For the first entry in this year’s “31 Days of Horror”, I couldn’t think of a more suitable film than the Drew Goddard/Joss Whedon collaboration, “The Cabin in the Woods”. It was one of only two films I’ve seen this year that were deemed worthy of multiple viewings in the theater (the other was “The Avengers”).
The film was actually made several years ago and then languished on the shelf when MGM suffered financial problems. Eventually it was purchased by Lionsgate, and it was released in theaters this past spring and was released on DVD and Blu-ray in September.
The movie announces from its first scene that there is more going on than meets the eye, but then seems to fall into a traditional horror film. You’ve got the usual band of teens – a jock (Chris Hemsworth), the party girl (Anne Hutchison), the brain (Jesse Williams), the stoner (Fran Kranz), and the innocent (Kristen Connolly) – setting out for a cabin…in the…woods (okay, so that part was pretty obvious). Along the way, we get the usual crazy person (Tim de Zarn) warning them of impending doom. Once they reach the cabin, the movie begins to unfold like a traditional horror film, but with aspects that let you know there is something else at work. It all sets up a third act that has to be seen to be believed.
The movie is inspired by classic genre films, with nods to everything from “Evil Dead” to “Hellraiser”. It is also a clever satire on the genre, particularly the torture porn trend. The movie is classic Whedon (who in addition to producing and co-writing the film, also served as second-unit director), full of smart writing and some great laughs. If you’re a Whedon fanboy (or girl) like me, you’ll have fun picking out former cast members from some of Whedon’s earlier television work.
The cast is amazing, particularly Kristen Connolly and Fran Kranz (Dollhouse). What a coup for the movie to – getting Chris Hemsworth right before he got “Thor” (and also the “Red Dawn” remake coming out next month). Much of the humor comes from Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford, whose roles I won’t give out for those who haven’t seen the movie. Trust me though, they will be remembered for these roles for a long time.
First time director (but long-time Whedon collaborator who has also worked with J.J. Abrams), Drew Goddard proves to be as talented at directing as he is at writing (of course, not all first time directors get Joss Whedon serving as their assistant). In this kind of movie, it’s easy to go for over the top, but Goddard blends the horror and comedy perfectly and gets great performances from his actors.
“The Cabin in the Woods” is easily one of the best films I’ve seen this year. The movie transcends horror films and sets a high bar for horror comedies. “The Cabin in the Woods” is definitely a must-see.