Cabin in the Woods as fun as Toy Story, and scarier
Published: Thursday, April 19, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, April 18, 2012 21:04
Horror fans have come to expect certain things from their movies. If you are a hot couple on a camping trip, do not ever get cozy in the woods. If you decide to get drunk with some friends in Europe, you’re basically deciding to sign your own death certificate.
Horror movies have something of a formula, and in Cabin in the Woods, released Friday, producer Joss Whedon and director Drew Goddard parody these conventions while still handling them with loving care.
I really don’t want to go into plot details because the plot is such a big part of the movie (yes, you read that right, the plot in this horror movie is worth talking about just as much as the gore) that saying anything about it could ruin the surprise. I can say this: the film begins with a group of college kids who take a trip to a cabin (in the woods, of course) that belongs to one of the friends’ cousins and, well, if you’ve seen even one slasher flick, you can begin to fill in the blanks.
The movie uses this simple plot device as a springboard to create an atmosphere that manages to be both creepy and raucously hilarious at the same time. I found myself tensing up in anticipation of the next scare just as often as I found myself laughing at the clever nods toward and prods at horror movie conventions.
Whedon has created a film in which all of its terrors are explained in a very tongue-in-cheek way. All of the characters, even at their most bewildered, seem in on the joke. Ever wonder why everyone in the party decides to split up when there’s a killer on the loose? Cabin in the Woods tells you. No matter how many times you have seen Cabin in the Woods, you haven’t seen Cabin in the Woods.
What makes this movie different from, say, Scary Movie, is that the humor is totally organic and doesn’t fall prey to the tacky, forced jokes that run throughout those movies. Clichés such as the promiscuous party-girl being the first to die rather than the pure virgin (it won’t be who you think it is in this movie) work perfectly well within the confines of the fiction that this movie so masterfully establishes from the very start.
Searching for clever jokes, waiting for the next scare and uncovering the mystery behind the archetypal cabin in the woods proved to be the most fun I have had in a theatre since I saw the original Toy Story.
As for the acting that channels the sharp script and well-written plot, all the players fit into their roles extremely well. The typical horror movie archetypes—the jock (Curt), the party girl (Jules), the soft-spoken girl (Dana), the smart and sensitive guy (Holden) and the stoner (Marty)—are represented with style and wit. And, again unlike its counterparts in horror-parody, Cabin in the Woods’ script keeps the characters from feeling like over-the-top fart jokes, and they are better for it.
I rarely find myself laughing, jumping and staring at the screen with pure bewilderment as I did during this movie. I cannot recommend Cabin in the Woods enough. I would bet that literally anyone could enjoy this movie. If your girlfriend is turned off by gore, she should be willing to stick around for the humor. If you want buckets of blood and ridiculous kills, you will find this movie can hang with the best of them. Although the basic premise of the movie is like countless ones before it, the way in which it is delivered is wholly unique.