Review: The Cabin in the Woods

The Cabin in the Woods (2011)
95 minutes
Rated – R
Directed by Drew Goddard
Starring: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Frank Kranz

Grade:  B+

The Cabin in the Woods is a refreshing and unique take on the horror genre, whether it deals with the supernatural, serial killers, ghosts, or torture. Let me make myself clear right now by saying the best (though definitely not the only) way to enjoy The Cabin in the Woods is to avoid all spoilers (even previews and commercials) beforehand and dive into the fun without a clue of what you’re getting yourself into. I also don’t see a purpose discussing this film without mentioning the mystery that surrounds the film from the very first scene to its very last. Therefore, this review will contain spoilers and I suggest you stop reading unless you’ve already watched the film.

There are two continuous story-lines going on at once during The Cabin in the Woods. There are five college kids going on a weekend trip to a cabin so they could relax, drink a lot of beer, smoke weed, ride motorcycles, and other things that college kids do in horror movies. You can guess what kind of trouble this group is going to get into, mainly because they’re a bunch of good-looking yet clueless kids in the middle of no where with no phone reception at a creepy cabin.

The other story-line takes place in some kind of science lab where they are closely, yet casually, keeping watch on the five college kids with Truman Show-like cameras that cover every foot they take. Their purpose is unknown until the end, but for the majority of the film they provide a lot of comic relief, even when there are gruesome things happening in the woods. In addition, Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford control the cabin, though the kids are still the ones who make their own decisions that will decide their fate. But what’s the bigger picture here?

With this kind of set-up, you can interpret this as a movie within a movie, which wouldn’t be wrong. While these college kids are poking around a spooky cabin, getting killed off one-by-one by terrorizing zombies, you see the scientists celebrating each death, that is except for the newly appointed guard who offers a morality that us, as the viewers, are feeling. The Cabin in the Woods is very self-aware of what is going on and what they’re trying to accomplish.

What the film also does is give a commentary on the horror genre, like how Scream did it in the ’90s. The film plots the formulaic five: the jock, the slut, the scholar, the fool, and the virgin, and allows them to choose their demise. It’s interesting to see in the third act of how this special site controlled by the scientists had dozens of different creatures in store to kill off the kids. But as they’re celebrating their victory, it just so happens that their party was thrown a bit pre-mature.

Personally, I’m not a fan of the horror genre, though I’m pleasantly surprised once in a while by the inventiveness. It’s funny how I thoroughly enjoyed The Cabin in the Woods but one of its main weaknesses was that for a horror film, it wasn’t that scary. But that is clearly not the point that Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard are trying to make.

One of my favorite scenes in the film is towards the end when Bradley Whitford admits that he actually wants the girl to get away and live, despite rooting for the rest of her friends’ to die. For a few seconds, you feel the sympathy that all humans are capable of, even though we have access to violence and death at our fingertips. You can view it as a sacrifice some people make for the greater good, or you can view it as every single life is precious and to kill is simply wrong, no matter what the situation is. There is a line, but where does everyone stand?

Even though this post is full of spoilers, I won’t reveal the sudden and messy ending that leaves you unenthusiastic, yet content. The conclusion lets the wildly imaginative film off the hook to actually provide any exciting reason for why everything just happened. But despite the loose ends, it doesn’t make The Cabin in the Woods any less of a success than it already was, which is a unique and insightful horror movie. It’s one that horror junkies will analyze and one that the rest of the public will enjoy. For that, it is a classic.

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