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Film Review: The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

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SYNOPSIS:

Five friends go for a break at a remote cabin in the woods, where they get more than they bargained for. Together, they must discover the truth behind the cabin in the woods.

REVIEW:

While the movie “The Cabin In The Woods” is its own beast indeed, I am finding it nigh impossible to write a review for it without giving away some of the twists & turns that the film offers. It’s a really complex movie that is nothing like the trailers want you to believe it is. It’s almost like “Inception” for the horror crowd.

I can say that the film starts like any other type of slasher film. Five people decide to spend a weekend at the titular cabin and the five of them fit nicely into the stereotypical “Kids being menaced in the woods” type of flick that you’ve seen about a billion times. The five of them are just what you’d expect they would be: Jock, Decent guy, Pothead, Loose girl & The Virgin. All of them do exactly what is expected of them & the film sticks very closely to the standard “Kids in the woods” template for the first 20 minutes or so.

But as they are driving to the cabin & going through a tunnel we see something that they don’t which immediately changes the scope of the film. Something completely unexpected by the audience and then things got intriguing. It’s obvious that writers Joss Whedon & Drew Goddard have something completely different planned for the rest of the film. Something completely off the well trodden path that countless other slasher films usually take. Once they arrive at the cabin, the five of them each have a moment where they fulfill their roles as expected. The jock & the loose girl hook up (Nude scene)! The stoner gets high & the decent guy begins a tentative relationship with the virgin. No real surprises to be found here, it’s just as you’d expect it to be.

But “Cabin In The Woods” has a lot more going on underneath it’s hood. It’s actually more like two movies going at the same time & while they are both connected they are vastly different. It’s not confusing but it is odd to say the least, the film hits all of the correct notes and fairly revels in making sure that it pays homage to countless other films but in the end none of them bear any weight on the true nature of what’s really going on here. It’s nearly impossible to say anything more about it without giving away the the plot but I can say that Bradley Whitford & Richard Jenkins play pivotal roles in the “Other” part of the movie. The part that takes some getting used to.

It’s obvious that the filmmakers had set out to make a horror movie like no other before it. One that satisfies all of the standardized tropes of the genre while deconstructing them at the same time.

The movie is smartly written and I found myself surprised by some of the choices the characters made only because they actually made some sort of sense. Unlike the usual boobs we find in films like this, these five have some smarts (Although that really doesn’t help them too much in the end). And the last 20 minutes of this one are absolutely batsh*t crazy. I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cower in my seat but I was entertained for sure. I’ve never seen anything like it before and I’ve been watching these movies forever and a day. This movie surprised me in ways I never expected.

But that’s all I can really say about “Cabin In The Woods” without spoiling it. It’s so intensely plotted and so easy to lose track of what’s going on between the two disparate films going on at the same time that to say anything else would be ruining it for you. But it’s definitely going to surprise you. There are some minuscule plot holes to be sure but there is so much going on (Especially in those last 20 minutes) that they are easily & quickly forgotten. The end of the film is so bizarre and yet so fitting that I couldn’t shake it all the way home. It’s far more thought provoking than necessary but I guess that was the idea that Whedon/Goddard were going for.

The Cabin in the Woods is really not a film intended to be particularly scary. This not to take away from its intent as it tends to play a bit on horror tropes almost in a Scooby-doo sense. While the creatures are well done and scary in their isolated senses, it is the “chaos that ensues” that makes it fun and visually exciting rather than a typical one on one single creature focus (aka Alien, The Grudge, Halloween, The Strangers..) This is the breath of fresh air to this exploration, one that hasn’t really been challenged since the movie “Nightbreed (1990)“. In its defense, the redneck zombies are intense, however against the comedic backdrop of the underlying corporate structures,  more….. as a matter of fact, than direct.

There is some decent bloodshed to be found here (Those last 20 minutes)! but you’ve seen far bloodier films. The film is extremely funny though, so funny that the audiences laughter began to distract me from paying attention to what was going on. I really think the film demands more than one viewing to catch all of the homages (Both big and small) that are sprinkled throughout it’s running time.


“The Cabin In The Woods
” was completed t3 years prior to its release. It sat on a shelf at MGM as the studio went through it’s well documented financial difficulties. Lionsgate picked it up for distribution & considering that Whedon has “The Avengers”  & Goddard directed “Cloverfield” which brings a certain amount of cache with it, they should do very well with it, at least at first. I think that the film has a hard line straddling the fine line between horror & comedy that it wants to traverse, the same line that films like “Shaun Of The Dead” or “Dead Alive” straddle perfectly. It’s just a really different type of horror film that is going to be remembered by all that see it. Whether those remembrances are fond or foul remains to be seen but I can say that the audience I saw it with LOVED every second of it.

In closing, “The Cabin in the Woods“, stands as one of my all time favorite films, period! I have come across mixed reviews and just can’t stomach them over the fact this is one truly highly original piece of work that deserves a place in movie hall of fame lists. It’s fun, innovative, comedic, gross, well-acted, well-shot, and most of all…. filled to the brim with a smattering of cool practical (and some CGI) effects. The creators mentioned in the behind the scenes that over 100 monsters were created for this film (though….100 may have not been actually used), of which truly show in the movie’s 3rd act.
The answers you are seeking (for those confused off the bat) in this film are brought full circle with several clever plotlines connecting the dots (not to mention a finale special actor appearance!!). What appears on first view as 2 films going on in one become the glue that makes this movie great.

At present (having seen the movie no less than 7 times) I believe that “The Cabin in the Woods” truly is just one of those films that delivers and presents its off beat story in a way that hasn’t been seen before.

At the time of Bluray purchase, it was made available without extras. Though what seemed like a few years later… the film finally has added plenty of behind the scenes extras to its release (which really didn’t make sense upon first availability except for the fact that it managed to get me to buy the film twice). I urge you to buy this version to really get an idea behind the awesome work created for this movie.

The creators of this masterpiece,, Joss Whedon, Drew Goddard were spot on when they concocted this movie taking an original idea and then executing it to full screen realization.

A film that could stand on its own merits as an A-Z storyline without ever needing a sequel is a prize indeed worth enjoying again and again!

2 comments

  1. An amazing film, my favorite in a long time! I found that it actually works better to watch twice and then leave the subtitles on the second time. This way every action and conversation is better unstood knowing the outcome. I’ve never seen a horror iflm designed so clever and with so much to offer. This was an instant bluray purchase. I’ll also add that you get more monsters here than you could imagine…but then again thats part of the surprise,

     

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