Director: Drew Goddard
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Fran Kranz, Kristen Connolly, Bradley Whitford
Running Time: 95 mins
With the release of The Avengers only a few short weeks away, Joss Whedon’s ascension to the heights of Hollywood heavyweight seems assured. So what better time to push for the release of the long delayed Cabin in the Woods, a quirky horror pastiche produced and written by Whedon in conjunction with long time collaborator, director Drew Goddard. Cabin is a sharp and inspired tear down of horror cliches, funnier than it is scary, that will pay off in a big way for those familiar with the tropes of the aging genre.
This is normally where a plot summary would go, but it’d be a disservice to the film and anyone intending to see it to give away anything more than a few scant details. Essentially, a group of college kids have the bright idea to take a weekend break in the titular cabin. Each kid falls squarely into a slasher fodder mold; jock, bookworm, slut, stoner etc. However nothing is quite what it seems for this bunch, and that goes double for the audience.
The screenplay for Cabin in the Woods is so nuts, so disruptively brilliant, that it’s amazing that it ever got made. The writing’s as sharp as Freddie Krueger’s fingers, mixing dialogue ripe with Whedonistic throwaways and a story so self aware that it’s a surprise it didn’t leap off the page and stumble into the night. The talent behind this film have spent as much time watching subversive horror and sci-fi as they have making it, and you can tell. X-Files, Buffy, MST3K, take your pick, Cabin in the Woods is as good as any of them, and twice as funny.
In true schlock horror fashion, the cast of teens are mostly unknowns (with the exception of a pre Thor Chris Hemsworth) and all fill their roles with the sort of gormless gusto we expect to see in our horror victims. Of note is Fran Kranz, who juggles the dual roles of comedy relief stoner and perceptive audience surrogate terrifically. Contrasting nicely with the kids’ fatal naivety are Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins, with pitch perfect performances as a pair of dry witted technicians whose unaffected banter juxtaposes hilariously with the brutal action in the cabin.
Cabin in the Woods is a treat for anyone familiar with, and perhaps fatigued by the current state of horror films. It draws material and inspiration from almost every facet of horror fiction, but never feels bloated because of it. The film has a little less to offer those not up to date on their horror movie history, who may find the insanity on show altogether a bit perplexing. Regardless, it’s something like you’ve never seen before, and may just be what’s needed to freshen up this ever-so-slightly decrepit genre.