To my generation and those that have shortly followed... when experiencing a new horror movie that comes to theater; it's almost tradition that the event quickly diverges into a loud obnoxious joke amongst friends involving popcorn fights, cell phones, and racial slurs... or it's an opportunity to get a really awkward 90 minute handy by that ugly chick you didn't want to be seen with at school or around your cubicle-lized co-workers. Well there's no need to bring that out of season winter coat to cover your lap because I'm here to tell you spoiler free; of what Drew Goddard (Cloverfield) and Joss Whedon (Buffy, and this summer's Avengers) have done to horror in their new movie The Cabin in the Woods... after the jump. There is also a short geeky/ranty history lesson... be prepared (or skip the first 3 paragraphs).
I'm going to honest and admit that I have a complete bias when it comes to anything with Whedon's name attached to it. Doesn't matter if it's TV, film, comic book, or web-series related... if it's Whedon, I'm there. The thing about The Cabin in the Woods is that this flick was actually ready to be released to the world October 23rd, 2009. Yes... you read that correctly. That was the original release date.
Well the looming bankruptcy from their primary distributor "MGM" was about to go through so they pushed it's release date back. February 5th, 2010. Four months? It happens. A bit of a pain in the ass but from a geek's perspective (which is often short), not so terrible. Take note that this bankruptcy also affected and delayed Skyfall; latest '007' film and The Hobbit amongst many other MGM properties. But wait... hold on a tic. "Hey you know what guys? Avatar looked amazing in 3-D. And look at all that stupid loot they made! Lets go ahead and post convert this ridiculously dark movie to 3-D. We do it... cause we smart." The release date was then pushed back yet again... January 14th, 2011. *CRACK* That was my head slamming against the keyboard. Eleven months?! What? No! It can't be!
So to make this story which was originally a lot longer... shorter... Cabin then went all hiatus-y until Thor did gangbusters at the box office last year and Lions Gate picked it up for distribution. So all hail Thor (Chris Hemsworth) for inadvertently saving this movie from the void from which it collected nearly 3 years of dust. Now it felt like a necessity to say most of that because I wanted you to understand where my anticipation level was. High? You can gather that much. Blue balls? The worst kind... ever.
The Cabin in the Woods was written by Joss Whedon & Drew Goddard, and Goddard directed it as well. They have a rich history from working together on Buffy/Angel and they wanted to tackle something in the line of horror. But of course knowing their track record and how they like to deliver something new... they did that and more. Completely blew my expectations out of the water. I actually don't want to reveal a lot of the plot points because I feel that you'll get most satisfaction going into Cabin completely cold or had just only witnessed the TV spots/trailers (which often to me feels like it's giving away too much).
Here is my best synopsis. The Cabin in the Woods is about a group of 5 college friends heading to a cabin in the woods for the weekend and some seriously familiar shit happens to them. Mystery! Tension! Blood! A bit of boob! And some death ensues (vastly understated). Stars Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, and Fran Kranz. Have a blast.
Thinking on it... it became increasingly more difficult for me to criticize the film, not because of my fan-boy attachment to the crew; but it's difficult because the film itself seems like a criticism of the horror genre in general. So if there is a weird fault... it's by-passed simply because it's imitating something else entirely. It's not at all a satire. Not a parody. Mind you, it's damn funny and I couldn't help myself from laughing out loud much as I did. It just plays what you know about the genre but at the same time... you don't have to know anything at all. That's what makes this plot so engaging. Cabin's dialogue is a thing sorely missed from the days of Buffy because it's smart, funny, and even makes the most foolish character hilarious. No one is unlikable in this flick and at the same time... no one is safe. Which unlikable is a trend amongst characters in horror movies these days because it's always about this kill (granted that isn't a bad thing) but in this movie, it's about the story.
The gore level in this isn't bad, just blood... some limbage but that's as far at it goes. Some guts in the end but who cares about that? People will ask if I think it's scary... the only times I felt scared were when I didn't want a character to get... well killed. But it's not frightening because I don't think that's what they were aiming at. Everything is quite deliberate and it's execution is paced fantastically.
There is this big buzz around in the trailers and clips about what's the secret's lay within the cabin and you're tea-spooned them throughout the movie starting from frame 1 until a game changing reveal at the end. This isn't how most horror films play out and that's probably another reason why I enjoyed it as much as I did. But overall... The Cabin in the Woods is easily one of my favorite horror movies... of all time.
Anyone that enjoys well written dialogue (this includes you Joss Whedon fans), comedy, or is a fanatic horror movie buff like myself. I think you'll find it best to go with as many people as you can. It'll make the experience that much richer not to mention all the discussions you can have afterwards.
Is this film "theater worthy"?:
Yep. It's a no-brainer to me because if you do happen to see this with a butt-ton of friends, the setting lends itself to some excitement rather than lounging at home in you Spider-Man PJs... What?
My final thoughts:
I'm not one of those fans who think Whedon and Goddard outdid themselves because they made an intensely fun film. They just made what I've pretty much expected since 2009. Now I just want everyone else to go out and see it to prove to Hollywood that you just don't 'back-burner' art as long as they did. Good art. Critically good art! When was the last mainstream horror movie to get above a 90% Rotten Tomatoes? Exactly!
Slamfist Rating: 9 out of 10 (and all hail Thor!)