Cabin in the Woods, The

Rating:

This Ain’t Your Daddy’s Haunted House

Main Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Kristen Connelly, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford

Director: Drew Goddard

Writers: Joss Whedon, Drew Goddard

I don’t usually bother with teen hack-n-slash horror movies.  They’re always the same – one couple, one could-be couple and one oddball extra go to some remote place to drink and have sex and end up being killed one at a time because they are stupid.  Except for the one that lives.  Only the quality of the gore effects distinguishes one from the next.  Yet I kept The Cabin in the Woods on my Netflix queue.   Why?  Joss Whedon, of course.  Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dollhouse, The Avengers, what’s not to love about this writer/director/producer?

In this outing, Whedon serves as writer and producer, joined by Drew Goddard as writer and director.  Goddard produced for both LOST and Alias and wrote for Buffy and Whedon’s Angel.  This is a pair I can trust to bring something new to the teen slasher genre.  And bring it, they do.  In spades.

The Cabin in the Woods stars Kristen Connelly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Jesse Williams and Fran Kranz (who you’ll recognize from Dollhouse) as our stock character teenagers, going to their stock cabin in the stock woods to be gruesomely murdered.  But wait – what is Bradley Whitford doing in there with Richard Jenkins?  Is that some sort of underground lab that comes complete with witty dialogue?  How do these things possibly go together?  Ha.  I’m not telling, but they do.

The Cabin in the Woods is a great, original twist on a tired, nasty genre.  Whedon and Goddard bring a fresh perspective and new life to characters I thought could not be successfully resurrected under any circumstances.  Some of the twists you’ll figure out fairly early on, but they reel the actual situation out just slowly enough to keep you engaged and guessing for the whole of the film.  It’s beautifully written and conceived.

The actors are, well…they are what they need to be.  The teenagers are unappealing for the most part, as intended, except for Kranz who has great fun with his stoner character.  The least enjoyable performance is given by Anna Hutchison, but again, that is exactly as intended.  They all do what they need to do to propel the story forward and give the real stars a chance to work their magic.  And who are those real stars?  Whitford and Jenkins.  I love them both and Whedon and Goddard play to their strengths.  For Whitford we have fast paced, witty patter.  For Jenkins we have more of the same but with the slightly weary air of the one who has been around this block most often.  I can’t tell you exactly what they do, it would be mean to spoil it, so suffice to say that they are not teenagers in the woods despite being extremely involved in the situation.  They play their roles with a giddy sort of glee that comes only from knowing that you’re doing something new and fun and awesome.

The special effects are also terrific.  There’s gore here and plenty of it, but it’s got this comic edge to it that keeps it almost cartoonish, despite the ghoulish visuals.  There are also some great action sequences that work as horror, suspense and sometimes gruesome comedy.  Fabulous!

Overall, The Cabin in the Woods is the most fun I’ve had with a slasher movie in….well, ever.  Whedon and Goddard turn the genre inside out, adding humor and complexity and uncertainty.  They know exactly what they’re doing from word one and do it with a sparkle and freshness that lends a giant layer of fun to the entire production.  Recommended for any fan of Whedon, anyone who is even remotely interested in horror as a genre (though maybe not hard-core horror fans) and pretty much everyone else with a little bit of a twisted sense of humor.  4 ½ stars out of 5.  I would LOVE to see the gag reel for this movie – it’s worth a buy!

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