Joss Whedon deserves the reputation he has obtained. His work is clever, ambitious, quirky, and always enjoyable. Along with the help of Cloverfield writer Drew Goddard, Whedon wrote a post-modern meta horror film that, at times, steps far outside of the genre’s boundaries. While this creates a niche appeal, Whedon is somewhat known for that. Luckily, the experimentation pays off, as Cabin in the Woods will likely be the most unique and memorable horror film of the year.
Paying homage to the likes of The Evil Dead’s set conventions and Scream’s self-aware writing, The Cabin in the Woods is uniquely clever. The film follows five young adults who have planned a weekend at a cottage; the cabin in the woods. While this sounds like familiar ground, the writers are completely aware. Revealing any more of the plot would start to hit some substantial spoilers. Cabin is best when the audience enters completely blind. Half of the appeal is not knowing what to expect. Explaining why Cabin is clever would simply hurt the film.
While the movie throws references around like a (stereotypical jock’s) football, it is anything but a spoof film. While Cabin is undoubtedly camp and self-aware, the movie never embarrassed itself. Cabin in the Woods is genuinely surprising. While it provides very few scares, and will hardly have viewers at the edge of their seat, watching the film take such an unexpected direction makes this an unforgettable experience.
Taking the path less taken is always an admirable trait, but Cabin goes further than that. Goddard expertly balances tension and predictability. A particular scene involving a motorbike comes to mind, leaving the audience hopeless yet hopeful. Cabin in the Woods also balances two plots; the cheesy yet hilarious story of the five party-goers and the meta-plot involving a mysterious gathering at a corporation. Once the two plots truly merge, the film take a 180. Unfortunately, this is also where it completely neglects horror fans, turning into a sci-fi thriller. Die-hard horror fans may find the material light and unnerving.
Furthermore, the nature of the film allows little character development, making it difficult to sympathize with the five victims. By the end of the film, one will only remember the characters by their stereotypes, but I guess that is the point. Additionally, some of the plot pieces become more predictable and less subtle as the film progresses, taking the audience out of the proper mind-set. First-time viewers should be questioning the film’s crazy direction, not predicting it ahead of time.
Cabin in the Woods is a refreshing take on a generally disappointing genre. Movie-goers have had nothing to watch during the past few weeks, leaving this quirky horror flick at the top of most critics’ minds. Even so, it’s important to stress Cabin’s quirkiness. While approaching the film openly will certainly help, Cabin isn’t for everyone. For those who have enjoyed Whedon’s previous accomplishments, Cabin in the Woods is a cult classic in the making.