THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (15): On General Release Friday 13th April
Every so often there’s a film that comes along which is really difficult to review because to even discuss the plot necessitates spoiler warnings eight miles high. Such a one is The Cabin In The Woods, which you should probably stop reading about right now, go watch, and then come back, so we can both agree how great it is.
It’s a shot in the arm for the horror genre which has been splashing around in the shallow end of creativity pool for a number of years now. It’s a film which revels in the deconstruction of horror, pulling it apart to its constituent nuts and bolts to see what makes it tick and then reassembling it in new and interesting ways, zapping it with a bolt of lightning and sending it lurching out into the world like a glorious meta-Frankenstein’s monster.
It sees five twentysomethings on a road trip to a remote cabin – blonde bimbo Jules (Anna Hutchison), her jock boyfriend Curt (a pre-Thor Chris Hemsworth), smart but attractive Holden (Jesse Williams), modest Dana (Kristen Connolly) and wisecracking stoner Marty (Fran Kranz).
Meanwhile, office drones Hadley (Richard Jenkins) and Sitterson (Bradley Whitford) crack macabre jokes to break up the monotony of their jobs and complain about directives from their higher ups. But what links the two narratives? And is everything quite what it seems in the titular cabin?
The Cabin In The Woods delights in subverting established genre tropes, lulling us into a false sense of security before springing not just an unexpected surprise but an unexpected unexpected surprise – veering sharply off the beaten track so consistently that it’s a constant and refreshing delight.
But there’s more under the hood than simple shlock scares, as Cabin deconstructs not just the methods that horror movies use to scare us, but also offers wry reasons for our desires to be scared in the first place. In many ways it’s the natural progression of the meta-horror of Scream, but now it’s not just about the hows, it’s about the hows and whys.
As such there’s an active comment on the role of horror movies in society, the complacency and banality of corporate evil, and the desensitisation of violence in general. This could have easily been delivered as a dry, clothy lecture or as a preachy sermon but it never deviates from being nothing less than rollicking fun – full of witty one-liners and asides, cracking set pieces and so many references that will make any horror geeks squeal with giddy delight.
Unfortunately, come the climax, it often hand-holds its audience through some of the major conceits which by this point don’t need explaining and it’s never actually that scary (although it certainly has more than its fair share of jumps) but it’s hard to think of a horror movie that is so consistency entertaining, nor plays with the conceits of the genre so gleefully or with such knowing intelligence.