Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

So you’re sitting around minding your own business wondering if you might be in a horror movie.  Let’s see if you are… Are you young and oppressively attractive?  Look to your left… do you see a jock?  Just so you know, a good indicator of this would be the guy is carrying a football for no particular reason or wearing his high school letter jacket even though he’s like a senior in college.  Also, do you see any tramps nearby?  We can usually point them out by their propensity to dance suggestively at almost any given time and a preoccupation with sex.  Examining things deeper do you see any random Black guys nearby?  Or any minority for that matter?  The minority is optional, but if he’s a horror movie minority, chances are he won’t have any other minority friends and he could conceivably be the only minority in this universe.  Next, check the roster for Exposition Guy… usually a geek who in NO WAY should be hanging out with these ultra cool people, but he’s smart, possesses a knowledge set unique to our situation and can explain stuff.  Finally, we have our final girl, more cute than beautiful, horny but prudish, soft and sweet but tougher than Rambo when the rubber meets the road.  Do you see these people around you, and are you heading somewhere out of the way in a camper or an SUV?  If you answered yes… then you, my friend, are trapped in a horror movie.  I’m looking around and all I see is frustrated, unattractive middle aged people in cubicles.  I’m trapped in reality and reality sucks.  This is why being in ‘The Cabin in the Woods’, as bad as it’s gonna get for these kids, never really seems all that bad to me.

So sure enough, the Final Girl (Kristin Connolly), her best friend The Tramp (Anna Hutchinson), her boyfriend The Jock (Chris Hemsworth), his new buddy the Random Minority (Jesse Williams) and everybody’s buddy Exposition Guy (Fran Kranz) are off to a cabin in the woods for some fun in the sun. 

Here’s the thing though… While these kids are prepping for their weekend, in some office building a team of engineers, programmers, scientists and janitors are all observing them.  It appears these kids are the subject of some kind of experiment, with this experiment spearheaded by the Project Managers of this exercise Mr. Hadley (Bradley Whitford) and Mr. Stitterson (the great Richard Jenkins).  What’s going on?

Well on one hand it’s a typical horror movie as our kids ride in the RV, need some gas, run into the ubiquitous Really Strange Guy (Tim de Zam), listen him prattle on about some ominous nonsense, continue on the cabin and enjoy a little swimming and fun.  Sure the cabin has two way mirrors and whatnot, but whatever… time for drinking and sex.  At least between the Jock and the Tramp.  The Final Girl and the Random Minority are figuring each other out while Exposition Guy is getting stoned.

Then our heroes observe the cellar door open, walk down, find all kinds of weird items, the final girl finds and old diary, reads from it… despite the protestations of Exposition Guy… and frees the cannibalistic redneck zombies.

The control room rejoices, the kids are hunted and slaughtered, the control room chants bizarre ritual prayers… we’re a little confused… but all will be explained and it all will go straight to hell.

So I am a little disappointed with the Joss Whedon penned, Drew Goddard directed ‘The Cabin in the Woods’ which is one of the more clever riffs off of the stale horror movie feature that we’ve seen in an awful long time, if not ever.  I’ll tell you why I’m disappointed in a second, but what makes ‘The Cabin in the Woods’ so clever is that it is so ridiculously un-clever in its horror movie presentation and character representation.  It takes some effort to create a rote horror movie scenario within a large scheme of something else going on… the downside of this being that the horror movie part of ‘The Cabin in the Woods’ is actually kind of lousy, meaning that I wouldn’t have minded seeing more inbred cannibal zombies, since watching the attractive stock kids die elicited very little emotional effect, but that was probably the point I imagine.

No, the really clever part of the movie is the way the larger picture behind the scenes, wacky as it may be, is integrated with the stock horror movie in a way that’s funny, interesting, and keeps you wondering ‘what the hell is going on?’.   And when it all goes straight to hell… then it really gets good.  Now this is a bit of spoiler and we could nitpick a bit, but there are all kinds of horrible creatures in this movie, I mean every conceivable boogeyman than has ever been thought of, plus a few more, all locked away.  What are the chances that a few random button presses in an unmanned, unlocked control room, one with some really large red buttons that scream ‘PRESS ME’, could set them all free?   That’s some bad engineering right there if you ask me.

Now what disappoints me about ‘The Cabin in the Woods’ is that you are watching the movie, you don’t know what the hell is going on, but piece by piece you’re beginning to put it together, and at one point you probably got it all figured out.  Which is great, because that’s the best way to deliver a story and thrill an audience, but alas our filmmakers are working on the assumption that we’re probably still lost so they send in the Big Boss to stop by and explains everything to us one more time.  That is a little disappointing.  Leave a little mystery… give the frustrated people in cubicles a little something to talk about over the water cooler.  I’m just saying is all.

That aside, you gotta love this send up that Whedon and Goddard have concocted with ‘The  Cabin in the Woods’, taking the tired and stale, putting a fresh coat of paint on it to make it semi-fresh once again.

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