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The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

April 12, 2012


written by: Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard

produced by: Joss Whedon

directed by: Drew Goddard

rating: R (for strong bloody horror violence and gore, language, drug use and some sexuality/nudity) 

runtime: 105 min. 

U.S. release date: April 13, 2012


Just from the title, you probably think you know what this movie is all about, but as the poster’s tagline states – you really have no idea – and that’s a good thing. In fact, that’s a really cool thing. You should know next to nothing going into “The Cabin in the Woods”, except whether or not it’s your kind of movie. If you’re a fan of Sam Raimi-style horror, those movies that have a such a fun time balancing gore and comedy, or if the canon of Joss Whedon (“Buffy, the Vampire Slayer” and “Firefly” creator) appeals to you, then you really need to check this out. That’s about all you need to know.

If you’re a fan of horror and  horror-comedy and what you’ve read so far interests you, then you’d do best to skip any trailers or TV spots altogether and just trust in the creative team here. In many ways, this is both a wonderful celebration and clever deconstruction of the genre. But the real surprise is the method and structure of the screenplay, co-written by Whedon and fellow “Buffy” scribe, Drew Goddard (friend of another geek godfather, J.J. Abrams, having written for “Alias”and  “Lost” as well as the creature-feature “Cloverfield”), who makes a fantastic directorial debut with this movie.

While I approached this review with hesitation, finding it almost impossible to decide which details to divulge, I feel compelled to let everyone know that – if this is your thing, then this is your movie.



The movie revolves around a group of young friends in their late teens or early 20s, unsurprisingly played by actors who are likely older, but we’re used to that. They’re getting ready for a trip to the titular location for a weekend of partying, just like all attractive characters do in movies like this. We meet book nerd Dana (Kristin Connelly) who almost packs textbooks for the trip, if not for the intervention of her BFF Jules (Anna Hutchison), a hottie party girl who’s dating Curt (Chris Hemsworth) the hunky jock and requisite alpha male. The group is rounded out by a couple more guys – supposed brainiac, Holden (Jesse Williams) and lovable stoner dude, Marty (Fran Kranz), that make this cast of characters out to be the most realistic portrayal of the Scooby-Doo gang ever presented on the big screen.

Goddard and Whedon’s assembly of such self-aware stereotypes presents us with the first of many knowing nods to countless other movie and geek staples. Instead of making them annoying and uninteresting, the duo have made them college kids you’d actually like to hang with. These characters may be very familiar and their behavior in and around the nasty old cabin is comically predictable, but we’re as in on it as the filmmakers are and that’s a fun place to be. We know what Goddard is doing to them, but we’re just not sure where he’s taking them, which is a delightful feeling that builds and builds as the movie progresses.

Because the audience (or in this case, one could argue, the participants) already know the tropes on display here, they are able to revel in the inventive originality the movie offers. I dare not go into even a fraction of the details, such as what fine character actors like Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins bring to the film, since discovering it all on your own provides the optimal viewing experience. Without giving away anything though, their roles play a crucial part in making this movie rise above and beyond any viewer expectations.

Indeed, getting the most out of this delightful satire requires buckling in and just going for a ride. That’s probably a good way to explain “The Cabin in the Woods”, for when things really get going – and oh do they ever – it feels like a total geek ride. When you see this movie, you’ll know why there’s a “Keep It Quiet” movement among early viewers. Those who truly appreciate what the movie does, will not only encourage others to see it, but they’ll want others to experience in the same way.




RATING: ****





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