The Cabin in the Woods (2011)

“Yeah, uh, I had to dismember that guy with a trowel. What have you been up to?”

★★★★

Directed by: Drew Goddard
Written by: Joss Whedon, Drew Goddard
Starring: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison

It takes two to make a satisfying horror film: one GOOD story idea that does something new or clever with the genre, and blood. Lots and lots of blood. I’m talking Kubrick-style blood.

OK, it doesn’t necessarily have to be blood. It can be a discontented ghost appearing out of nowhere, the shadow of a psychotic serial killer, or the drool of a THING from the sea, outer space, the dead, or a different time period, whatever tickles your fancy. When I say blood, I really mean the visual gratification of shock value in the horror genre – the colors, graphic imagery, and stress-inducing vehicles of cinema that excite the macabre and morbid. It’s what we pay to see, because we’re disgusting, wretched human beings. Oh, and it’s good fun.

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Couple gory, visual horror with a psychologically thrilling concept and you’ve got yourself a satisfyingly complete horror film.

Produced/co-written by Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), and directed/written by Drew Goddard (Cloverfield), The Cabin in the Woods understands the equation for a satisfying horror film and even throws humor in the mix.

The set up is all too familiar: five college kids jump in a van and plan to spend the weekend at a borrowed cabin in the middle of the woods, stopping by a seemingly abandoned gas station where a weird-eyed redneck hints at impending doom.

To give away any more of the film’s plot would be to ruin it for those who have managed to live under rock and avoid trailers, reviews, etc. because the surprises don’t come in a twist at the end of the film, but unravel throughout with a compelling sense of pace and narrative development.

To be brief, The Cabin in the Woods is a meta-horror film that stabs at multiple subgenres of horror with satisfying depth. Whedon and Goddard expertly mess with our expectations, play with archetypal characters, and have mischievous fun while they’re at it.

So how does The Cabin in the Woods fall short? It’s not scary. Because the film doesn’t take itself seriously, it loses a genuine scariness in its shock value and  lets its strong concept slip into convention towards the end. It may tap into the horror fan in you, but it eats up its own cleverness too eagerly and leaves nothing to the imagination in its ending.

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