Editor’s Note: Being that the DVD for this little gem is dropping… well… today, we thought it was probably about time we introduce you to Kendra, and finally post the piece she wrote when the damned movie was in theaters. Have at it, Kendra.
The above was my original review. I felt that it really got the point across, especially considering that it’s best you know as little as possible about this movie before going in. But, as it turns out, the powers that be here at Dreadful Tales actually expect more than that. Well damn. I think this may be some sort of hazing ritual wherein the newbie gets handed something totally impossible to review, and everyone else sits back to watch them go down in flames. But what the hell, I’ll give it a shot. I’m going to try my best not to spoil anything major, but honestly, if you’re touchy about that sort of thing, go see it, and then come on back!
For starters, full disclosure: I am a total Whedonite. A Browncoat. I live in the Whedonverse. Whatever you want to call it, I love Joss Whedon and would totally have his babies. As such, I was probably predisposed to like this movie. But I fucking LOVED this movie, and even if you aren’t usually a Whedon fan, you will too.
The Cabin in the Woods was written by Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog) and Drew Goddard (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Lost, Cloverfield), and was also directed by Goddard. The premise seems simple enough:
Five friends go for a break at a remote cabin in the woods, where they get more than they bargained for. Together, they must discover the truth behind the cabin in the woods. (IMDb)
This movie was actually shot in 2009, but was shelved until its world premiere at SXSW in March 2012. Originally, the studio wanted to convert the film to 3D before its release, which Goddard and Whedon strongly opposed (thank the gods!). Following that, MGM delayed the film indefinitely as the studio went bankrupt, and the rights were eventually sold to Lions Gate in 2011. Personally, I had assumed this film was destined for straight-to-dvd obscurity, until Chris Hemsworth grabbed a hammer (no, not that one) and Whedon suited up to direct The Avengers. Then they got a little more cred with the new studio, and here we are.
So, in the film, we have five friends (played by Kristin Connolly, Anna Hutchison, Jesse Williams, Fran Kranz and a pre-Thor Chris Hemsworth) who take off in their RV for a cabin located, you know, in the woods. After ignoring the creepy ramblings of the local gas station owner, they proceed to settle in to their new digs, in typical swimming/drinking/sexytimes fashion. Partway through the drunken festivities of the first night, they discover a cellar full of creep, and things go downhill from there. One quick incantation read aloud from an old journal and their idyllic weekend is completely ruined by the appearance of zombies hellbent on killing the gang in blood-splattery ways.
But that’s about as much plot as I want to give away. The best part of this movie is how it manages to surprise you…especially when it goes completely balls-to-the-wall insane. I really wish I could give away more; I think I could manage to convince anyone who is on the fence to go see this movie tonight, but doing so would probably take away from the overall experience. Not that the movie is necessarily scary, but it does pack some solid jump-scare moments, along with a decent amount of gore. I think the 18A rating has finally allowed these writers to throw in all blood and guts that they have been wanting to use for a long while. I am left feeling cheated that Buffy didn’t air on HBO; it would have been extra awesome!
The acting was pretty stellar all around. The group of friends has an easy, believable camaraderie that made me want to party with them (although, probably not at this particular cabin). They are obviously covering the necessary stereotypes of the genre, but they manage to add a little more depth: Hemsworth is a little smarter and less douchey than the average jock, Hutchison is funnier than the usual pretty slut, and Williams’s washboard abs are not the mark of a typical nerd. Whedon has always written both his female leads, and their comic-relief friends, particularly well, and Connolly and Kranz are no exception. Connolly shows the necessary vulnerability, but also brings in a fierceness that keeps her from being the annoying damsel-in-distress. Kranz’s stoner was definitely my favourite character, and fans of Dollhouse will not be surprised. Picture Topher, except even less professional, and a way bigger fan of the cush. Both of these actors put in standout performances. Surprisingly for this type of movie, you aren’t rooting for the death of any of these characters…although, it’s pretty kick-ass once the bear trap starts a-swingin’!
The direction is pretty remarkable, especially considering this is Goddard’s first time behind the camera. The camera work and cinematography are outstanding, perfectly setting the tone for what’s to come. Obviously the writing is fantastic, full of trademark Whedon wit (including my new absolute favourite euphemism for a boner – husband bulge!). This film managed to not only be one of the best horror movies I’ve seen in awhile, but also one of the best action flicks, or comedies. Overall, it was the most fun I have had in a theatre in ages.