Cabin in the Woods is the girl at the bar with the Adam’s apple – not what you think it is at first sight. Do not be fooled by the trailer, the poster, or any other aspect of the marketing campaign. Fitting with what most audiences would expect with a title like Cabin in the Woods, the first portion of the movie involves a group of unusually attractive college students who venture to a cabin in the woods and slowly die in horrific ways. As the movie progresses however, Joss Whedon’s unique take on the horror genre quickly becomes as obvious as the bar girl’s large hands and deep voice that would put Barry White to shame.
In most horror films the characters act in a way that they could be called functionally retarded. In this film there is a much deeper explanation about why that happens. *Start mega spoiler alert* In Cabin in the Woods the horror scenario is actually controlled by a staff who manipulate events that ultimately lead to the characters meeting their gruesome goodbyes. This staff, headed by Richard Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) and Steve Hadley (Bradley Whitford), monitor the characters’ progress via hundreds of monitors while releasing pheromones that make the characters have sex, locking or opening doors, and activating various monsters scenarios that the characters unknowingly choose. This time the characters must deal with zombies, and the story continues as an undead film would until the plot delves into science fiction where the characters invade the complex and see a slew of nightmarish creatures like vampires, werewolves, ghosts, killer robots, dragons, goblins, mermen, and even an evil unicorn. It’s part Truman Show, part Matrix, part Evil Dead, and part any horror movie that has ever been made. And when you think the plot could not get any thicker, there is a surprise about why all of this is conducted in the first place – a spoiler that must be seen. Cabin in the Woods is downright fun. The mix of characters getting impaled with various sharp objects from the 1800s as well as swat teams wielding high tech equipment makes complete sense in the film. As the shocking story develops, it is hard to believe that a film is really going where Cabin in the Woods goes. *End mega spoiler alert*
In order to increase the eerie atmosphere, the director used a series of dynamic angles both inside and outside of the cabin. As soon as the characters get into the forest setting, audiences are instantly sensing the isolation. When the zombies emerge, they are shown briefly at the start – a foot trudges through the dirt or a hand clenches around a barbaric bear trap weapon. When the characters interact with the zombies, the creatures are shown in the background slowly approaching with an undying dedication. Other times there are unexpected shock moments where characters are talking about something unconnected like how much they enjoy rice pudding or the comedic styling of “Weird Al” Yankovic followed by a giant knife jamming through their throats during a dramatic close up.
Those tired of the horror clichés should enjoy this adventure that consistently borders on the lines of satire, but Cabin in the Woods is, to its core, a horror fan’s dark wet dream – the kind of dream that depresses them when they wake up and realize that it’s over. Because it goes into such a demented, bizarre realm, you’ll want more. As one of the strangest cinema examples of recent times, the film is over the top in every way possible, but it embraces the idea to its full potential.
Matt the Movie Analyst’s final verdict: 7/10