Cabin In The Woods Review By Adam
Normally, when a movie gets shelved for years it means it is shit. When a movie gets released into one cinema (unless it is ‘arthouse’ fare) it means it is really shit. Both of these fates have befallen Drew Goddard’s The Cabin in the Woods. This is surprising given that a) the film is co-written by Joss Whedon and b) Cabin is not shit, but possibly the best horror film of the year.
Cabin starts off unusually: we are introduced to two company men (Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford) bickering in an expansive underground facility. It appears that these men are the puppet masters of a bunch of archetypal college students who are headed for the titular cabin. How are they controlling this situation? And to what end? Discussing the plot of Cabin is a difficult proposition as it is a truly original take on horror. Give too much away and you spoil its surprises, be too vague and you have to avoid talking about its greatest elements. Just take my word on it, this film rocks. If you are disillusioned with the state of modern horror (and you should be) this is just the shot in the arm the genre has needed.
The cast of this film is great. There is a real diversity to the acting on show as the film operates in two, separate genres. We have funny Office Space type banter at one end with Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford (Billy Madison’s nemesis!) nailing the cynical, apathetic nature of their positions. More complex are the roles of the cabin’s inhabitants. We get a cocky and charismatic Chris Hemsworth as the jock, Curt. An uninhibited Anna Hutchinson as the slut, Jules (their words, not mine. I like my women sexually expressive). A twitchy, goofy Fran Kranz as the stoner, Marty. The emotive Kristen Connolly as the virgin, Dana. And finally, Jesse Williams as the brainiac, Holden. Each one of the cabin’s players has the complicated task of embracing the clichés of their roles, while subtly showing it’s not their true nature (you’ll have to see the film to understand that comment. See what I mean about cagey reviews?). While the acting is all above board, it is this film’s inventiveness that separates it from the pack.
Director Drew Goddard has made an impressive debut with Cabin. He (along with Whedon) has crafted a clever, twisty screenplay and he wrings the most out of its realisation. Goddard and veteran horror cinematographer Peter Deming (Evil Dead 2!) inject this film with energy. Despite the fact this film is skewering horror clichés, it looks the business: we get off-kilter angles, quick push-ins and lurking POV shots. Goddard’s biggest success, though, is managing Cabin’s tone, as this film is truly schizophrenic. We have true horror, satire, teen comedy, action and fantastical elements all wrapped up in one 95 minute film, but somehow Goddard makes it work. The twisty nature of this film will keep the more critical members of the audience interested and probably play well to the ADD-riddled teenage demographic as well. In fact, I can hear them now: ‘What the fuck, bro? Did you see that? OMG!’ Thank god this is playing at a classy joint like the Nova.
While this film is a breath of fresh air, it wasn’t perfect for me. For all of his inventive cinematography, Peter Deming has made this film dark. I’m not talking metaphorically, I’m saying some of this film you can barely see. I know that this is a horror film and it’s sensical that 90% of it is set at night, but I was squinting like Clint Eastwood in parts. I heard that Cabin was supposed to be converted to 3D – thank God it wasn’t. If you lowered this film’s brightness anymore it would be the world’s first ‘coffin effect’ film. It seems like a weak criticism for such an inventive piece, but I wonder how much of this film’s logic holds up in the light of day. This script is hugely complicated and has a multitude of cinematic ‘rules’. Some people will find (perceived) flaws or contradictions and that will take them out of the film. I, however, was willing to suspend my disbelief and went along for the ride. With a film like this, you really have to.
Even though I can’t go into specifics, this film has a fucking awesome third act. Just when proceedings are starting to become repetitive, Whedon and Goddard shift gears and Cabin goes completely off the rails – but in a good way. I know I’ve already stated that you should see this fresh, but seriously, don’t ruin Cabin ’s surprises for yourself.
I don’t think it is possible to discuss this film without addressing the elephant in the room: Joss Whedon. Now, I’m lukewarm on Joss Whedon. I neither love nor hate him. I know this completely bucks public opinion, but I wish someone else had have made The Avengers (Yeah, Adam. Because it was a huge flop. $1.4 billion and counting). I’m not going to become a ‘Whedonite’ or ‘Browncoat’ or whatever the fuck his fans call themselves, but I take my hat off to him for this film. Whedon rarely changes his style for projects, he instead changes material to fit his sensibilities and all of his traits are present in this film — the snarky dialogue, the convoluted mythology, the ‘oh, so funny’ pop culture references — but (for once) I thought that they were completely fitting in Cabin. I think this collaboration with Goddard complements his strengths and helps (in my opinion) remove some of his weaknesses. If you’re a fan, you’ve probably got your tickets booked, but even if you dislike the man’s work, I urge you to check this one out.
The Cabin in the Woods is now playing exclusively at cinema Nova