The Cabin In The Woods (2011)

Brie and Bill Review the Meta-Horror flick from Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard

October 5 2012 Categorized Under: Movie Reviews No Commented
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The Cabin In The Woods (2011)
Directed by: Drew Goddard
Starring: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford, Brian White, Amy Acker, Tim De Zarn, Sigourney Weaver

Review by Brie

With the plethora of horror offerings unleashed upon the market as of late, there has been a disappointing lack of movies that I’ve actually felt the need to own versus just plod through a rental or via streaming. As I write this, I’m re-watching Cabin in the Woods on Blu-Ray and enjoying it even more then I did the first time through. Written by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard and directed by Drew Goddard, I’ll admit that while I knew I puffy hearted all things Joss Whedon, I didn’t realize how much of a fan I was of Drew Goddard I was until a visit to IMDB showed that he has written quite a few things that I really like such as some episodes of Buffy and Angel as well as Cloverfield (and yes I liked that movie shaky cam and all).

Curt (Chris Hemsworth), Holden (Jesse Williams), Jules (Anna Hutchison), Marty (Fran Kranz) and Dana (Kristen Connolly) are not enjoying their stay at the Cabin in the Woods.

Cabin in the Woods is totally a love letter to the horror industry while putting a new spin on the logos behind the bloodshed.  On the surface Cabin in the Woods seems like your typical slasher flick with 5 college kids in the woods being hunted by zombies, but there is a a whole second level to the story that makes this movie one that definitely requires a second (or third) watch through with ample amounts of pausing to catch all the references to various other movies as well as nods to the horror genre. Some of the wittiest dialogue takes place in the secondary story and there are some parts where I quite literally laughed my ass off, because the juxtaposition between the mundane and the horrifying is hilarious. I can’t delve too far into the plot without revealing the many of the secrets lurking beneath the Cabin, but it has now found itself a place into my top ten favorite horror movies.

– Brie

Nothing worse then a pain worshiping zombie redneck or is there?

Review by Bill

(out of 4)

Warning: Some spoilers ahead. Turn back now if you want to go in blind.

Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard’s piece of genre deconstruction called The Cabin in the Woods is not so much a horror film as it is a sociology/film major’s final project. It’s not just “meta,” it’s super-Meta, and it practically hits you over the head to let you know how meta it is. The result is… interesting, but interesting in the sense that a horror fan might enjoy it like going to a Q&A session of his favorite director or watching a documentary on horror cinema. It’s also funny, getting good comedic performances out of Bradley Whitford (ooh, is that the guy who played Eric Gordon in Billy Madison?!) and Fran Kranz (the ganja must really bring enlightenment, because his stoner character is the smartest guy in the film). Scary, though? Nah, only scary for the kind of audience that doesn’t really watch horror movies, but I think that’s who Whedon and Goddard are trying to target anyway.

Cabin in the Woods - Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford

I’m in this bitch with the terror/ got a handful of stacks/ Better grab an umbrella/ I make it rain

Before the beginning credits even roll, we’re in some kind of giant facility of office workers watching the white-coated Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) and Hadley (Whitford) tease associate Lin (Amy Acker) while preparing for… something. Cut to the Scooby Doo gang – Dana (Kristen Connolly in the Velma role), Curt (Chris Hemsworth in the Thor… uh, I mean Fred role), Jules (Anna Hutchison playing Daphne), and Marty (Fran Kranz doing a good Shaggy). Scooby himself isn’t around, but we do have the scholarly Holden (Jesse Williams) who is a pretty good guy because at one point he warns Dana about a one-way mirror before she undresses. Anyway, the party of five take the RV out to a cabin in the woods, supposedly belonging to Curt’s cousin, but when hitting a gas station on the way they run into a creepy attendant (Tim De Zarn) who practically tells them they’re not going to return from their vacation. The guy’s name is Mordecai (or “Harbinger” as some have called him), and soon he’s on the phone with HQ informing that the lambs “have been sent to the killing floor” before discovering, embarrassingly, that he’s on speakerphone.

Cabin in the Woods - Ritual HQ

Disappointed with Obama’s performance at the debate.

While the kids party it up an a cabin straight from The Evil Dead, office workers below watch their antics on multiple monitors, pull levers, and modify the cabin environment in subtle ways. We soon find out that mists and chemicals can encourage our gang to “act the part” – of the whore, the virgin, the scholar, the athlete, and the fool. The whole operation is run by the “Director,” played by somebody I didn’t expect. After Jules makes out with a wolf’s head (eww), a cellar door opens, and soon Dana is reading passages out of a dusty book, which soon resurrects a long-dead “zombie redneck torture family” armed with all sorts of saws and pointy weapons. (Unlike the characters in Scream, these dopes haven’t seen many horror movies).

Cabin in the Woods!

Evil Dead fans had a field day in Morristown before the place burned down

The Cabin In The Woods is basically all subtext – the “Director” tells the white-shirted screenwriters to make the characters jump through the right hoops to appease the angry gods in the audience who want to see some blood (and tits). Hey, it’s high-concept, and I like it, but I can’t help but feel like Whedon is extending a middle finger to us somehow. By showing us at the beginning that everything is staged and monitored, the film tips its hand immediately. There’s no opportunity for suspense, and any possibility of real terror is disarmed when the filmmakers transition the scene to background monitors while we watch office workers celebrating a job well done. (Actually, there’s something interesting about the scene with a girl being attacked by a vicious monster while disinterested workers party down). Speaking of the monsters – they are all basic knockoffs of something familiar (cenobite, clown, werewolf, zombies, unicorn, and a “mer-man.”) The ending, starting with the escape of all the zoo animals/nightmare creatures, is definitely amusing, but the main antagonists (zombie rednecks) much less so – they are generic and don’t particularly stand out (but maybe that is the point).

It might sound like I’m being harsh on the film, but I don’t mean to be – I enjoyed it. I just get the feeling that the film’s creators felt like they were above the material a little bit. In any case, I salute them for ending the movie the way they did, and it’s fun to point out all the references to other horror films in it. But I can’t help but think it has been overhyped a little. There are better films out there that serve as good examples of the genre they are deconstructing – if you’re a non-horror fan recently seduced by The Cabin in the Woods, I might suggest you check out Shaun of the Dead, Scream, Night of the Creeps, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, or An American Werewolf in London.

– Bill Gordon

Cabin in the Woods - Kristen Connolly and Fran Kranz

Man, that Lovecraft guy was fucked up.

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