Friday, 13 April 2012

The Cabin in the Woods


If there is one name you better get use to hearing through April 2012, then it is undoubtedly the one of Mr Joss Whedon; geek god and creator of such wonderful things like the acclaimed TV series of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and such cult hits as Firefly, Dollhouse and Angel. He even has a writing credit to his name on the now legendary Pixar fable, Toy Story and an extremely impressive run on Marvel's X-Men comics. He's also directed one of the biggest blockbusters this year. However, before he assembles the most anticipated superhero ensemble in...well...ever in The Avengers later this month, he took time to co-write and produce this intimate little horror tale called The Cabin in the Woods, directed by fellow collaborator Drew Goddard.

Much like Whedon and Goddard's previous projects, Cabin in the Woods takes a tired and predictable old formula of good looking kids getting mauled in a forest one by one by a deathly, satanic, horrific force and turns it on its head. With the exception of a few ponderous occurrences featuring the always brilliant Bradley Whitford (most famous for his turn as Josh in Aaron Sorkin's exceptional political drama, The West Wing) and an excellent Richard Jenkins the film starts out pretty much how you would expect a film like The Cabin in the Woods would. The secluded cabin, the creaky dark cellar, the uneasy back-story of a cruel family from the turn of the century and those pesky kids getting stoned, drunk, playing truth and/or dare and meddling with forces beyond their control.

If you've seen the trailer - for full effect I seriously suggest you don't - you'll already see nothing is quite what it seems and as the film's plot quickly unravels it paints a much darker and surprisingly more ambitious tale than previously imagined. Some of the plot is slightly suggestive of a few story arcs from Whedon's Buffy The Vampire series which will put die hard fans of the show into a fit of wonders, but it also cleverly uses his slick dialogue and almost satirical storytelling to give the audience a fitting tribute to all the best movies of the genre.

It has echoes of The Evil Dead in abundance, it also has hints of Hellraiser, The Exorcist, The Hills Have Eyes, The Strangers, The Ring, The Wolfman, Friday the 13th, Halloween, Prince of Darkness, Texas Chainshaw amongst countless others. It also does a curious thing where, due to aspects of the plot I'll try so hard not to spoil here, you find yourself wanting the impending victims to all get killed. Not because they're vain, moronic, stuck-up douchebags like in most of these films. They're not. Quite the opposite in fact, they feature extremely charismatic and likeable performances from Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchinson, Frans Kranz, Jesse Williams and a wonderful turn from Kristen Connolly in arguably the leading role.

It has a fun time of showing why in the event of death lurking outside the door, common sense seemingly goes right out the window during these sorts of movies. While the kids are fleeing from all kinds of crazy stuff, you have a curious Truman Show-esque sub-plot going on featuring the aforementioned Whitford and Jenkins alongside fun appearances from Whedon stalwarts, Amy Acker and Tom Lenk as well as Tim De Zarn, Brian White and a delightfully poised cameo from Sigourney Weaver. The only thing it was missing was a few choice appearances from the Serenity crew and some fans might have geeked out to death in a corner somewhere...

Don't let all this fool you though, this isn't a slightly more serious version of the Scary Movie franchise by any means. It still contains enough jumpy horror, gore, guts and unnerving scenes to appease anyone wanting a decent scare. Though unlike its storytelling the actual horror aspect is really nothing you haven't seen in all the films it pays tribute to many times before.

Final Thoughts
From a man who really doesn't enjoy watching horror films compared to most of the movie going public, I put my hands up and say The Cabin in the Woods is one of the most enjoyable cinematic experiences I've had so far in 2012 and will happily watch it again right now if asked. It's smart, funny, horrific and contains some playful dialogue and fantastic performances from some of the most hard-working, most celebrated and simply most likeable American actors working in television at the minute. Essential for fans of horror, equally so if you're not.

4/5

The Cabin in the Woods is in cinemas everywhere now.

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