What I can say about the film is that the acting across all across the board is awesome. Chris Hemsworth might be the only recognizable mainstream name from the cast list, owed in part to his starring role in the movie Thor and that other Joss Whedon movie coming out this year. The rest of the cast, especially Kristen Connolly and Fran Kranz in their portrayals of Dana and Marty, all resonate and pop with likability and humor that is all their own. There’s even an awesome cameo by one of the most iconic actors of the science-fiction horror movie genre. (Here’s a hint. Think about the 2008 Simon Pegg and Nick Frost film Paul).
The Cabin in the Woods is a movie to bring home to meet the parents. It’s smart, it’s funny, full of wonderful surprises, and always knows just what to say. I would recommend this film to anyone who has an interest in horror films or in smart sophisticated movie-making. I’m serious. This has to be one of my first wide-spread “everyone should go see it” recommendations. The payoff of the film is more than worth stomaching a few uncomfortable instances of blood and gore. Just try to steer clear of any spoilers regarding the movie and, most importantly, don’t spoil it for anyone else. (Just to be clear, The Cabin in the Woods is rated-R and you should tread lightly with whom you go see it with).