I’m going to go ahead and list this as 2012, even though it was filmed in 2009 and IMDB lists it at 2011. In reality, this thing hit theaters in 2012, so that’s what I am going with. Normally, it is not a good sign if you can’t pin down a year for a movie. Graveyards are filled with movies which couldn’t get a foothold and were released years after they were made. Would CABIN IN THE WOODS be such a movie?
I watched CABIN IN THE WOODS (2012) on 1.16.12. It was my first viewing of the film.
I went into this movie knowing very little about it, and that is absolutely they way to go here. In the interest of not spoiling anything, I’m going to talk about the first act of this film in terms of plot, and be intentionally vague from there on out.
Quite simply, CABIN IN THE WOODS is my favorite horror movie of the last decade, at least. Written by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, and then Directed by Goddard, this is a movie which succeeds on all intended levels. It is witty, it has true horror, it is funny, and it is a skewering/homage to the horror genre in general.
The concept is that there is some shadowy government agency ‘directing’ some victims through a horrible house in the woods. These victims are your standard horror fodder: the virgin, the weed-smoking fool, the jock, the slut, and the nerd. These characters become more like their stereotypes as the movie goes on, though it is questionable how much they realize they are becoming so.
Orchestrating the horror are a couple of bad guys in lab coats played, most wonderfully, by Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford. These two are a delight to behold, and they provide the film with its driving humor as well as its inherent pathos.
These two seem to be in some sort of competition with other countries in the quest to kill a group of victims. Their main competition is Japan, and therein lies the undercurrent of the entire movie.
CABIN IN THE WOODS is no less a statement on the condition of the horror genre than was SCREAM in the 1990s. The reason Japan is the main competition has to do with the fact that many people consider Japan to be the current world leader in horror. Instead of kids being slaughtered in the woods, the Japanese scenario has a ghost girl attacking a bunch of kids in a classroom (naturally). The horror movies in Japan, then, play by a different set of rules.
Back in the main film, the kids encounter a scary man at a horror-filled gas station. He warns them not to go to the cabin. Of course, they ignore him. This helps build the clichés inherent in the film, but the film is also very careful to let you know that it is well aware of its clichés.
Everything about this movie works. The characters in the main portion of the film are likable and endearing. This isn’t a movie wherein we hope for their deaths. The acting is surprisingly solid (especially from Fran Kranz as the pothead Marty), and the scary moments are truly scary and intimidating. The side scenarios involving the orchestration of the plot is similarly effective. We see just how crazy this all is, and we can’t help but be sucked into why. Even the picking of how these people get slaughtered is fascinating.
Often, films of this sort fall apart in the third act. Instead, CABIN IN THE WOODS finds a way to elevate itself in an entirely unexpected way. I’d be happy to have an argument about the ending, I’m sure some people don’t like it, but I find that it’s brilliance in the last moment is to seemingly squelch the possibility of a sequel as it goes against everything else that the movie had built up to.
I was just sucked in by this movie from the start. I can’t say enough good about it. I haven’t felt this way about a horror movie since SCREAM. Just masterful work done here. I watch so many horror movies which disappointment me. But it is because of the heights of the genre, like CABIN IN THE WOODS, that I keep coming back.
FILM: 8; MOVIE: 10; ACTING: 7; WRITING: 9
FINAL SCORE: 8.5