Five college kids head off for a break away at Curt’s (Chris Hemsworth) cousin’s secluded cabin. Once there, the kids discover a basement full of creepy things including a 99 year old diary which, when read aloud from, wakens evil. Things are not always as they seem however, and there is a lot more going on underneath the surface of this seemingly by the numbers horror movie.
Be warned… Spoilers below.
Just when you think the horror genre is completely tapped, along comes Joss Whedon. The man arguably best known for his work on Buffy the Vampire Slayer – and the upcoming Avengers (Assemble… Bah) – has a knack for seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary… And no-one writes teen horror like Whedon.
Fans of Buffy, Angel and Dollhouse will be pleased; several alums of the shows show up in the movie, including Fran Kranz, last seen in Dollhouse. The rest of the five central kids are played by Kristen Connolly, Jesse Williams, Anna Hutchinson – did you know she was the yellow Power Ranger? Me either – and the Norse god of Thunder himself, Chris Hemsworth. They are supported by Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford.
The film instantly turns our expectations on their heads by starting the action in some sort of research facility where Jenkins and Whitford discuss the ramifications of a failed experiment in Stockholm. Pretty much everything discussed in this facility throughout the film only makes sense through hindsight, but there is plenty in there to keep the audience guessing. It’s not long before the teens arrive on screen – accompanied by OK Go’s White Knuckles – and the adventure begins.
Whedon has done what he does best; created a familiar world where nothing is really as it seems. As the kids explore the house and it’s creepy basement, the gang at the facility take bets on what is going to come for them. This juxtaposition allows some of the tension of the horror section to ebb, while building up a mystery far stronger than a curse of the living dead… or whatever.
Speaking of the living dead, there are more than a few nods to The Evil Dead throughout the film, and – not to be left out – Hellraiser and um… Unicorns get a mention as well.
Drew Goddard – whose previous work includes writing for Buffy, Angel, Lost and Cloverfield makes his directorial debut on The Cabin in the Woods – and it is clear that he has picked up tricks from his long time writing partner, Joss Whedon. This is not a bad thing however; as The Cabin in the Woods needed someone who understands Whedon’s style in order to make it work.
The Cabin in the Woods is not a film about the characters; more one about the mystery, and it works incredibly well. The audience is constantly drip fed information through the blending of the two worlds at the heart of the film, and are kept guessing for most of the 95 minute running time. The script zips along at a lively pace and there are plenty of scares, tons of laughs and loads of mystery. There is barely a horror staple that is not poked at in the gore soaked final act, but this does not mean the laughs dry up… Somehow, they get better.
Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard create a smart and sexy horror movie, the like of which has not been seen for many a year. The film does not quite challenge the ultimate teen slasher, Scream, but it certainly gives it a run for it’s money. Horror fans will have a blast and even wusses like me will enjoy the ride. The Cabin in the Woods is a sexy, silly horror mystery and exactly what we have come to expect from the brilliant Joss Whedon.
Avengers (Assemble) next. Colour me excited.