Susan Granger's review of 'The Cabin in the Woods'
Perfectly timed for Friday the 13th, this is a fresh, hip take on the horror movie genre as Joss Whedon and his "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"/"Angel" collaborator Drew Goddard, who also wrote "Cloverfield," slyly subvert all your expectations.
It's obvious that the five college friends who pile into that RV for a weekend party in an isolated cabin by a lake are intentional archetypes. There's sensible, demurely virginal Dana (Kristen Connolly); the handsome black nerd, Holden (Jesse Williams); the sexy, ditzy, blonde sorority sister, Jules (Anna Hutchison); the pothead philosopher, Marty (Fran Kranz); and the Alpha-male football jock, Curt (Chris Hemsworth). And they face a veritable R-rated orgy of menacing terrors.
That's predictable. But then there's another macabre element. In an underground lab, researchers Steve (Richard Jenkins) and Richard (Bradley Whitford) manipulate what happens to the captive quintet - think of "The Truman Show" - revealing that there's a reason horror movies have rules, like: "If they don't transgress, they can't be punished." So when cliched characters don't do what we - and they - expect, who knows what can happen?
Shot in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 2009, long before Chris Hemsworth became the Marvel superhero Thor, it sat on the shelf for two years because of M.G.M.'s bankruptcy. Nevertheless, allusions to previous horror films like "Evil Dead," "Texas Chainsaw Massacre," "Friday the 13th," etc. are effectively utilized. While it's not scary in the traditional sense, it's certainly filled with gruesome CG zombie gore. Yet what's most memorable are the wry, tongue-in-cheek comedic moments, like when the visitors examine the contents of the cabin's creepy basement, another inventively involving a speakerphone and an unbilled Sigourney Weaver's cameo.
According to Joss Whedon, this self-aware film is a "loving hate letter" to the desensitizing slasher/ torture porn genre and "a serious critique of what we love and what we don't about horror movies."
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Cabin in the Woods" is an amusing, ingenious, unexpected 8, revealing what really may be lurking in the darkness.