Cabin in the Woods

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before – five college students take a vacation at a creepy, deserted cabin in the woods. They intend to party and hook up in the midst of all the scenic natural beauty, but they’re interrupted by… something horrific.

Of course you’ve heard it, it’s like the basic plot of one out of every six horror movie ever made. But “Cabin in the Woods” is decidedly different. Right from the opening it informs the audience that everything is not as it seems, and then proceeds to unfold a witty, self-aware, genre-exceeding, half-parody that’s entertaining and enjoyable to watch, especially for fans of the horror genre.

The titular cabin in the woods is actually a highly monitored, controlled environment, overseen by an entire team of scientists in a bunker far below. They science team is not only watching and listening in, but is capable of manipulating events through a variety of physical controls and chemical stimuli. Now, I realize that that sounds like a spoilerific thing to say, but it’s actually not. For anyone who had seen the trailer, it was revealed there that there was some element of virtual reality/science fiction going on, and then the movie itself opens with the project administrators.

The science fiction element is interwoven throughout the film, it’s not held out as some sort of “twist” or “reveal”.

When the students arrive at the cabin, they find some unsettling things. A creepy painting, a two-way mirror. It doesn’t slow them down, however, from your typical college students on vacation behaviors. Swimming, getting wasted, fooling around… in fact, they’re smack in the middle of a game of truth or dare when the science team running the experiment blows open the hatch to the cellar door.

Down in the cellar are every conceivable style and make of horror talisman known to fiction. Music boxes, creepy diaries, dolls and masks, puzzles, amulets, a conch shell, dozens more that I haven’t even mentioned. Still not suspecting what’s going on, or that they’re being monitored and manipulated, the students begin to play around with all the things that they shouldn’t… to disastrous consequences.

There, the horror begins, but to me, it was always overshadowed by the science element. I was always far more interested in why this was happening to what was happening. Not that the horror angle wasn’t decently shot, acted, directed, made, whatever word you want to use, but having the “Control Room” angle completely neutered it for me. I never really cared that the kids were getting terrorized/brutalized/traumatized, I was wrapped up in WHY. Which kind of undercut the horror for me, and wound up being an element of disappointment.

Also, unfortunately, the final reveal was a considerable let down to me. The ultimate underlying reason behind all the goings on here was a disappointment to me. A big let down. It felt hackneyed, cheap, and lame. Which is the reason that I won’t be pitching in on the building of the altar for this movie that’s currently going on out there. I’m sure you’ve seen it.

Which is a testament to the rest of the movie, I guess, seeing as I still enjoyed the film quite a bit and plan on recommending it on the podcast. “Cabin in the Woods” strikes me as more of a genre send up than an actual entry into the genre. It’s far too self aware to come across as sincere, and in many ways comes across as satire. That’s the kind of thing that can interfere with a first viewing if the film doesnt announce its intentions properly. There’s a good twenty to thirty minute period though when the secrets are on the table, and the movie is approaching its climax, where all hell breaks loose and the movie is literally batshit crazy. I think it’s pretty much impossible not to be watching with a huge ass grin on your face.

It’s a fun movie that references and samples from almost every horror movie ever. Once it’s “wound them up and let them go” there are segments that border on legendary. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, and keeps a good sense of humor throughout.

I just don’t want to get carried away.

B+

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52 thoughts on “Cabin in the Woods

      • There’s a reason people are going nuts over it; it’s the ultimate paean to horror film fandom, a love letter to the genre, a sharp critique of its tropes, a celebration of them, and an orbital nuclear strike meant to atomize the genre and also reset it back to “0″.

      • Wow, dude.

        “People” are going nuts over it, but YOU especially, huh? LOL

        I’m going to leave the emphasis on “Going Nuts”. It wasn’t all of that. I enjoyed it, it was fun enough, but I’m not helping put up the shrine, it just wasnt all that.

        I recognize its trying to make a metaphor about Hollywood feeding the audience to sate us, but damn. It wasn’t THAT clever.

      • LOL. I go further back with Andy. I feel more comfortable tossing symbols at him ;)

        There’s no way. It’s not scary per se. It’s like fun. Thus… is it even a horror movie? If you want to go horror comedy then there’s a case for saying best in X many years or whatever. But that’s a narrow field anyways.

        Straight up horror? Nope.

        You’re &#%$ing crazy. :D

    • Of course it’s a real horror movie. It might be taking potshots at horror cliches but it also revels in them; it’s a movie that simultaneously underscores the cliches and the tropes while reminding us why we love them and, most of all, why we need them.

      • Thanks Jaina. Glad someone else in this thread aside from Blain and I sees sense!

        I recognize its trying to make a metaphor about Hollywood feeding the audience to sate us, but damn. It wasn’t THAT clever.

