Saturday, April 14, 2012

"Cabin in the Woods" (2012)

Starring Kristen Connelly, Chris Hemsworth and Fran Kranz
Written by Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon
Directed by Drew Goddard
Rated R - Violence, gore, language, drug use, sex, frightening images, you name it
Running Time: 95 Minutes

You know the setup - Five friends: Dana (Kristen Connelly), Curt (Chris Hemsworth), Jules (Anna Hutchison), Holden (Jesse Williams) and Marty (Fran Kranz) head off from college for a weekend in the woods at Curt's cousin's creaky old cabin.  On the way, they meet a creepy hick who warns them of danger lurking in the woods, and the kids scoff at him and go on their merry.

Once at the cabin, they begin to do all the things you expect them to do.  They drink.  They party.  They engage in various sexual acts.  They smoke pot.

And they anger an ancient evil that starts to kill them.

What is the cabin in the woods?  What is the evil out to kill our cliched group of pretty young heroes?  And what does it have to do with a mysterious laboratory full of scientists and military personnel?

You know the setup.  You think you know the story.

I left the description above a bit snarky and a bit vague because, well, it really behooves you to check out "Cabin in the Woods" on your own.  I'll say that while it's remarkably well written, acted and directed, if you're a fan of previous Joss Whedon productions like "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" then you've kind of seen this all before, though.  It's wildly entertaining, and even smart, but also very familiar.  The film could sit easily as a story within the "Buffy-verse," as it almost seems built to capitalize on some concepts introduced there.

"Cabin in the Woods" has been compared to the 1990s smash "Scream" for the way it deconstructs the horror genre, lampooning the "rules" by which many entries are constructed.  This comparison is valid; "Cabin in the Woods" is predicated on these rules, to the deepest foundation of its premise.  In this way, it gets to smartly comment on them, slowly unveiling every nightmare film scenario... but it does it in a less on-the-nose kind of way than "Scream."

Nearly every scene in "Cabin in the Woods" is looked at in two different ways, two different perspectives.  It's fascinating in how it so easily blends comedy, action, horror and even some science fiction into one in this manner, never losing a beat.  It moves along at a rocket's pace, throwing all kinds of concepts at the viewer, but all of which fit into an ever more fascinating puzzle.  But for all the window trappings of monsters and evil and scientists and whathaveyou, in the end it all comes down to those rules and conventions.

When the climax of the film comes around to its roaringly entertaining conclusion, you'll see how "Cabin in the Woods" is epic in scope, taking an entire universe of horror movies with it and mashing them all into one place.  Horror fans will find much to love here, with "Cabin in the Woods" both paying homage to and deconstructing their favorite aspects of the genre.  Fans of Whedon's work will find his trademark humor laced throughout the film - "Cabin in the Woods" is hands down one of the funniest horror movies around.

That the cast is populated by a number of nobodies and semi-recognizable faces from various Mutant Enemy productions makes this even more so.  Look quickly and you'll see people from "Buffy," "Angel," and "Dollhouse," and even a few faces from "Stargate."  Chris Hemsworth is probably the biggest star in the movie, but since "Cabin in the Woods" sat on the shelf for three years, this was made before he'd begun to make a name for himself with "Thor" and the upcoming "Avengers" (directed by Whedon, which is probably the only reason why "Cabin" even got a theatrical release).

I've tried not to bee too spoilery with this review.  Honestly, I want to say more, I do.  I especially want to tear into this thing from the perspective of a fan of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" because I think that group of geeks will find a lot to love here.  But let me just say this: "Cabin in the Woods" is a ton of fun, hands down.