Producer Joss Whedon and director Drew Goddard worked on the script to The Cabin in the Woods together and these two former Buffy the Vampire Slayer contributors have succeeded in creating something quite spectacular and completely unexpected.
This is not an ordinary review because The Cabin in the Woods is not an ordinary film.
A group of five friends travel together to a cabin owned by Curt's (Chris Hemsworth) cousin. Curt's girlfriend Jules (Anna Hutchison) is trying to setup her more innocent friend Dana (Kristen Connolly) with the thoughtful Holden (Jesse Williams), while Marty (Fran Kranz) just wants to smoke weed and have some fun with his friends. Once at the cabin in the woods, via a scary man at a gas station, the five-some start to party, but are disrupted when the trapdoor suddenly opens. Investigating they discover the diary of one of the cabin's earlier inhabitants who tells of a family of inbred murders who once killed passersby.
As you can see it's the most standard setup to a slasher horror imaginable. The characters are stereotypical, the action is predictable, everything in The Cabin in the Woods is formulaic as can be. Except... it's not. I cannot explain what happens, all I can say is that this is a film that you should see. Especially if you're a fan of horror films. What Whedon and Goddard is some parts loving tribute, some parts meta-narrative and, especially in the last third, all completely bonkers. It's difficult to review without giving away the twists and turns, but the key is to not watch the trailer and go into it blind. Why the trailer for The Cabin in the Woods even hints at anything other than slasher horror is beyond me, perhaps they're trying to appeal to a broader audience?
Upon returning from seeing The Cabin in the Woods, I desperately tried to encourage a friend of mine to see it as soon as possible. Part of this was because I needed more people to talk to about it and partly because it's a very good film. Another friend intervened to help "I think it's a five star film." The first friend, dismissive as he can be about things he hasn't seen, especially horror films retorted "Yeah but a five star horror film is like a two star proper film."
And there lay the problem that The Cabin in the Woods will suffer. Most horror fanboys, a loyal and vocal bunch, will revel in the depths to which this film drills. They'll laugh with glee, cheer and be completely blown away. There will be those that deem it not scary enough, but those people are missing the point. Those who declare that they don't like horror will avoid it and will have missed out on an opportunity to see something truly unique. It's not perfect and the scares are restricted to a few loud noises that make you jump, but it's original and mad enough to keep your attention throughout, even if you're not sure what's going on. The Cabin in the Woods is required viewing for all, don't be scared to open your mind a little and just... consider the possibilities.
Rating: * * * * 1/2