Monday, April 16, 2012

Movie Review of "The Cabin in the Woods"


Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse) is a true master of his craft. And even though I knew Drew Goddard had prior writing experience with TV greats (and some of my favorites such as Buffy, Angel, Alias, and Lost), I still was not sure what to think of him as a director and co-writer of a major film (even though he wrote the impressive Cloverfield). After viewing this masterpiece, I can say he does extremely well! This film's release had been delayed a bit (originally set for Feb. 2010, then Jan. 2011), but it was very much worth the wait! I can truly say that The Cabin in the Woods is a fresh, innovative, fun, scary take on the horror film. It was also nice -- almost comforting, like a warm blanket -- to see former Whedonverse actors like Amy Acker (Angel, Dollhouse), Fran Kranz (Dollhouse), and Tom Lenk (Buffy) in the fold. Nobody can mix action, horror, suspense, and humor like Whedon, and this film proves it. All of the actors performances are spot-on and even though their characters are all stereotypical cliches, that ultimately serves the film's plot for reasons I cannot say without spoiling anything. My favorite moment in the film is near the end -- again, I don't want to say too much -- and it is every horror movie fan's DREAM. But, more on that later. There are many aspects to Whedon and Goddard’s Cabin than most would think. The best thing about this movie is that in a genre (horror) that is second to predictability (following romantic comedies), The Cabin in the Woods delivers a fresh approach to horror; and the result is one fun, impressive movie that you want to see again and again. Now comes the part of the review where if you have not seen the film and want to see it, you cannot – and should not – read anymore.

SPOILERS BEGIN AFTER THE PHOTO

Let's get this party started! l. to r.: Curt (Chris Hemsworth), Holden 
(Jesse Williams), Jules (Anna Hutchison), Marty (Fran Kranz), and Dana (Kristen Connolly). 

The best thing about this film was its double meaning. First, one could argue that the “evil gods” that "the company" is attempting to appease are us, the audience. After all, who goes to see horror films despite the cliché of stereotypical characters (the jock, the slut, the intellectual, the fool, the virgin) tossed into the meat grinder? Who expects or hopes to see a little nudity and/or sex in a horror film, along with massive blood and gore? That would be the audience. It made me wonder if the two company workers (Richard Jenkins & Bradley Whitford) were working for us rather than some director. Second, the film makes the statement that we have to face up to all of the decisions we make in life. When the five decide to continue to their cabin despite the creepy old man's warning, and when Dana (Kristen Connolly) continues to read the Latin despite Marty's protests (as well as the protests of the audience), they have to face the harsh consequences.

Another aspect to the plot could be the argument of utilitarianism. For those who don’t know the term, utilitarianism is “a theory that the aim of action should be the largest possible balance of pleasure over pain or the greatest happiness of the greatest number” (Merriam-Webster), or, basically, in this case, the philosophy that the saving of billions of lives are worth the sacrifice or one or even five. Whedon and Goddard make it known in their film that utilitarianism is wrong. With the outcome of the film being what it is, they appear to make the remark that one life does not hold any less weight than 6-7 billion lives. However, there is one misnomer with this statement. To loosely reference the stoner fool Marty’s words, what if the world – and its inhabitants – have become too advanced and too corrupt for its own damn good? It’s a good question and a good statement to throw out there in a horror movie. But don’t think this is some existential borefest. Like I previously stated, Whedon (along with Goddard) is a master of his craft and he knows exactly how to properly balance the horror with the laughs, the philosophical metaphor with the fun, and all without any pretentiousness. 

Now, onto my one small, teensy-weensy, itty-bitty criticism of the film and that is not showing the hawk getting zapped by the invisible electro-wall … especially in the movie trailer. It leaves no “wow” factor for the audience when it inevitably comes up again later in the film. It’s the only change I would have made to this movie. As for my absolute favorite part, as I mentioned earlier, it is when Dana opens all of the doors to release many, many horrible things upon the company. After that distinct sound of multiple synchronous "ding"s from the elevator doors, I immediately thought to myself for a millisecond, “Wow. Whedon has outdone himself. This is gonna be great!” And then with the security guard whispering an expletive, the doors open and all hell breaks loose! Like I said, it’s a moment that all horror fans and aficionados will love! 

 Another day at the office for Sitterson (Richard Jenkins), Lin (Amy Acker), and Hadley (Bradley Whitford).

SPOILERS END

This is definitely the best horror film I've seen in a LONG time! The film makes fun of the horror genre while also delivering to the audience what they so love about horror films. In the school of horror/slasher/zombie/suspense/headgame/conspiracy films, and the fans/students who so adore them, The Cabin in the Woods is a mandatory course!

 Bryan Bertino's "strangers" from his 2008 horror/suspense film The Strangers are 
featured as just one homage to all the best that horror has offered in creepy cinema.


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