10 April 2012


Here's something you should know about The Cabin in the Woods, before seeing it- you shouldn't know a goddamn thing about The Cabin in the Woods, before you see it. However, at a time when everyone has the internet and movie marketing gives away spoilers all on its own, this might not be possible. Me, I'm going to help a little, by talking around the plot of this movie as much as possible without actually giving anything away.

So, in essence, all that you really want to know is that there is a cabin, in some woods, and five right-headed teenagers go out to this cabin for a weekend of partying. However, the film is written by Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon, so you know that's not all there is to it. Bizarrely, seeing as how the film is a satire of the lowest-common-denominator slasher flick, some have told me that they might not go and see this, because it looks like the same all over again, and yet something is keeping Platinum Dunes in business. The main bullet point, then? This ain't what you think it is.

Double features and marathon viewings seem to be popular with horror fans and cult movie fans, so it's appropriate that The Cabin in the Woods might easily serve as a companion piece to virtually any mainstream horror movie made in the last 20 to 30 years. However, you can also draw lines between this film and Scream, or the first two Evil Dead movies. It owes its setup to the latter, and a more intelligent and imaginative self-awareness than Wes Craven's movies, but it matches any of those films mentioned for humour or balls-to-the-wall craziness.

The setup that you're seeing in trailers forms half of the film's setup, as we see pre-Thor Chris Hemsworth amongst the group of likeable teens that unwittingly stumble into the clutches of a larger, darker force, but another thread runs parallel with this. This is the part of the movie I would really hate to spoil, but I will say that it features terrific performances from Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins, and that its placement forms one of my few overall reservations.

I'm not the only person saying that you want to see this movie cold, so I made a concerted effort to avoid information about it beforehand. This, along with the parallel staging of the film, has you on tenterhooks for the moment where something crazy happens. Trust me, The Cabin in the Woods gets real crazy as it goes on, but this would pretty much be a perfect movie if they could have pulled off something along the lines of From Dusk till Dawn, by changing the tone without flagging up that the shift was coming ahead of time.

At the same time, I almost liked watching it unfold, and wrangling my understanding of it throughout, as much as I would if it had been able to come completely out of the leftfield. The only other major criticism I have is that I didn't really find it scary. It's a great horror comedy, a genre hybrid that is notoriously difficult to pull off, but if you don't find its brand of slasher horror scary when it's played straight, I'm not sure that the film really becomes scary until later on, at which point even bat shit looks sane next to it.

On balance though, I really loved this movie. Whatever my qualms with the pacing and the structure, it's impossible to predict exactly what is coming, and when it arrives, it will blow you away. The script feels more like a Whedon effort, perhaps only because his idiosyncrasies are more recognisable than Goddard's, but Goddard nevertheless does a great job with his debut feature. It's an unabashed genre-bender, which cuts through tropes and cliches like a knife and yet avoids being mean-spirited or snarky. It's really just a hell of a lot of fun.

If you're still with me, there's only one more thing you should know about The Cabin in the Woods before discovering its secrets yourself- it's a bit fucking brilliant. The film ramps up throughout its running time, bringing the scares for those who get scared during slasher movies, the laughs for those who enjoy watching those movies for entertainment value, and the shock and awe that comes with the film's bold, dazzling climax. The film has taken long enough to come out, with all of the studio politics that have encumbered its long journey to multiplexes, but it still feels like a completely vital and up-to-the-minute genre movie.

The Cabin in the Woods is now showing in cinemas nationwide.
If you've seen The Cabin in the Woods, why not share your comments below? Did you know that one of the things that held this release back was a possible 3D conversion? It would have ruined the movie, but damn, if it wouldn't have enhanced the satire of everything that is shit about modern horror...

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

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