Mired in the financial quagmire of MGM, The Cabin in the Woods languished for three years as the studio focused on more pressing issues such as funding The Hobbit and the next James Bond film. Eventually the film was sold to Lionsgate and it is, at long last, seeing the light of day. Typically it’s a major red flag when a film is allowed to gather dust for so long. This situation is not typical.
The premise is simple enough – five college students go to a, well…cabin in the woods where they are terrorized unexpectedly. From there, the film gets a bit harder to describe. Not because it’s convoluted but because maximum enjoyment hinges on the viewer knowing as little as possible when walking into the theater. Written by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard (who also directed the film), they are acutely aware of horror genres clichés, put them to nice use and even nicer misuse.
Goodard wrote for Lost, and it shows. He worked on the show during its first few seasons when it was a delightfully byzantine puzzle densely packed with clues that foreshadowed its richly detailed backstory. That shows as well.
With the exception of Chris Hemsworth, who went on to star in Thor after this movie was made, the film’s cast consists of a mixture of unknowns and character actors who you would recognize but probably couldn’t name. All of them give solid performances, though Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford are particularly strong.
While the film is laugh-out-loud funny, I hesitate to call it a comedy because its humor never undermines its premise nor does it ever veer into parody (though it easily could have). This is very much a horror movie though, oddly, it’s not really all that scary. Surprisingly, that turns out not to be a fatal flaw. The film’s saving grace? It’s fun. And when was the last time you could say that about a horror film? It’s just flat out fun; a heady shot of adrenaline straight to the heart of a genre desperately in need of it. What Scream did for movies like Halloween, The Cabin in the Woods does for movies like Scream. Plus, it’s a post-modern postmortem on the present state of horror films and throws down the gauntlet for the recent spate of torture porn. Cabin in the Woods is almost certainly destined to be genre-defining film.
On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being Scream and 1 being Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, the Cabin in the Woods gets a 9.