Perhaps you’re like me, and avoided this movie when it was released because of the title. Let’s be honest here: in this crazy, topsy-turvy world with its ever-rushing torrent of entertainment stimuli, sometimes you make the mistake of letting the face value of five little words determine whether or not you invest the 95 minutes it takes to watch a movie.
You read the title The Cabin in the Woods, and you hastily make a mental file for the movie as yet another teen exploitation horror flick, tarted up with fancy 21st century CGI. You think of some young good-lookings (except for the comic-relief nerd/stoner) frolicking in a cabin deep in some backwoods, while a shuffling hulk in overalls and a hook for a hand peers in the windows. Or perhaps evil spectres, awakened from their slumber at a nearby graveyard, out to drag our young friends back into the bowels of Hell. Or maybe a more ancient evil turns beneath, Him Who Cannot Be Named, who looks with yellowed, endless eyes at the corruption of youth on display above.
After you actually watch The Cabin in the Woods, you reflect back and realize what a clever ruse the title is, how it is actually a tabula rasa, on which any horror story can be writ. Or re-written.
I can’t really detail much of the story here, or else reveal too much of the mystery about the goings-on. Suffice it to say that there is indeed a group of young horror-movie archetypes that head off to a remote cabin for some healthy partying and all-around sexual hijinks, all the while being monitored and manipulated by shadowy agents with unknown intent.
Speaking of scoring, let’s start crunching the numbers. Story gets a (+3), as it takes all those pre-conceived notions of the genre and turns them completely upside down. With Joss Whedon as a co-writer and producer, you can expect some ballsy twists and turns. I found the Look of the film to be a bit dark at times, but the overall look and feel of the film constantly shifts between dark and light, giving real oomph to the contrasting nature of the whole endeavour. So a (+2) there. Casting also gets (+2). For Commitment to Genre, I’m going to score a high (+2). Very seldom do you get to watch a film that so deftly dismantles the conventions of its genre and builds something better and lasting in its place.
I’ll give (+1) right off the bat for Bradley Whitford. Hey, I like Bradley Whitford. Sue me.
The feed from Kyoto gets (+1). Oh , those wile Japanese schoolgirls.
(-1) for the idea that there’s a gas that can make you change your mind.
(+1) for the elevator gag.
(+2) for the boobies. Chad will be happy.
(+1) for Pennywise making an appearance… always good to see an IT reference.
And finally, (+1) for the Merman. ’nuff said.
Of course, all this addition puts things way over the top, and we can’t abide the amount of power put out by Nigel Tufnel’s amp around here. So I have to shave things down to a mere 10 out of 10 points. I think it safe to say that it’s worth the ominous drive to The Cabin in the Woods. This is the deconstructionist horror film that Scream should have been.