We’ve all seen the cookie-cutter thriller where a few college students go to a cabin in the woods expecting rest and relaxation, only to discover that horror awaits them.
“The Cabin in the Woods” may initially appear to fit this bill, but viewers who stick with it will be sent on a whirlwind ride full of shudders, cackles and sorrow.
Star athlete Curt and his popular, promiscuous girlfriend Jules — played by Chris Hemsworth and Anna Hutchison, respectively — try to coax their friends to join them at a “Friday the 13th”-like lake cabin for a presumably wild and fun-filled weekend.
After much convincing, good girl Dana, played by Kristen Connolly, is eventually pulled away from her textbooks. Holden, played by Jesse Williams, is also invited, as part of matchmaker Jules’ attempt to spice up Dana’s love life. Surely the group wouldn’t be complete if their philosophical pothead buddy Marty, played by Fran Kranz, didn’t come along for the ride.
The group heads to the lake in a beaten-up RV. An elderly man warns them to leave, but of course they ignored his advice. What the group encounters next is best described as creepy — a two-way mirror, an eerily peaceful painting of a bloodletting, a basement full of odds and ends and finally, a disturbing journal.
Then things turn lethal.
This seemingly simple plot proves not to be so straightforward after all. Two laboratory managers named Sitterson and Hadley — played by Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford, respectively — sit in a high-tech facility, for which the cabin is the observation room.
Truman, played by Brian White, joins Sitterson and Hadley, along with co-worker Lin, played by Amy Acker; and the goings-on only add to the twisted nature of this story.
“The Cabin in the Woods” offers plenty of twists and turns, some even amusing and goofy at times. Director Drew Goddard are zealous about the horror genre and created a film that presents the bonds of friendship, the meaning of sacrifice and, most importantly, good vs. evil.
One of the biggest feats this film accomplished was taking fairly stereotypical characters and making the audience care about their fate. While the cast isn’t exactly top notch, they aren’t scrubs. All of the film’s actors did a decent job attempting to make the film less cliche, though their success was inevitably spotty.
Along with the well-devised horror and roller coaster of emotion, the director, in a sense, make a joke of it all, cluing the audience in that something is truly at stake for the characters.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of this film is that it essentially works as a narrative within a narrative. Films in the past haven’t been able to work this out; however, “The Cabin in the Woods” does an excellent job combining the action at the cabin and the entirely different world of the secret laboratory. As you watch the relationship between the two unfold, the audience is kept busy piecing together the puzzle, their attention captured from the moment the mystery begins.
The film is essentially a horror film embedded within a conspiracy flick and does an excellent job to deconstruct the norms of the horror and suspense genres, while putting a fresh spin on things.
This film comes as an exciting relief to the depleted horror genre, and, while characters may appear cliche, the directors made sure to develop them fully in order to create a well-rounded cast.
In the end, it is sufficient to say that this movie is about ritual sacrifice, both the ancient kind and the kind demanded by modern movie audiences. Toward the end, an all-out gore and carnage fest begins — one of the most shockingly gruesome climaxes in recent films. The film slows down, allowing us all to take it in, which works in the film’s favor as the director knows how to use the effect to his advantage.