R, 1 hr. 35 min. Directed By: Drew Goddard. Release Date: Apr 13, 2012.
I’ve been anxious to see The Cabin in the Woods since I saw a write up about the SXSW Film Festival on Fandango. I was intrigued to see Joss Whedon’s mind at work in something a little closer to his Buffy roots, and that’s still my favorite thing to come from Whedon’s mind to date. Frankly, when it comes to the vast expanse that makes up the sci-fi/fantasy genre in all its variants, I don’t think there’s anyone else alive who can work magic quite like he can… at least for a while.
For 90 minutes, Whedon’s mind created almost the perfect hybrid. This isn’t quite horror, although it certainly has elements of that. It has elements of the suspense thriller, the teen movie, and the comedy. Individually, each element is well written and delivered. When they merge together, I get a little uncomfortable with the idea of calling this a horror movie. I’m a little more comfortable viewing this as a horror-comedy, and in that, Cabin is VERY successful. Humor is used throughout the film in an effort to break the tension, and it’s used well.
But, at the end of the day, Whedon’s Mutant Enemy production company is well within their comfort zones. Even some of the casting says volume, since we see cast members pilfered from OTHER Mutant Enemy productions, and Whedon’s proved a certain… willingness to recast folks as often as possible. I was actually surprised that none of the cast from Firefly made an appearance, but he did bring in folks from both Buffy and Angel/Dollhouse. The story line borrows heavily conceptually from Buffy story lines: an agency that attempts to manage the balance between the mortal coil and the supernatural world, a great unspeakable evil (although Glory was much hotter than what we see of the evil beneath the cabin). These are all some of the elements that made Buffy and her crew such an amazing watch for 7 years, and kept Angel and his constant whining alive in my heart for… well, at least season one and then the final season.
There may not be anything original here from a story perspective, but this is a supernatural thriller/horror movie that’s done very well, and most of the sources of the borrowed material can’t make that claim. I can see why this has garnered so much attention. A new bar may have been set here. Certainly horror could use a bit of bar raising. One really cool thing was the “choose your own adventure” aspect to this… and I’m left wondering if this would have benefitted from a Clue-like production, where we see multiple versions of the scenes wherein these five college kids meet their fates.
I have a few minor complaints, but they’re kind of universal to the genre, so I wasn’t surprised to have them. Some of the acting was terrible. I didn’t particularly like Anna Hutchison in her role as Jules. I liked even less that these five kids managed to fit in to the standard multi-clique group that rears its ugly head every so often since The Breakfast Club. I would have liked the group to be less polarized, since it’s pretty rare that this kind of group exists in the real world. I also thought they leaned toward the ham-fisted with their sound effects and foreshadowing. Otherwise, this was a TON of fun. I may have to see it again.