SXSW 2012: “The Cabin in the Woods” – Review by Laurie Coker

I thought I knew what to expect from Cabin in the Woods, even though I’d heard the tag lines” Five friends go to a remote cabin in the woods. Bad things happen. If you think you know this story, think again.”  Yeah, yeah, I thought. Those who know me know I am not keen on horror films. Typically few frighten me and I cannot stand simply being grossed out by gore-fests, so one can imagine my disappointment when I discovered the SXSW open film title. Cabin in the Woods is a horror flick, but it is also not a horror flick. Joss Wendon co-wrote the screenplay with director Drew Goddard and it sat on a shelf for three years, until Lionsgate picked it up and WOW – I am delighted that they did, because while it does offer a bit of a blood fest, it is an incredibly taut satire filled with, suspense, thrills and surprises.

Since it went into the can, stars like Chris Hemsworth (Thor) and Jesse Williams’ (Grey’s Anatomy) careers have soared, so maybe the three-year hold was more of a good than a bad thing. One of my all time favorites Richard Jenkins and another favorite and talented veteran Brad Whitford star too and I simply, in spite of the genre, loved it and had an excellent time watching and then later interviewing the cast and creators. It truly is everything I expected from a horror film and at the same time, nothing I expected. It is a paradox.

Whedon got a huge kick out of me comparing his capturing of traditional modern archetypes in a way that rivals Chaucer and in a genre many young people would prefer to read or see. But it’s true, if it weren’t for the R-rating, and bloodletting, I could probably have classroom full of seniors who actually get the concepts of quality satire and clear archetypes – Chaucer just doesn’t capture the interest of media hungry, technophiles of modern generations and let’s face it, his archetypes are archaic to be sure.

It is a film about young people going into the woods and bad things do happen, but all the while it is really not a film about that cabin or those people at all – not exactly anyway. I won’t say more on the plot, because to do so would ruin the experience.  I admire Whedon and Goddard for their marvelous marking strategy for this film. Even the poster speaks volumes, without ever actually giving anything away. It is wild and masterful and extremely impressive.

The cast, when we spoke to them in interviews, loved the whole secretive aspect of the plot and we (interviewers) were told that audiences were generally more than happy to stay hush, hush about the film – and I know why. I, too, want to stay loyal to the surprise and I am not good with secrets! Whedon fans can rest assured that this film will please. One surprise after another and even better there is this delightful thread of humor and ridiculousness that makes in even better, especially as parody.

While I liked a few others better, Cabin in the Woods stands as one of my SXSW festival favorites, if for no other reason than it does not fit in my usual genre of tastes, but it is witty, intelligent and sets out to offer something unique and surprising and it does just that. Thank goodness Lionsgate stepped up, because this R-rated wild ride is going to be a big hit. I am placing and A- in my grade book. I loved the cast, I appreciated the twists and I never closed my eyes or plugged my ears once.

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