If there’s one man who can laugh in the face of adversity it’s Joss Whedon. The Buffy creator may have had string of bad luck over the past decade with the cancellation of his shows such as Firefly and Dollhouse, but his ability to make light of even the darkest scenarios has made him one of the most wanted men in Hollywood. With everyone’s attention firmly fixated on his direction of the Avengers Assemble movie, it may just be possible for The Cabin in the Woods to slip you buy. However, if Buffy and Angel have taught us anything, it’s that when it comes to horror, Joss Whedon is one man who can push the boundaries of strange.
The Cabin in the Woods may seem like your typical slasher flick, but make no mistake, there’s more to it than meets the eye. Focusing on a group of college students as they make their way to the titular cabin for a weekend of fun and frolics, it isn’t long before things go south and they are fighting for their lives against a family of murderous redneck zombies. Meanwhile, watching the whole scenario unfold are two engineers in a control room who seem to have an agenda of their own and as the doomed college students are ripped apart one by one, the pieces of the puzzle fit together delivering a rather fresh and unique spin on the horror genre.
The Cabin in the Woods may look like your typical American horror flick, but from the outset of the film you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Equal parts scary and funny, the film provides plenty of jumps and scares to certainly deserves its status as a horror film. All the credit can’t go simply to Whedon. The film is directed by his partner-in-crime Drew Goddard, who had a heavy hand in the development in Buffy and Angel. The film’s highlight is certainly the witty banter between the two “engineers” portrayed by Richard Jenkins (Step Brothers) and Bradley Whitford (The West Wing) and this certainly seems to be an on-screen manifestation of the film’s writing duo. One particular scene has them comparing their work to that of the productivity of the Japanese office, which can certainly be interpreted as a poke at the state of American horror cinema. Without delving too much into the storyline and giving away the spoilers, let’s just say their role brings a certain amount of meta to the horror genre, which particularly when it comes to American horror films is in need of a boost.
The rest of the cast is made of relative newcomers. Kristen Connolly portrays the shy and timid leading lady Dana, a character who has a bigger role in the grand scheme of things than she realises. Bringing comic relief to the table is Fran Kranz, portraying the lovable stoner Marty, whose druggy antics actually play a pivotal part in not only providing some the film’s humour, but in the storyline itself. The most notable cast member is Chris Hemsworth, whose already landed his claim to fame playing Thor in the Marvel film franchise, and provides the gang another key player as the typical jock. However, the real stars of the shows are the monsters themselves and starting off with the redneck zombie Buckner family before eventually unfolding into a who’s-who of horror films. Referencing films such as Hellraiser, Ring, Evil Dead and even Jurassic Park, horror fanatics will enjoy playing a game of spot the film reference, particularly as the final act of the film ramps up the carnage and hurtles towards the inevitable blood bath.
The film’s only weak point lies in its ending. As fun as it is seeing all your worst nightmares coming to life, it brings a real change of pace to the film as it shifts from edgy, gruesome horror to a special effects bonanza. The story up to this point has relied on slowly teasing the truth out, and to have all change to make way for the “idiot’s guide to the film” at the end really isn’t necessary. Still, it makes up for it with a rather special cameo and an ending that you may not have seen coming… and that’s about as much I can say on the matter without giving away any spoilers.
With more and more horror fans seeking their thrills from foreign cinema, it’s good to see that a mainstream American film can still pack a punch. The trademark Joss Whedon humour is all there as well as the film pokes fun at the state of American horror films. The Cabin in the Woods is a meta journey through the world of horror. If possible don’t watch the trailer before hand – you’ll be in for a real treat.