anna hutchinson, bradley whitford, chris hernsworth, drew goddard, horror, jesse williams, joss whedon, kristen connolly, richard jenkens, the cabin in the woods
“Into the Wild”
Grade: B (RENT IT)
“ZOMBIELAND” MEETS “THE MATRIX,” “The Cabin in the Woods” is the only movie in recent memory to start as a horror film and end as a stoner comedy. But how this clever crisscrossing of genres plays out is part of the film’s fun, which is, there will be blood and laughs. Not all of it works – it interrupts itself too much with heavy-handed meta-moments – but as the brainchild of cult collaborators Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel”), “The Cabin in the Woods” is far from a negligible experience at the cinema. Its deliberately dull opening is a little inside, literally: organization men in lab-coats Richard Jenkens and Bradley Whitford are discussing some kind of production replete with in-jokes and an unclear sense of what exactly they’re operating. After the title credits hit you like a Mack truck, abruptly cut to a pair of good-looking girls in and discussing their underwear and you’re suddenly back in the land of a horror movie, of girls gone wild on the last day of their lives.
Were students in a film criticism course given “The Cabin in the Woods” to review, it would be a formidable challenge in how not to spoil the main plot-point, thus destroying the experience for filmgoers, yet still convey the film’s basic premise. There’s a major actor in this film’s last act that goes unbilled because of the secret way in which the Jenkens and Whitford characters parallel the story of five friends who rent a Rambler and travel to a remote cabin in the woods. The ill-fated group includes two couples, one blond (Chris Hernsworth and Anna Hutchinson), one brunette (Jesse Williams and Kristen Connolly) and a lovable stoner figure (played with panache by Fran Kranz). That the friend group is doomed is determined by a whole host of horror movie clichés on display: the jock in a varsity jacket, the sexually uninhibited blond destined for a grinder, even the crusty country-folk who warn the kids from the big city that they’ll help them find the cabin but that “getting back…well, that’s your problem.” Then up come Jenkens and Whitford again and like Greek gods hovering over a stage of mere mortals, they appear to be pulling the strings here and calling the kids “lambs” on a “killing floor.” Say no more except that in the tradition of the “Scream” series, “The Cabin” is a cabin-within-a-cabin-within-a-cabin.
Insofar as “The Cabin in the Woods” is ultimately a comment on the audience’s thirst for blood, Goddard and Whedon’s film belongs in the same family as the immensely popular “The Hunger Games.” What does it say about contemporary culture that some of our most popular forms of entertainment are highlighting the popular thirst for a blood-sport wherein we, complicit in the crime, get to know and love our victims? Have we never left the Roman Coliseum? Could it be that, in the long wake of September 11th, we’re still coping with the fact that death and destruction can be televised for all the world to see and that worse, for most of us, the suffering of others exists not side-by-side but on the TV screen? Perhaps the most stinging social comment here is when Marty the stoner describes himself as the victim of “angry gods” because those “angry gods” are us.
I didnt spend much time trying to analyze any hidden meanings within (although you’ve put forward some good ones for sure). I’m just glad to see someone else recommending the movie without getting carried away. The hype machine on this one is set to self destruct. 😀
It’s really not worth the hype though. Yes, it’s “meta” and self-aware but that’s really no great innovation (e.g. the “Scream” franchise, et al). Thanks for reading
Excellent review for Grade B movie. Three other films came to mind as this is parts of each or inspired. Name them and I would spoil it. One. Film is mind is barely hidden as the name of a character. As a horror fil is is anybut but scary. As a comedy it is a scream. Sorry couldn’t resist. I’d say see it in the cinema on a cheap night.
Agree; would love to know the hidden names? Just put SPOILER in front of comment…
SPOILER ALERT – Scroll down to continue
Okay Matrix meets Zombieland is good but once the Security guard named Truman was introduced I thought this is a dark Truman Show then it is spiced heavily with The Cube, some fun Shawn of the Dead and Apocolypto for good measure. I like more as I write on it. Agreed its horror light. Notice than in the tunnel upto his demise that Jesse Williams’ glasses kept appearing then disappearing. My friend said they couldn’t even bother with continuity. It just added to the WTF ness of it all.
Good eye! Thanks!
This movie is freakin’ awesome. Original, funny, and very smart. Notice how I’m talking about a horror movie. Wish that this would get the audience that it truly deserves but I guess Whedon will get his money with The Avengers. Good review Colin.
Thanks. Don’t know much about THE AVENGERS. CABIN did well at the box-office, no? Original for sure but indebted to the satire of SCREAM.
I love all the hidden or deeper meanings you got out of this while also not going overboard on your review! Cheers. 🙂
Thanks Y! Did you like this one and see room for interpretation?
Nice review Colin and good job with spotting some of those hidden bits. Even more reason to rewatch this when its available on DVD.
Is it just me or did this film remind you of a classic Scooby Doo cartoon a bit?
Agree totally, esp with the Shaggy character and van. Overrated only because it requires viewers to think critically which is a real shocker at the movies nowadays. Write on!
Tom Austin-Morgan said:
The more I hear about this movie the more I NEED to see it! Your review manages to tread that fine line between trying to describe what happens while not giving away the main plot points, which I gather are what makes the film so good. I’ll let you know what I think when I finally get round to seeing it.
What’s the next film for you, sir?
Thanks; a fishy film review impending on SALMON FISHING and YURI DREAMS OF SUSHI. Probably catch Cusack as E A Poe on Fri. I love it when Hollywood botches up literature! Write on!
Tom Austin-Morgan said:
Cool, the Salmon film looks quite funny and I would like to see what Hollywood has come up with to turn the last days of a writer into a gripping thriller!
Very funny and original, which is almost more enjoyable. What’s your next film to see?
Tom Austin-Morgan said:
I shall be seeing the challengingly titled, but surely great, ‘Marvel’s Avengers Assemble’. Can’t wait to see what Joss Wheadon can do with all those stars and characters. Especially after what he did to teen horror with ‘Cabin in the Woods’, which was very interesting indeed.
Yes, seems to be Wheddon’s moment! Or however you spell his name! Write on!
Your first sentence is brilliant. I won’t see the film… but throughly enjoyed your write up.
Aw, shucks. Do you like horror? It’s more a comment on horror, not too bad.
Great review man!
Aw shucks; the fact that this remains a top post of mine is proof that CABIN will continue to build some cult status. Thanks for reading!