The Cabin In The Woods * * * 1/2

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Director: Drew Goddard.
Screenplay: Joss Whedon, Drew Goddard.
Starring: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford, Brian White, Amy Acker, Tim De Zarn.

Decent horror movies are hard to come by these days. So much so, that the genre itself has become pray to parody. Wes Craven successfully managed it with “Scream” and recently the cult indie film “Tucker & Dale vs. Evil” took it even further. If your a fan of these types of films then this should be right up your dark and creaky stairwell but pure horror snobs may find it a bit too satirical for their liking.

A weekend break away for five college kids doesn’t quite turn out to be the fun-filled party they were expecting when they arrive at a remote cabin and discover an old diary that speaks of past foul play that took place on their very weekend premises. As expected, the foul play rears it’s ugly head again but in more ways than one.

Right from the beginning of this film the usual horror conventions are all on display; a motley crew consisting of the stoner, the jock, the bookworm and the sweet & sultry females all heading for… well… you know where. Perfect fodder for mayhem I hear you say? Indeed! After a short build-up though, the usual conventions are all but discarded and the film veers off in all sorts of directions. The details of which, I can’t divulge or you’ll be seriously pissed with me. This is most definitely a film that’s worth entering without prior knowledge as the surprises that it has in store are the very strengths which help it overcome it’s faults. One of these major faults is it’s inability to decide what it wants to be or what audience it’s targeting. Is it a parody? Is it science fiction? Is it horror? In fact, it’s all of these things and possesses a welcome mix of scares and humour. The crossover between both is not always a smooth one though, which lessens the impact it could have had. Added to which, it’s very far-fetched to say the least. However, it surprisingly still manages to hold it together to come out a success which is, thanks in large, to a very strong and exhilarating ending, making it hard to resist the film’s chutzpah.

A smart and satirical riff on the horror genre that manages to use the conventions but also cleverly play around with them. Not entirely successful but highly ambitious and appealing on many levels.

Mark Walker

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26 Responses to “The Cabin In The Woods * * * 1/2”

  1. This was such a pleasant (can I use that word in speaking about a horror film?) surprise. Clever, startling, and in keeping with the conventions of the genre (and turning some against it), this film was one of the best things I saw last Spring in a movie theater. Fine review, Mark.

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    • Cheers Michael. It didn’t entirely work for me but I was thoroughly impressed nonetheless. The denouement was something special without a doubt though. Excellent stuff right there.

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  2. Nice review mate. As ive said on a few peoples reviews, I really didnt ‘get’ this film. I appreciate what it tried, but it just doesnt work for me. Too many flaws and I hated the ending. Liked the cameo though 🙂

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    • I was impressed with what it was trying to do and in some cases even achieved it but I have to agree. As much as I still liked it, it wasn’t anywhere near as good as a lot of people were making out. Have to admit though, I loved the ending.

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      • I know this isnt the place to talk about the ending, but really? Fair enough, it just tarnished it for me. Still think I will score it quite well when i get my review done as I liked some bits.

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      • Yeah man. The whole unravelling really done it for me. It managed to incorporate all sorts of archetypal stuff. It’s deserves praise for it’s ambitions alone.

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  3. Interesting post, I may give this one a watch as everyone has divided opinions on it.

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    • In a lot of camps, this film was praised very highly Vinnie. I did like it and found lots of fun to be had but it’s not quite as good as some would have you believe. It’s clever but also slightly unconvincing.

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  4. This was 100% entertaining to me – I am one of those folks who gave it super high praise ~ I loved it from start to finish!

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  5. I liked this a little bit more than you did – which is surprising, considering how rarely I watch horror movies and how few of all the references that I caught. Somehow it worked for me anyway. But then I’m a fan of Buffy the vampyre slayer. My oldest daughter introduced me to it and we got hooked together. This film reminded me of some of the best episodes in Buffy. It definitely had that Whedon vibe and the peculiar mix between horror/thriller and comedy.

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    • I can see what you mean Jessica. I never really got into Buffy but going into this, I actually felt a similar vibe from the episodes that I did catch. I really enjoyed this but because of it’s mix of genres and tone, I found that it took some of the tension away from it. It still had a lot going for it though and on several occasions, I was throughly impressed. Overall all though, there were just too many flaws for me to be completely sold by it.

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  6. As you know, I don’t do horror but since it’s Whedon and I quite like Hemsworth, I might give it a rent. I never got into Buffy either Mark, so it probably felt ‘fresher’ to me as I won’t get the references to that show.

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    • It’s worth a go Ruth. I found plenty to enjoy here and there is some good humour involved as well. If anything that’s what detracts from the horror itself and that’s maybe the main problem I had with it. It took away the threat for me. Still, it’s a clever and ambitious film.

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  7. Good review Mark. This is one hell of a fun movie that features twists that got better and better as the film went on. It’s crazy that horror films can be this fun and entertaining just by smart and witty writing. However, it won’t last for too long so we might as well enjoy it while Whedon and Goodard are around.

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    • Cheers Dan. Yeah, we probably won’t get another horror as inventive as this for a while now. If anything we may well be bombarded with others trying to emulate this one. It didn’t entirely work for me but I certainly had fun.

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  8. Horror genre is such shit lately that this movie was really a breath of fresh air, funny how the only good horrors among the recent ones are those which parody the genre – loved Tucker and Dale too, hilarious movie.

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    • Couldn’t agree more on the state of the genre Sati. I enjoy a good horror but it’s been a while since one really grabbed me. This wasn’t entirely it either for me but I still really enjoyed it.

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  9. I’m not into horror and all the comedy in this made me really enjoy it.

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  10. Paragraph Film Reviews Says:

    Truly think that the more you know, and expect, from this, the less enjoyable it’ll be. Went in pretty cold (although the trailer and first reel do give too much away!) and absolutely loved this.

    I’m a massive horror genre fan and all of the little touches made this for me. Couldn’t stop laughing after seeing the whiteboard, and the final 20 minutes is absolute horror gold. Really highlights the difference between the churn of films that cash in on horror fans as an easy target, and the odd gem that’s made by proper horror lovers / writers.

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    • I managed to avoid knowing much about it but I had heard some great things. Maybe that’s why I didn’t quite think it stood up. I still had a lot of fun with it though and as you say, the last 20mins were absolute blast. Cheers man.

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  11. Great review 🙂 Looking forward to seeing this one.

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  12. I was really looking forward to this film. I went into it knowing nothing which I think is the best way. I loved how it did the unexpected and left me guessing what was happening next. I was however disappointed by the ending and didn’t really get the whole thing. The cameo was great but didn’t bring it back for me.

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    • I actually liked the ending Carly. I don’t want to mention too much for those that haven’t seen it but when it went for it, it went for it and I found all the archetypal horror characters and images really appealing. I wasn’t as big a fan as most people where though. I couldn’t quite by into the whole premise.

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