        It’s that but it’s about more than that– it’s about creative types being forced to do the same hack work over and over again instead of making the monster opuses they want to make, it’s about horror formulas and tropes and why they matter to us, it’s about why self-awareness is dangerous for the genre. But I think you’re missing why Cabin is so revered; it’s not that it has a lot of things to say about horror, it’s that it conveys them through an incredibly well-made and well-written horror movie.

      • Speaking of horror movies, this debate just rose up off of the floor behind me after I thought it was dead and was beginning to catch my breath, LOL

        You’re saying “But I think you’re missing why Cabin is so revered… it’s that it conveys them through an incredibly well-made and well-written horror movie.”

        I’m saying THATS where we disagree. I think the movie’s “Cleverness” in all the things it says works against it as a piece of entertainment. Tonally its a bit of a muddled mess. It’s not consistently funny enough to be a comedy, its not scary enough to be a great horror movie, and then the expository reveal at the end is just… a let down. Forget the themes or how necessary it is to what its “trying to say”, and think of it as someone just watching the movie as a story. IMO, thats a sucky ending. Talky, eye rolling, over complicated…

        Shrugs.

        All in all, I still gave it a good grade, and still recommend it in a right sized way.

        You know what Tanski did on the podcast? He countered my opposition to this by asking me where I was at with Shaun of the Dead. LOL.

      • I’m not really sure where to take the disagreement from there; those clashing elements of comedy and horror support one another for me. In fact, I’d argue that comedy and horror don’t really clash all that much. They’re kind of distant cousins. We watch both of them as a distraction. Sure, there’s more we can get out of comedy films and horror films than just that, but we laugh at comedy movies to release stress and, in a way, laugh at the world; similarly, we watch horror movies to take the place of the real fear we feel in our daily lives.

        So when we’re in the control room downstairs with Sitterson and Hadley, the film’s emphasizing that exactly. Why are they betting? Why are they making jokes? Because there’s something much more horrifying going on than the zombie attack on the cabin. For me that’s not muddling; it’s supplementary.

        And yeah, Shaun of the Dead…what the hell dude.

      • Yup, ‘fraid so. Just got back from the theater, and am totally high on this pic. Maybe after some reflection my opinion might change, but for right now, count me among the builders of the great temple to all things Whedon.

      • Nodding glumly. Ok. Well, I’ve had my say. And since this all erupted last week, I’ve had time to run across plenty of people who think it’s not the greatest movie ever made.So I dont feel as fired up.

        Plus, Andrew wore me down. I waived the white flag. He’s more passionate about this flick than I am about right sizing the buzz, so…

        I still liked it. I just can’t A anything it. Let alone A+++ it LOL

  1. Great horror film. Makes you wonder what would happen with the other horror icons being set loose. Glad my buddy the werewolf made some screen time. Gave this one an 8 (which is close to your rating). Another film I must add to my collection.

    • Mm. Yeah, I think I would have liked it a little more if they had structured it to show more of what happened once the inmates were running the asylum! LOL. That was some fun stuff.

      Collections. They have a way of growing, dont they? :D

  2. Humm, I wasn’t expecting a B+. I love horror, but I don’t think I’m going to watch this movie. I agree with you on the same plot of college students at a cabin sorta oblivious to the fact that things are just not right. LOL Who am I kidding, I would be the same way.

  3. I think the trailer might have done this film a disservice. It let revealed one major plot point – the fact that Fran Kranz’s character was still alive!

    I didn’t care too much about the ending. It reminded me of the good ol’ Buffy and Angel days! Maybe that’s why I could get past it.

    It’s a love letter to horror film geeks and all those people out there who love their entertainment with a massive dose of meta-ness attached to them. And for that, I love it.

    • Yeah, that was a give away, the fact that they find the elevator was a giev away. There were a couple of them.

      Meanwhile, it was fun, but it wasn’t perfect or anything, so I didnt want to get too carried away.

      LOL… not that you do or anything Jaina. Even though you use the word “Love” three times there at the end. :D

  4. I have to admit that I’ve not even read this post as I’ve not seen the film yet. I’m trying to avoid any and all hints and plot spoilers. This is difficult for me because I’m totally chomping at the bit to see this, but “The Raid: Redemption” deservedly got my movie dollars this weekend. My wife and I are going tonight so perhaps I’ll have to follow up this comment with my actual thoughts. Sorry…..guess this reply was worthless.

      • It’s one of the greatest action/martial arts films I’ve ever seen. It will leave you gasping for air by the time it’s over. I won’t always be in the mood for something this insanely intense, but I’m glad it’s on the action movie menu when I am.

      • Wanna know whats funny? It’s open right down the street from me.

