Monday, 23 April 2012

The Cabin in the Woods (2012): Spoiler-free Review

The Cabin in the Woods is a 2012 horror-comedy. Directed by Drew Goddard (Cloverfield writer) and co-written by Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Serenity) the film stars Chris Hemsworth (Thor, Star Trek), Richard Jenkins (Stepbrothers, Let Me In) and Bradley Whitford (The West Wing). The movie was completed in 2009 but was delayed due to MGM's financial troubles.

The Cabin in the Woods follows 5 college kids as they go on a weekend break to stay in the titular cabin. To say anymore than this would hint at spoilers (although the film's trailers certainly reveal more) and as you may be aware this film is best enjoyed with minimum prior knowledge so although I will aim to continue the review spoiler free, I would strongly recommend you see the movie before reading this (or any other review).

The film is a simultaneous homage and lampoon of the horror genre, reminiscent of Evil Dead 2, and like that film it's biggest strength is the highly comedic script. This is one of the funniest films I've seen for a good few years and it's also to the film's credit that not every gag relies on geeky knowledge of the genre. However, I did feel that the balance often swung too much in the comedy direction leaving minimal scares to be had,  also the monsters relied upon for most of the film are pretty generic and unimaginative and although this is the satirical nature of the film, I quickly tired of them. One of the best things about the script is the drip-fed revealing of the mystery behind the cabin, rather than cheap knee jerk twists the movie opts to give you the pieces of the puzzle and then it's up to you to put them together in time for the film's epic climax.

The film has been directly compared to Wes Craven Scream (1996) in terms of it's meta-story and a widely used quote for the film is "groundbreaking, a real game-changer", this is a quote I feel would be highly appropriate for Scream but not for The Cabin in the Woods. For some historical context, when Scream was released in 1996 the horror genre was in one hell of a slump and the film helped to redefine and rejuvenate the genre for years to come. Goddard and Whedon claim the horror genre is in a similar state now due to the "torture-porn" subgenre but I personally don't buy into that, torture porn has come and gone and although that fad has been replaced by another in found footage (a fad which Goddard himself helped to popularise) horror is perfectly healthy in 2012. Therein lies my main gripe with Cabin, it has ideas above it's station and often comes across as obnoxious and far too smart for it's own good. Although the whole point of the movie is not to take absurd horror films too seriously I found myself caring less and less about the outcome as a direct result of being hammered over the head with the message that this is all one big joke and it doesn't really matter what happens.

The Cabin in the woods is neither groundbreaking nor a game-changer, and it's a good job too because if it were then horror movies for the rest of the year would be ruined. What it is, is a highly enjoyable, funny and crazy b-movie romp (albeit with a very mainstream release) and as long as you go into the movie expecting that, then you won't be slightly let down as I was. Perhaps the rave reviews have come from people who had much lower expectations than me, but I doubt that Cabin will be the best horror movie of this year, let alone the best horror movie in years.

4 Stars ****

What did you think of the movie? What were your expectations?


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