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USA 2011
Directed by
Drew Goddard
95 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Sharon Hurst
3 stars

Cabin In The Woods

Synopsis: Five friends head off for a weekend at a remote cabin in the woods, and wouldn’t you know it . . . a lot of really bad stuff starts happening. Meantime, a bunch of bureaucratic employees in their offices seem to know quite a lot about what is happening.

Joss Whedon, director of the currently screening super-heroes blockbuster, The Avengers, is a near-icon as the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer teleseries. Here as a writer he has teamed with director Goddard (writer for Buffy, and of the spooky mockumentary Cloverfield) to pen a horror film that really turns the genre on its head, bringing a new twist to the slasher/horror genre.

Here’s the hard part for me. I think the less one knows about the weird goings-on that underpin the teenagers’ horror weekend, the better. If I reveal the real subtext and core premise of the film I will in effect be spoiling some of the most pleasantly surprising aspects of the plot. Let’s say this –this film could be seen as Texas Chainsaw Massacre meets The Truman Show meets The Hunger Games. Aspects of all three and more are here, as are just about every horror genre trope to ever grace the big screen.

I can tell you about the characters: Jules (Anna Hutchison) is the sexy blond bimbo, with a jock boyfriend Curt (Chris Hemsworth). Her friend. Dana (Kristen Connelly) is studious, virginal, and a perfect match for nice guy Holden (Jesse Williams). Along for the ride is Marty (Fran Krantz), a bong-smoking buffoon who will turn out to be smarter than we think. Meanwhile back in the office we have Sitterson (the wonderful Richard Jenkins) and Hadley (Bradley Whitford), a pair of fairly unpleasant workers who believe that they are just doing their job by being immune to a lot of what makes us human.

All our favourite horror ingredients are here: as the five head up country they pass a seemingly deserted shed only to be surprised by a tobacco-chewing creep with the usual dire forebodings. The place itself is run down, with creaking doors, two-way mirrors, a basement full of old dolls, nasty knives and saws, and a diary detailing gruesome atrocities that befell previous occupants of the cabin.  And when the bloody carnage begins there’s enough to sate the blood-lust of any true aficionado of the genre – man traps, zombies, beheadings, and an array of creatures that’s like a checklist of every horror film and creepy folk tale since such things began.  

Before you say “this ain’t for me”, I must stress there is a far deeper intent behind this film. One is to lampoon the genre itself and especially the modern predilection for increasingly grisly ways of killing characters. Amidst all the gore, there was also audience laughter, much of it acknowledging the many references to other well-known films. But the real cleverness of the film inheres in its audacious premise and this involves those working stiffs I referred to earlier. Many moral and ethical issues arise, including the matter of how our desire for vicarious gratification, and thus the awfulness of what we are prepared to be witnesses to, becoming greater.

While the twists and surprises are fabulous, a real let-down occurs in the anti-climactic ending. It’s as though the writers really didn’t know how to tie all the threads into one awesome package, and they opted for what, for me at least, seemed a somewhat silly and disappointing final ultra-gory scene. On Golden Pond it’s not but if a smart, witty approach to a blood n’ guts mash-up is your thing, Cabin In The Woods is for you.




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