Today I watched Drew Goddard’s The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
Like any genre, the horror movie has accumulated a great deal of cliches unique to it. The Cabin in the Woods is like an encyclopedia celebrating these tropes. The story kicks off with a group of young folks heading off to the titular isolated woodland cabin, invoking the classic American cast of teens cliche. Thankfully unlike a lot of modern examples of the genre, this cast is quite likable while also filling the most stereotypical roles. The film cuts between them and a team of engineers who seem to be pulling the strings of their horrific experiences for some greater, mysterious purpose.
This film follows in the footsteps of Scream in how it plays with and exposes the conventions of horror films. Unlike Scream it goes much further than the relatively grounded slasher film, in the hectic finale they pull out a barrage of common and uncommon monsters from all corners of the horror world. While the film is not bereft of horrific moments and tense atmosphere, it ends up playing more towards the comedic because of it’s referential nature and the constant flipping between teen victims and engineer staff leads to some hilarious moments.
You might be surprised by how many people I know thought this film was directed by Joss Whedon, probably the result of a marketing campaign to profit off of co-writer Whedon’s peaking star power. But then again this is a rather Whedon-esque film and co-writer/director Drew Goddard is something of an acolyte of Whedon’s having gotten his start working on such shows as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. It is rife with a particular style of dialogue that has become quite popular in modern Hollywood, it is typified by rather quick and dense dialogue that flows in a rather unnaturally witty manner. It has drawbacks though, which makes me think of the classic hard boiled style of writing common in the days of film noir; both styles are so heavy in tropes that as time wears on the depth of the characters diminishes.
That style of dialogue works well here, as does the cast with my personal favorites being Bradley Whitford and Jenkins. They play the two head engineers in charge of keeping the program running smoothly and they get all the funniest lines, and a few of the more poignant. This is just a great, fun flick that is sure to entertain any horror fan. It is a love letter to the whole genre and is as heartfelt as anything else out there. 5/5