*Minor Spoilers* Only because this is a movie worth going in completely blind. To paraphrase Sheldon from "The Big Bang Theory", once I tell you it will blow your mind, your mind can't be unblown.
If you've ever listened to the Reel Insight podcast or done much reading of my former home at Insight into Entertainment, you'll know I'm REALLY not much of a horror fan. In fact, I avoid scary movies all the time. However, I was asked to be a guest on Episode 57 of The Matineecast and the movie options were slim, so we agreed on The Cabin in the Woods. I found a friend to make sure the boogie man didn't get me, and off we went.
Thankfully, I needn't have worried. While it is wonderful, and scary and quite a few times I shrieked and jumped, it wasn't the kind of horror to induce nightmares. Five teenagers go to a movie's eponymous cabin. A couple, Curt (Chris Hemsworth) and Jules (Anna Hutchinson), two friends they are trying to set up, Dana (Kristen Connelly) and Holden (Jesse Williams), and their stoner buddy Marty (Fran Kranz). Things of course start to go wrong quickly, and nothing is what it seems.
Many reviews have described this movie as "Bucking the horror cliché" or "turning the horror genre on its head," but as I have very little familiarity with the genre as a whole, I can't really comment on how well it does that. What I can say is that the result is wonderfully original. If you're familiar with Joss Whedon (creator of the TV shows "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel" and "Dollhouse" and "Firefly") you'll see lots of familiar faces, with supporting actors from almost all of those shows. And the director, Drew Goddard, has done his share of scary, suspenseful, mysterious fare as writer and producer of "Lost" and "Alias" as well as Whedon's titles. So the combined pedigree of Cabin's creators is enough to get you to see this film if for no other reason. Sadly, I think it's worth going to see without spoilers, so I will tell you I loved it and suggest you listen to The Matineecast where Ryan and I spoil the crap out of it. Enjoy. Only reason it's not a 5 star is the amount of gore and blood.
I somehow managed to completely avoid spoilers for a week, outside of the trailer, and went in knowing only that this was set up like a clichéd horror flick with the twist that all characters and events are being manipulated by a higher power. Bloody brilliant.
Co-writers Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard (also director) have clearly missed writing for t.v.'s "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel," because The Cabin in the Woods contains some of the best elements of those twelve seasons rolled into 90 minutes of gruesomely hilarious horror. Knowing Whedon's style, I expected nothing less.
What I didn't expect to happen was to find myself involved with the pawns. Through the twist in plot, I was able to care for these five kids, as knowing they were being manipulated actually stopped me from wanting to see their gory endings, unlike in an actual clichéd horror film. Even more shocking was that the film isn't quite entirely the funny spin on the horror genre that I imagined, as the final act delves into a different kind of horror altogether.
Going in as blindly as possible has rarely been more beneficial than with The Cabin in the Woods. Not only should the actual plot points be experienced fresh and new, but the wit and charm are a welcome surprise for the genre as well, but not for a Whedon fan. However, seeing the film again and again will be a treat as well, since this is one that begs to be absorbed so that all the little details Whedon and Goddard injected into their film can truly be discovered and appreciated. And with this latest twist to the horror genre, I have finally found a mate to go with last year's Tucker & Dale vs. Evil on a double bill, making one epic night of film watching.