Five American college friends go for a holiday retreat to a cabin in the middle of nowhere; this is how countless horror movies begin, a tired cliche that The Cabin in the Woods relies upon and then turns it on its head in this self-aware, genre exploding movie directed by Drew Goddard and co-written by Goddard and Josh Whedon. Goddard is responsible for creating, as if from nowhere, the marvellously entertaining hit Cloverfield and Whedon’s well known for a host of things from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to the upcoming Marvel comic movie The Avengers, so both are comfortable with worlds of sci-fi, fantasy, horror and… well, this.
From the first moment the onslaught of horror cliches from a cast of gorgeous, and obviously doomed, collegiates is met with an equal amount of mystery in scenes of office workers and technicians that are seemingly at odds with the general tacky horror preamble going on elsewhere. A few of the Whedon regulars, Fran Kranz and Amy Acker of Dollhouse amongst them, are peppered throughout a cast that see’s Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison and Jeese Williams make the road trip out into the middle of nowhere America that exists almost exclusively, we assume, for the setting of these kind of movies. They arrive at the titular ramshackle cabin looking for a good time and from there things swiftly devolve into chaos, the details of which will not be delved into here in part due to not spoiling the movie but also for the sake of brevity.
Not so much scream out loud horrifying as it is laugh out loud hilarious, The Cabin in the Woods is a deftly crafted adventure that frequently makes you wonder what the hell it is that you’re really watching; lulling you into thinking one thing before careening off in an entirely different direction without a moments hesitation. There are moments of genuine disgust that are met with a darkly frank humour and wit, that should bare up well upon repeat viewing. There are elements present from a myriad of sources from the wealth of the horror genre, not the least of which being The Evil Dead.
The kind of self-awareness (or ‘meta shit’, to use a cringe inducing term) that’s prevalent in the Scream series is highly abundant throughout, as is a tight, quick witted script that’s not without more than a few moments of pure, and exquisite, lunacy. All the requisite gore and special effects are present and accounted for, probably even more so than expected, providing a joyous visual and visceral madness.
In many ways The Cabin in the Woods is a difficult movie to review, in the sense that to discuss it too deeply is to give too much away; suffice to say it really is worth the watch. That’s not to say that it defies definition, indeed there’s plenty here that’s intentionally recycled from countless other movies, but to describe in any great detail what happens would be severely to the detriment of anyone who hasn’t seen it. It’s a movie that requires watching for it’s sheer bat shit insane interpretation, and send up, of horror in general. The brilliance, and stupidity, of the final sequence alone is worth the price of admission.
Highly recommended viewing, for both horror buffs and genre newbies alike, The Cabin in the Woods takes established ground and roots around in the corpse laden earth below to provide a deviously intelligent and frightfully entertaining left-field cinema success.