When I originally sat down to write this review, I thought it would be a straightforward ‘I liked/didn’t like this because x,y and z’. However, when it came to actually putting pen to paper (fingers to keyboard), I was a little stumped. After constructing a motivational montage in my head to ease the writer’s block, I realised this was because The Cabin in the Woods is best seen with little to no knowledge or preconceptions about what you’re going to watch. So, if you don’t want any of it spoiled whatsoever, then I suggest you stop reading here. However, if you want to know a little more about the film, then read on – i’ll try and keep any spoilers to an absolute minimum.
Chances are, you already know The Cabin in the Woods is a horror film, but don’t let the generic title fool you, because that’s what it wants you to do. The film is just as much satirical homage as it is horror, perhaps even more so, and it’s not afriad to shove a bodybag full of horror film references (Evil Dead probably being the most obvious) down your throat at every possible opportunity. Upon viewing, some may think it’s little more than a rip-off, but there’s much more going on than that, and it takes the references and moulds them into something that feels fresh and new.
The story, or what i’m prepared to give away of the story, is fairly simple, although it’s clear early on that not all is as it seems. A group of five friends take a trip to a creepy cabin in the woods, but even before they set out, they are being monitored by a mysterious organisation who are keeping a very close eye on what they get up to, and it’s not long before things take a deadly turn for the worse. The friends fall neatly into horror movie conventions – the jock, the slut, the fool, the intellectual and the virgin – but as the film progresses, you’ll see that these archetypes aren’t as straightforward as they initially appear.
Although giving the initial impression of horror by numbers, in reality (an interesting concept in itself) it’s anything but; conventions are subverted when you least expect it, and when the film does stick to the formula, there’s always a reason behind it. This is scriptwriter Joss Whedon’s Ode to a Horror Film, and it’s clear that he had a hell of a lot of fun coming up with the idea. The name Joss Whedon might well be familiar to fans of the supernatural as the writer behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and if you’ve spent any time with said show, you’ll know he has a knack for writing scripts that straddle the line of horror and humour.
To echo the start of this review, it’s best to have no preconceptions about The Cabin in the Woods – you really don’t need any. And the reason you don’t need any is because it’ll hand them to you on a plate. It’ll take what you thought you knew about horror films, blatantly show it to you, and then turn it on its head. Like Scream before it, The Cabin in the Woods just might make you rethink every horror film you’ve ever seen.
Words: Chris Thomson