Friday, April 13, 2012

The Cabin in the Woods (2012) - Review

The Cabin in the Woods is one of the most brilliant and innovative horror movies to ever come out of the genre. Why is that? Perhaps because it's not actually a horror movie. Sure, there are a few jump scares here and there but they take a backseat to the complex and twisting narrative and well-written characters. That's the biggest thing that most horror movies forget; if you don't care about the characters or the plot, then the writers aren't doing their jobs. Fortunately this film does more than its share to make the characters likable and the story intriguing, all the way up to the final moments of the film.  I expect nothing less from Buffy creator Joss Whedon and Buffy writer Drew Goddard.

Now given the movie's complex plot, it's difficult to summarize without spoiling something.  Just rest assured that the movie isn't the typical Evil Dead rip-off, nor is it really a parody of "cabin in the woods"-esque movies.  It lies somewhere in between, with some great commentary on the current stagnation of horror movies.  With just as many funny moments as serious, it's incredibly fun, but never needlessly cheap.  All of the hilarious moments stem from ironic situations or actual witty dialogue.  I'd go as far to call it this generation's Scream, which is a compliment by the way; few movies can straddle that line so cautiously and still remain so deliciously entertaining.

From a technical standpoint, everything is top-notch as well.  The acting is superb on pretty much all fronts, particularly Bradley Whitford and Fran Kranz (also from Whedon's show Dollhouse).  Kranz is the one who really steals the show, however, delivering one of the most charming and entertaining performances I've seen in a long time.  The rest of the cast is great as well, and largely consists of Whedon alumni, as he's been known to reuse actors a lot.  The direction from Goddard is stellar; what few jump scares there are actually work pretty well in their misdirection, and everything is kept tense while not being overbearing.  There is quite a bit of CGI in the film but it all looks rather good considering the budget and it's used incredibly well in comparison to most of its contemporaries.

There's so much to say about the movie, but it's hard to really talk about it without ruining something vital.  If you are at all a fan of Joss Whedon, horror movies, deconstructions, comedy, or fantastic premises brought to life by great direction and performances, then this is the movie for you.  The script is so sharp and the concept is so fresh, you'll walk out of there wishing it was longer.  And there are few movies that evoke such a feeling.

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