The Cabin in the Woods
Directed by Drew Goddard. Starring Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford, Brian White, Amy Acker. (2012, R, 105 min.)
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., April 13, 2012
Dial it down a notch from the fans who hail it as the second coming of the horror picture, and scale it up from the opinions of the detractors who declare it's not half as clever and subversive as it thinks it is, and you'll have a pretty fair sense of what to expect when you arrive at The Cabin in the Woods. There is little doubt this film is the most intoxicating morsel to hit the horror circuit since Scream or, at least, Paranormal Activity. In fact, we'd be surprised if these filmmakers delivered a product that wasn't tantalizing and irresistible – so much so that The Cabin in the Woods received the honorific opening-night slot at this year’s SXSW Film Festival. Cloverfield writer Drew Goddard may be a first-time director but this writer and producer of TV's Lost has proven he knows what it takes to keep us watching … faithfully. And Goddard's co-writer and producer on Cabin is none other than TV visionary Joss Whedon of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame and more. Together they have whipped up a heady concoction that uses the conventions of the horror form as an essential plot ingredient and then tossed in a few other spices for a combustible blend.
Five young, standard-issue college kids embark on a weekend getaway off the grid. Of the girls, there's the sexually active Jules (Hutchison) and the virginal Dana (Connolly). The guys in the group are alpha jock Curt (Hemsworth, whose career gained momentum from his recent turn as Thor while Cabin's release hung in limbo after its completion due to extraneous studio complications); scholar Holden (Williams); and stoner Marty (Kranz). Prior to meeting these protagonists, however, the film opens with a seemingly unrelated scene of a couple of average tech workers (Jenkins and Whitford) heading off for another day at their underground laboratory. Without giving away more than is revealed in the film's trailer, it eventually becomes clear that the campers are unwitting lab rats in an experiment run by their unknown laboratory overseers. What's gradually revealed, however, is the experiment's global reach, its perversity and desperation, and the fact that the game is rigged. Oh yes, and there’s an 11th-hour cameo by a perfectly cast actor. The horror-movie clichés form the backbone from which the film's humor and creativity emerge. This Cabin may not be the Parthenon, but it's definitely a place to worship the gods of horror.
See "The Scare Game" for Marc Savlov's interview with Drew Goddard.