- Movie Rating -

The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

| April 28, 2012 | 0 Comments

It is hard to tell if The Cabin in the Woods is either a commentary on horror movie clichés, a celebration, or a kick in the crotch.  All I can say that within the confines of most horror movie conventions, this one goes above and beyond the call of duty.  It starts with one dusty old idea and then builds and builds and builds, opening up a mystery that is either brilliant writing or wretched excess.  That will depend on your point of view.

The movie begins with a gimmick that is about as tired and creaky as the title structure.  Five college kids board a van and take a road trip into the woods to spend the weekend in a run-down old cabin.  The characters are standard issue: Curt (Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth) is the hunk; Jules (Anna Hutchison) is his sluttish girlfriend; Dana is the virginal brain (Kristen Connolly); Holden (Jesse Williams) is the emo smart guy; and Marty (Fran Kranz) is the wisecracking pothead.  Every horror movie convention that you can name occurs on this vacation, right up to and including that creepy guy at the gas station with bad skin, crazy eyes and a mouth full of chaw.  He’s there to warn them that . . . well, you know.

To say that the kids are stalked one by one won’t be giving anything away, neither will the information that Dana finds a dusty old book in the basement containing a text written in Latin (and, yes, she reads it out loud).  That sets into motion terrors that one of the witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth referred to as “something wicked this way comes”.  The kids are taunted and tormented by what the old book brings to life, and by what they begin to discover about their surroundings.  There is a reason for everything going on in that cabin.  There is even a plan set in place and a specific reason that they have all been summoned here.

I must tread very lightly in describing the rest of the plot.  Something else is at work behind the scenes that has led the kids to the wood in the first place.  What is happening around them (and why) is a secret that other critics have been very quick to reveal.  I will not.  All I can say is that when the kids discover what is happening, it opens up a Pandora’s Box of every single horror movie convention that you can imagine.  The plot takes the characters into the haunted cabin and them throws them down, down, down, down revealing layer after layer, leading to a third act that is as gory as it is entertaining.

The movie becomes kind of a Greatest Hits collection of horror movie clichés, and that’s not a bad thing: We get the crazy old hillbillies, zombies, ghosts, human sacrifice, werewolves, killer clowns, giant bats, axe murderers, snakes, mutants etc.  There’s even a unicorn and a merman (don’t ask).  All of this is, of course, soaked in buckets of blood and volumes of gore.  Most of this had me laughing and had me so relieved that the script was so wild with invention.  Yes, there are clichés, but they are clichés at the service of something I hadn’t seen before.  This is the movie the Scream should have been.  That movie could only do about a third of what this movie is able to accomplish.  If the movie it successful, I think it will be a game-changer.

I got excited during the opening credits when I discovered that the movie was produced and co-written by Joss Whedon, the creative mind behind hits like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, “Firefly” and the upcoming  Avengers.  He has a wonderfully creative mind, and knack for taking old clichés and refitting them with a hip sensibility.  The movie was directed by his longtime writing partner Drew Goddard, and what the two have constructed is a movie that takes an old horror movie and breaks it open, allowing all of the tired old conventions and clichés to come spilling out almost all at the same time.

Something tells me that Whedon and Goddard have spent many evenings pouring over recent horror movies.  They are exasperated and disappointed at a genre that has degenerated into a half-wit series of torture-porn nonsense.  They have created something original, something new.  Yes, there are loose ends, and yes the ending is patently ridiculous, but the journey getting there is better than any horror movie of recent memory.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2012) View IMDB Filed in: Comedy, Horror