        Didn’t open opening week in that theatre so I didnt look for it again. And then this weekend, I just had business to take care of and went to see the flicks I needed to see. I may wind up getting a chance to check this out after all.

  5. Nice review as always Fogs. Me personally? I really enjoyed the movie but I probably won’t be putting the word “best” around it any time soon. More than likely it will probably end up on my Top 10 of the year list (more than likely around 8-9 depending on how good the rest of the movies are this year) but there are plenty of better films out there right now that aren’t getting as much attention *cough* The Raid *cough*. So yeah…really liked it, but didn’t love love it like everyone else seems to be.

    • Thank you Travis. Been kind of warring with people today over this, and who knows how the podcast is going to go tonight, so it feels REALLY good to hear someone else taking a reasonable stance on it. LOL

      I want to see Raid. In fact I just realized it IS playing near me, so I just might go and see it this weekend! :D

  6. OK so finally saw it and loved it. Quit a clever satirical take on horror. I know they have to market it as “horror” but it actually is more spoof than anything. There is sort of a strange line they tightwalk on with the horror elements then cutting to the goofy control room guys so I can see why you wouldn’t think that works, but I just went with it. Both my wife and I are sort of Whedon geeks so I think we were probably programmed by the puppet-masters to like this.

    • Exactly… it IS kind of more of a spoof than anything.

      The “strange line they tightwalk on with the horror elements then cutting to the goofy control room guys” is one of the reasons I just cant fully embrace it or give it an A grade, but I did enjoy it.

      Glad you dug it Markus, it was a lot of fun.

  7. Really good review.
    I just went to the theater to watch it a couple of hours ago and I must say you nicely summarize the majority of my thoughts about the film. It was an enjoyable experience and I appreciated the effort to bend the horror genre and throw in some flat-out satire, but there’s nothing in this movie that deserves the excessive praise it has been receiving all over the critic/blog world.

    • :D

      That’s a good way to start off my day!

      Its hard sometimes, I definitely DID enjoy it. I just had some issues with it. Mainly that it kind of straddled too many genres (Horror, comedy, sci – fi) and then the exposition laden finale was really, to me, kind of lame.

      I recognize there’s a broad statement about the genre being made – OOOH-OOOH. LOL Its not enough for me to overcome some of the big weaknesses.

      Thanks for your support here, feeling outnumbered on this one for sure!

  8. Just went to see this tonight… and I came away thinking: “I see what they meant to do”.
    I wasn’t enamoured though, I expected more horror, or more something! I don’t know! But it seemed a little lacking for me. I liked little points (hat tip to The Strangers) but it felt a bit hollow and nothing was much of a surprise – I simply expected more.
    I just hope it was because Joss had his mind on The Avengers instead…

    • Hey, Crafty!

      Yeah, so far everything I’ve heard about the Avengers has been just pure gushing praise. So lets hope, right?

      Meanwhile, I did LIKE Cabin in the Woods quite a bit, sounds like you didn’t…. sorry to hear that.

      But I can see how this might have been a little too built up for you going in. :(

  9. So it sounds like I really need to see this. I was a little apprehensive at first, but all of these positive reviews have me interested. I think I’ll catch it this weekend.

  10. I totally agree with you about ” the reveal”, but it didn’t spoil the whole movie for me, as did the ending for “The Village”. “Found The Cabin….” to be frightening and funny. The movie left me exhausted. How I often measure a good horror film.

    I

    • Yeah? Whether it tires you out or not? LOL

      It (the end) didnt spoil it for me either, but when you’re handing out grades, I had to take it into consideration and downgrade it.

      LOL, yeah, “The Village”. There’s an end that makes you go Ughhh. Huh? :D

  11. I had the same complaint as you. I was much more interested in the laboratory storyline than the horror film portion of it. It probably didn’t help that the laboratory storyline had Bradley Whitford (one of my favorite comedic actors) and a bunch of veteran actors compared to Chris Hemsworth and a bunch of no-names in the horror film storyline.

    As for the final reveal, I actually liked it. I viewed the entire film through a meta angle and it seemed Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard tried to come up with the craziest reason for why horror films are made. It worked for me. Although I do understand the complaints about how it bounces around from genre to genre through the course of the film without settling on one.

    • Cool, thanks Ryan. At least you can see what I was saying.

      To me, I WAS definitely more interested in the lab portion, yeah. I wanted to know WHY this all was happening, you know? It didnt really have to do with the no name kids. I thought for the most part they all did fine…

      I did have big problems with the end though. Very talky and kind of goofy.

      Glad you didnt…

  12. Pingback: The Large Association of Movie Blogs | LAMBScores: The Cabin in the Woods, Lockout, The Three Stooges and Bully

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