While horror films set in isolated woodlands aren’t hard to find, “The Cabin in the Woods” brilliantly takes the stereotypical thriller movie tropes and twists them inside out like a horror victim gutted in spectacular fashion.
In the film, a group of college kids trek up to a secluded cabin for a weekend retreat. Someone watches the group as they settle in the cabin, but the watcher’s identity, along with many other strange secrets, is gradually revealed as “The Cabin in the Woods” goes deeper down the rabbit hole. But from there, the similarities to conventional horror movies tear away.
The simplistic premise of this movie hides a twisting, complex multilevel action/horror flick. “Lost” and “Cloverfield” writer Drew Goddard makes a strong, wild impression directing his first Hollywood film by taking the typical horror movie toward a more fantastic and unpredictable story.
“The Cabin in the Woods” pulls no punches and throws everything at the audience. In addition to the monsters, the movie compiles hilarious comedy in the form of clever or strange one-liners and ludicrous yet entertaining scenes. Elements of everything from clichéd horror to ancient religion are included and at times cleverly twisted. An inversion of the classic “virgin sacrifice” image from mythology and folklore stands as one of the most compelling moments of the climax.
A strong cast carries the characters of “The Cabin in the Woods.” Fran Kranz delivers a charming, and then compelling, performance as Marty, one of the principle horror sources. Marty is one of many focal points of comic relief; he delivers brash lines about life, society and the group’s situation while smoking marijuana from a bong disguised as a coffee thermos. The jock, Curt (Chris Hemsworth), also benefits from Hemsworth’s believable appearance and swagger as an alpha-male type.
“Cabin in the Woods” forgoes most of the scares of conventional horror films. There are a few memorable moments, including a simultaneously hilarious and intense moment involving a mounted wolf head. But the film sacrifices tension with more compelling action and comedy. The climax of the film delves into an action bloodbath. Classic horror movie monsters such as werewolves, banshees and killer clowns engage in bloody, gory battle with SWAT teams as the facility collapses around the characters. After schoolgirl Dana (Kristen Connolly) “gets the party started,” she unleashes a horde of typical horror icons in one of the most spectacular scenes of CGI slaughter ever splattered onto the big screen.
“The Cabin in the Woods” elevates itself above the frequently dismal tone of other horror films with its playful spirit and reckless abandon toward convention. It is completely uncompromising, strange and fun to watch.