Cabin in the Woods: Horror–Wild Fun with Chris Hemsworth

The very clever “The Cabin in the Woods,” already hyped as the biggest game changer for horror movies since the “Scream” franchise launched in 1996, is wild fun.

The film delivers for hardcore horror fans and casual fans alike. While the core audience will no doubt be the fanboys and fangirls who have been waiting two long years (thanks to MGM’s bankruptcy) for this release, this movie will likely have a much larger you’ve-got-to-see-it-to-believe-it appeal, based on enthusiastic word of mouth.

“The Cabin in the Woods,” which easily lends itself to repeated viewings, should be one of the more significant hits of 2012.

Everyone already knows the story here. Or do they? Five hot college kids—each of them a type, from the slutty blonde party girl (Anna Hutchison) to the overly confident, too-proud football star (Chris Hemsworth)—are off to a dilapidated lake house for a weekend of mild debauchery. For this, they will of course need to be most severely tortured, one by one, at the hands of the horror movie gods.

The beautiful young people’s ugly destiny comes in the form of “Deliverance”-style zombies. Or so it seems on the surface.

 

Without giving too much away (a difficult task in writing about this film), there are also two middle-aged scientist types (Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford) in the mix, not part of the club. These two are up to something big and strange in a nearby underground facility, but what is it?

The movie begins with a scene of these two engaging in shoptalk about cryptic scenarios and gradually reveals how they are monitoring the college kids, a bit reminiscent of “The Truman Show” (1998).

Are these two and their coworkers stand-ins for the filmmakers? For the viewers? Is it all a grand experiment with the five students as the unfortunate guinea pigs?

Co-writers Drew Goddard (who directs the film) and Joss Whedon, TV veterans of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Alias,” “Lost,” and so on, come up with a near-perfect balance of the same old and the fresh. This movie is at once familiar enough for the audience to immediately recognize all the rules, yet new-and-improved enough for the audience to get to watch those rules, one by one, being gloriously uprooted. The balance of scares and laughs is also right on the money.

 

The writers have come up with a few scenes, including a hilarious and creepy truth-or-dare scene involving a mounted wolf head, that feel like instant classics.

 

They even work in a touch of philosophy, with some of the characters, principally the resident stoner, Marty (Fran Kranz), discussing the state and fate of humankind—and whether humanity has even been a good thing for the world or not.

 

The script does not wimp out as it nears its end, becoming both increasingly silly and gory. It all works in this case because “The Cabin in the Woods” has such a ballsy sense of its own brain-damaged logic—and an ingenious late-in-the-game cameo from a sci-fi/horror icon that holds everything together. Does she save the movie? Maybe she does.

 

Goddard and Whedon bring the film to an energetic close that will send fans floating out of the theater. This is how you do super twisty right.

The young actors—especially the Uma Thurman–like Kristen Connolly as Dana, the real heroine, and Jesse Williams as Holden, her potential new boyfriend—do a good job of making these stock types relevant, despite the characters’ built-in limitations. In a way, these are old friends whom everybody knows from a lot of previous horror movies.

One of the film’s many great lines is “We need a scenario adjustment.” “The Cabin in the Woods” is indeed a welcome “scenario adjustment” for the horror genre but, more than that, an important reminder that inventiveness can still go a long way in Hollywood—when it is given a chance to shine.

Cast

Dana – Kristen Connolly

Curt – Chris Hemsworth

Jules – Anna Hutchison

Marty – Fran Kranz

Holden – Jesse Williams

Sitterson – Richard Jenkins

Hadley – Bradley Whitford

Truman – Brian White

Lin – Amy Acker

 

Credits

Lionsgate release.

Directed by Drew Goddard.

Written by Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon.

Produced by Joss Whedon.

Cinematography, Peter Deming.

Editing, Lisa Lassek.

Original Music, David Julyan.

 

Running time: 105 minutes.