Visit The Cabin in the Woods for Your Horror Movie Needs

On the surface, The Cabin in the Woods might look like every horror movie about teens being pursued by a psychopath or super­natural forces, but underneath, it’s one of the wittier, more creative, and most unique horror films to come out in a while. Writers Joss Whedon (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) and Drew Goddard (Clo­verfield) do a fantastic job of fol­lowing the blueprints of similar pictures like Evil Dead a nd t wist­ing them around to develop their own design.

For instance, the film answers specific questions that viewers might have had with horror films, like why characters decide to have sex when there’s something sinister on the loose. Maybe you’ve won­dered why groups split up when they should stay together or why the virgin is the lone survivor? All are answered. However, this isn’t the sole way the filmmakers work with- and around- the genre to cre­ate a very smart horror film.

The Cabin the Woods features five friends: studious Dana (Kris­ten Connolly), stoner Marty (Fran Kranz), new guy Holden (Jesse Williams), stud Curt (Chris Hems­worth), and hot blonde Jules (Anna Hutchison). The group leaves for a weekend at, where else, a cabin in the woods. While traveling, their GPS stops working and they meet an eerie gas station attendant, Mordecai (a creepy Tim De Zarn).

When they arrive at the cabin, it’s fairly homey but Marty feels funny about it. This isn’t quelled by a wolf head on the wall and a two-way mirror between rooms yet these friends still find ways to have fun.

Meanwhile, at a clandestine or­ganization, two office drones Sit­terson and Hadley (Richard Jen­kins and Bradley Whitford) are watching these friends travel to, and hang out, at the cabin while planning something evil. As Still­erson and Hadley push a button, the cabin’s cellar door opens and these friends venture in it to find items reserved for Hell’s yard sale. When Dana reads a Latin passage in an old journal, Stillerson and Hadley’s see their cue to unleash monsters and horror on this unsus­pecting group, all of which is part of a much bigger purpose.

Despite having seen these arche­types before, the cast is good and enjoyable as they round out their group dynamic. Connolly, Kransz, Williams, Hemsworth and Hutchi­son work fantastically together and feel like friends goofing around by a lake during a sunny day or try­ing to figure out a strategy to sur­vive while zombies bombard their cabin.

Plus, these actors give their char­acters some distinction. Kranz, for example, makes his stoner more observant to the situation by be­ing spooked when he hears voices. Meanwhile, Connolly makes view­ers care for Dana as she faces dan­ger from all around like a killer who chases her with a bear trap.

Jenkins and Whitford, who seem to be having fun here, bring great energy to their shady characters. Jenkins makes Sitterson that old-timer who still likes his job while Whitford, as Hadley, is a snarky jerk you love to hate, especially when complaining about his wife. They have strong comedic timing and make their scenes interesting as they capture the jokes like hold­ing a bet on who will die or becom­ing appropiately dramatic when things go awry.

In his directorial debut, Goddard gives viewers frights and laughs in equal measure. He’s aware that this movie is as much about frighten­ing viewers with images of rotting corpses, scary forests and people trying to survive as its offbeat hu­mor. When Marty runs to his room after the gang splits up and knocks over a lamp, he discovers a cam­era and says, “Oh my god. I’m on a reality TV show.” Scenes like this have Goddard present a break from the horror adrenaline to re­lax (though not for long), giving The Cabin in the Woods a n i nter­esting pace.

Goddard also balances the scenes between the cabin and the organization without feeling like something was lost as they slowly converge together. When you are with the kids, you feel trapped and the need to survive, yet with Stillerson and Hadley, you feel like directors trying to make a good movie.

Goddard even pays homage to the horror films being satirized. You might think of Jason Voorhees when Dana pushes a zombie into the lake and he rises out of it, or Evil Dead as the Latin passage is read aloud. It was cool to see Goddard emulate Evil Dead by holding the camera on this cabin among dead leaves and using a slanted angle as Dana walks up to the old, wooden door like Sam Raimi’s film.

Still, Goddard does follow his own path toward the end as The Cabin in the Woods enters new territory with a venture into the mysterious o rganization. T his i s the best part of the film, as it of­fers unique takes on horror icons like Hellraiser’s P inhead i n w hat can be described as a nightmare extravaganza with nice special ef­fects and make-up.

Still, the real heart of the film is its witty, insightful, fun and creepy script by Whedon and Goddard. It’s not hard to imagine this is their love letter to the horror movies that i nspired t hem. W hat’s g reat is how their story works to have people think they know where this is going and what will come next as they continuously throw red herrings to keep viewers off guard.

With Whedon co-writing, it’s hard to ignore his influence on the film. “Buffy” and “Dollhouse” both contained storylines featur­ing secret groups that monitor the world and this place seems to be an extension of this.

The group even feels like a new iteration of Buffy’s Scooby gang with Dana as Willow and Marty as Xander. Among the strong dialogue, there’s the humor of Whedon scattered in the flick with funny one-liners like “Good work, zombie arm.”

The Cabin in the Woods i s t he horror movie that viewers have been waiting for as it gets “off the grid” as Marty might say. It isn’t recapturing the success of past se­ries or reimagining them like Fri­day the 13th (2009) or Nightmare on Elm Street (2010). Instead, the film is an amalgam stew of their best parts boiled into a tastefully humorous and scary film. Like Shaun of the Dead and Scream, this movie both dissects horror while standing on its own.

Early on when Jules confronts Dana about bringing her econom­ics book to the cabin, Dana re­sponds, “What if I get bored?” You won’t be asking the same question when you enter and discover the mystery behind this brainy picture.

Despite waiting three years for this film, The Cabin in the Woods was worth it with a freaky story and a nice cast that kept things in­teresting from beginning to end. Now, if that’s not enough, maybe learning there’s a killer unicorn in the picture as well as a truly sur­prising cameo might change your mind.

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