“Cabin in the Woods” is a movie that is a little difficult to review, because once you really get into the details, you’ve totally ruined the movie. There are other reasons besides the twisted plot to enjoy this movie, but it’s that twisty plot that provides a lot of the enjoyment for the first half. You’ll figure some things out, but you will be wrong about them soon.
The basic story is, a group of attractive and anonymous (Well, anonymous to people who didn’t watch “Dollhouse.” So, probably most of you.) young folks get together and drive off for a fun stay at a Cabin In The Woods. I don’t think I’m spoiling anything for anyone when I say that things do not go well for them.
By which I mean, things do not go well, and then they REALLY do not go well. But writers Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon have a little more in mind than stock horror movie tropes. They’re commenting on those tropes as they occur, and often quite humorously. Turns out, there’s a lot of humor to be mined from horror movie tropes. Of course, we knew that from “Scream,” but this one goes about it in a more tongue-in-cheek manner. It’s meta, but less obviously self-aware meta.
What can I say about this movie without ruining it? Well, it’s really funny. There are some genuinely scary and startling moments, so don’t let that whole “commentary” thing put you off. It’s also very gory. There were probably hoses involved to deal with the quantity of blood in this. Oh, and then the movie goes completely off the rails in the third act in a way that you will not guess even if you’ve seen those previews showing men and women in business attire in some sort of control room.
That crazy third act is not without a few giant gaping plot holes. Be prepared to suspend your disbelief for a while. And if you’re me, it will be kind of fun afterward to think of all the ways this movie does and does not make sense.
“Scream” will probably be the movie that this film ends up being compared to most frequently, because they’re both exploiting horror movie expectations while commenting on them. However, I found myself thinking of a different movie (or movies) entirely in regard to this one: the 2007 “Grindhouse” movies from Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino.
“Cabin in the Woods” is a movie that both loves and subverts the genre it’s in, just as those movies did. Just like in those movies, you’ll be able to predict some of the events in advance, because the movie is following all the beats of a horror movie. Don’t get too cocky, though. You won’t predict all of them, and usually just after one of those events occurs, the movie takes a sharp left turn on to something else.
Whedon, it is fair to say, has been writing commentaries on horror movies for years. I’ve read he created the Buffy he Vampire Slayer character because he was tired of all the horror movies he’d seen where thedumb blonde girl does something dumb and then gets killed. This movie broadens that scope to take on a bigger question: What is the point of horror movies?
Whether you like the answer or not, you’ll probably be discussing it long after the movie is over.