During The Cabin in the Woods director and co-writer Drew Goddard we agreed this is a film that can’t necessarily be spoiled. It comes down to the fact there are two kinds of people, those that have read about The Cabin in the Woods and watched the trailer and those that know nothing about it. The latter group is likely to get more enjoyment out of this “upstairs, downstairs” fun house horror while those that have a vague idea what they’re in for are likely to appreciate it a little less, but only by the slimmest of margins. How you decide to proceed is up to you, but my suggestion for those of you that have any interest in seeing this film whatsoever, is to stop reading now and come back after you’ve seen it. Otherwise, let’s soldier on, but don’t worry, there aren’t any spoilers here.
In terms of plot, the studio provided synopsis is quite to the point: Five friends go to a remote cabin in the woods. Bad things happen. Among these five friends you have the jock (Chris Hemsworth), the stoner (Fran Kranz), the slut (Anna Hutchison), the nerd and/or minority (Jesse Williams) and the virgin (Kristen Connolly). As cliche as that sounds, The Cabin in the Woods wears its cliches like a badge of honor and what happens after these five friends ignore the warning signs to spend a weekend in the woods is both expected and entirely unexpected at the same time.
Written by Joss Whedon (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, The Avengers) and Drew Goddard (Cloverfield), The Cabin in the Woods will play differently to many audiences. Horror aficionados will be excited by the film’s deconstruction of the genre, Whedon fans will be drawn in by the dialogue and characters, others may be scared, but for the most part Cabin in the Woods is about turning a genre on its head and having some fun.
Additional cast members include Bradley Whitford, Richard Jenkins, Amy Acker and Brian White in roles I won’t reveal here, but they fill their roles well and Whitford and Jenkins are particularly inspired bits of excellent casting.
Where Cabin struggles, however, is in its over-arcing story, which is one of the reasons I say it’s a film that’s hard to spoil. For as fun as it is, I was hoping there would be a bit more to it… there isn’t. It’s more a story of escalation and seeing just how much can be packed into its 95-minute running time, a running time that actually begins to feel a little long occasionally, despite the third act being the ultimate in climactic masturbatory genre appreciation. I say this as someone that fully appreciated it.
This also isn’t a very scary movie. Only one scene involving a wolf’s head gave me any kind of measure of heebie jeebies as to what may happen, but beyond that the film’s use of genre tropes and effort for laughs over scares won out.
Cabin is largely a fun diversion, a film to just sit back and let it take you on a ride. The genre cliches it explores get a little tired, primarily considering nothing is really done with them, which actually maintains their existence as cliches. However, Goddard’s opting for energy over reason presents a wild ride, which I am more than willing to accept and enjoy, but where it’s lacking does prevent it from being a standout success.