This long awaited, greatly anticipated horror film was shot back in 2009, shelved for years after its studio went bankrupt and accumulated enormous word of mouth, internet buzz and acclaim following a series of festival screenings. It was co-written and co-produced by Joss Whedon, the fanboy favorite who created Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly, and stars Chris Hemsworth, who made this long before he went on to play Thor. Now that the film is finally unveiled, its biggest asset is how truly unusual and downright insane it is.
The opening scenes are intriguingly peculiar, as we meet a couple of chatty, white collar guys (well played by Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford) who work in an unnamed, mysterious place of business. Their scenes are interrupted by scenes involving a group of teens who are on their way for a weekend of sex and skinny dipping at a deserted cabin in the woods. How do the two storylines go together? I won’t reveal anything else–the less you know going in, the better it will play.
The Cabin in the Woods is refreshingly different, especially during the wild, go-for-broke climax but awfully pleased with itself and never at all scary. It can’t live up to three years of hype, speculation and festival praise and only easy to please horror fans will declare it the second coming. More of a high tech, truly sick black comedy than something to lose sleep over, all of the characters are likeable but one dimensional and, once all the pieces come together, the story reveals itself to be bold but lacking any sense.
Even with the enticing, what-does-it-all-mean puzzle of going back and forth between the teens and the white collar workers, the first two acts really aren’t that different from the generic slasher flicks we get every couple of months. We even get teased by how much cooler the film could have been, which feels like a cheap shot. Only during the final moments does it fully cut loose and show us something we truly haven’t seen before.
It has the radical, expectations-defying approach of the 1986 cult hit April Fool’s Day (my favorite ‘80s slasher movie) but a more heavy handed approach and generous budget. Whedon’s input is clear from the first scene, as his dialogue ranges from sharp and hip to Dude, Look How Awesomely Clever I Am! His movie is clearly in love with itself and fanboys may love it as well, even if it is not on par with online word-of-mouth sensations like Attack the Block and Let the Right One In.
Genre fans may find this satisfying for simply being so impressively crazy, as it references, to name just a few, everything from The Evil Dead, Monsters Inc., The Grudge and Men in Black. It’s a messy, bloody mix but there are some stunning visual moments that will stay with you.
Curiously, it ends with a special effects shot that might have been cool in 2009 but was topped and better produced for the recent Wrath of the Titans.
As cynical, violent and heartless as the next horror movie, though I’ll take something overreaching but definitely new like this over another remake or the further adventures of Jigsaw.
The plot is more of a horror fan’s checklist than a story that makes sense enough for sequels to follow. Watching this is like having a steady diet of greasy junk food: you’re left feeling bloated, but only after enjoying a guilty, warped bit of fun.
The Cabin in the Woods
★ ★ ★
Rated R; 95 Min.