No? Okay, so I’ll progressively reveal more and more in each subsequent paragraph, and you can decide when to stop. I’ll start with the genre: horror, with a sci-fi twist and some clever comedy sprinkled in. It could be called a “high concept” movie, one that takes an old horror movie trope—the cabin in the woods—and creates something new and interesting out of it.
You can think of The Cabin in the Woods as the smarter, more attractive, more ambitious cousin of Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon. Both share the goal of deconstructing horror movies while trying to be one at the same time. Scream, of course, set the bar for this kind of thing, yet Cabin and Mask both raised it by being much more blatant. But where Mask fell short, Cabin succeeds.
In Mask, the satire is great (credit the writing) but the horror is substandard (blame the directing). Granted, it was an ambitious project for a first-time director, but I always found myself wanting to like it more than I actually did, wishing it could have been the This Is Spinal Tap of horror movies. The Cabin in the Woods actually delivers on the horror. In fact, I wasn’t won over by the movie right from the start. The sci-fi frame story seemed a little too in love with itself, and I worried that the horror was going to be underwhelming or goofy. But when the first attack happened, it was clear that Joss Whedon and company weren’t going to skimp. That’s when I could relax and trust I was in good hands.
If you don’t want to risk spoilers, stop reading now. Otherwise…
The most obvious horror references in the movie are to The Evil Dead, but there’s so much here (especially visually), that I’m looking forward to being able to pause it on a large screen TV and search the frame for all the little horror-insider goodies. Once the characters go underground, it becomes a horror fan’s wet dream. And I loved the brief glimpses we get of the other countries’ projects.
The Cabin in the Woods does have its flaws, though. The final girl takes a brutal beating from a giant zombie and five minutes later seems no worse for the wear. The stoner character is conveniently a savant when it comes to electrical wiring. And when Sigourney Weaver shows up at the end and surprises them, why didn’t she scrounge up a weapon first? Guns seemed pretty plentiful. She could have just shot those meddling kids instead of resting the fate of humanity on her dubious ability to talk a terrified girl into murdering her friend.
But all that said, I was very impressed by The Cabin in the Woods. Especially the ending. (Strangely synchronistic that I just watched Melancholia last night. They’d make an interesting double feature.) I read that after an early press screening of the movie, the first question the director was asked by the press pool was if there were plans for a sequel. He responded, “Did you see the film we made?”