Plot: Five friends go and spend the week end in an isolated cabin in the woods. Nothing can quite prepare them for what is about to happen...
Review: How do you write the review of a wonderful film with so many surprises and twists such as The Cabin in the Woods without spoiling them? If you are venerable film critic Philip French from the Observer, you go ahead and gleefully spoils everything, in what has become a tiresome trademark. But I do not want to ruin anything at all so I shall attempt to write about this film without spoiling it. Although I have to say, perhaps the best way of enjoying it is not to read anything at all, not watch any trailers, and stop reading after I say this film is one of the most inventive and exciting horror films I have ever seen. Or you could carry on reading.
The first trailer released some time ago was actually quite spoilerific, and I suspect the marketing behind the film was faced with a predicament. How to ensure the audience is aware this is most definitely not just your average horror without giving too much away? But in the end it does not matter so much. If you have not watched the first trailer yet then I still recommend you do not, but then again very early on in the film you do get a fairly good indication of what is going on. Because such is the beauty of The Cabin in the Woods that it is not just about that one twist that turns everything in its tail. Rather, it is full of them, and in fact, instead of calling them twists, I would call them surprises.
It starts off knowingly throwing every kind of recent horror stereotypes you can think of, especially from the redneck horror of Cabin Fever and Wrong Turn but also classics such as Evil Dead, The Hill Have Eyes etc... and playing with our expectations: the isolated cabin in the woods (obviously) with no mobile reception, the group of horny youths, the scary redneck as a harbinger of doom, the first hints that "something is not quite right"... And even the characters themselves are those well worn horror stereotypes, the jock, the blonde bimbo, the stoner, the smart girl...
The film has a great deal of humour, perhaps a little too much at first, but just as I was worried the jokey tone of the first act might upset the balance, scenes of brutal violence remedied to that, and we enter into proper horror territory, with the group being chased and attacked by "things" (I won't say what). There is certainly more than enough blood to satisfy gorehounds, and a fair share of jump scares. This is also when things start taking more and more of an unexpected turn as weirder and weirder events are happening around them. Speaking of humour however, there is one of the most hilarious deaths ever committed on screen, especially thanks to a great build up to it.
How frustrating is it when a film has a genuinely interesting concept but does little with it? No such thing in here, this is a constantly thrilling ride that keeps getting better and better until a truly insane third act. There is a scene of mayhem which I cannot describe but left me with my mouth wide open, and that has not happened in a cinema in a long time. It almost feels like a personal gift to every horror fan.
And like I was just saying, the third act is insane, properly insane, to the point where I nearly foamed at the mouth with joy and excitement, up until the fantastic ending which, as you might expect, does reserve its fair share of surprises. I almost feel like this review has got to go through a super-embargo. I cannot even say what type of surprises to expect near the end because it would give too much of a hint. Let's just say any fan of horror will have a gleeful smile, and there was a loud, spontaneous appreciative whoop among the audience. As for the actual ending, it does not disappoint, all the way to a crazy last shot.
The film has been directed and co-written by Drew Goddard, one of the many writers for Lost but unlike this cult and promising yet ultimately disappointing serie, which kept coming up with red herring with no sense of direction, The Cabin in the Woods knows exactly where it is going. And it does not rely on an over-complicated plot full of dead ends. As smart and twisted as it is, it still feels fully satisfying. And those stereotyped characters do evolve in unexpected ways. But of course I cannot forget the other co-writer and producer, Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy and director of the upcoming Avengers, whose playful influence is felt throughout.
The Cabin in the Woods is like the wet dream of a horror fan, obviously made by a fan, bringing in elements from nearly every single horror films and even books ever created, some obvious like the aforementioned Evil Dead, Cabin Fever etc... some less obvious and indirect ones like Hellraiser or an hilarious nod to Japanese horrors' long-haired ghosts, but then I will refrain from quoting too many of them or risk spoiling them! In fact, there is a major literary influence that I cannot even name as it would give too much away. That might make it sound like a mishmash and a pastiche but again there is a coherence to it all, although explaining how such a wide range of influences is kept coherent would again risk spoiling it.
The young cast is usually never the high point in any horror but it is here commendable, including Thor himself Chris Hemsworth, and they have a lot of fun turning their stereotyped parts around. As for the always reliable Richard Jenkins, he brings in a wonderfully deadpan humour to his pivotal part.
The Cabin in the Woods is the most fun I have had in a cinema in a long time, probably one of the best horror films I have ever seen, and my only quibble is that I am going to have to wait so long to watch it again. See it in a packed cinema as soon as this is out!
The Cabin In The Woods USA 2011 Directed by Drew Goddard Starring Chris Hemsworth, Richard Jenkins, Kristen Connolly... Out on the 13th of April in the US and UK