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Grab Bag Review: ‘The Cabin in the Woods’ – If You Only See One Horror Film This Year, This Should Be It

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So here we are, another teen horror flick in the midst of spring and it’s loaded with all your stereotypical characters that you would usually find in a movie with a name like The Cabin in the Woods. The only difference this time around is that these stereotyped characters are embraced and welcomed in a way that is sure to make anyone who goes to see this movie smile.C2010-564

Do you remember when the first Scream came out in theaters? That movie not only poked fun at itself but thanks to the clever writing of Wes Craven, we were all caught a little off guard at what he had done to the slasher film genre. He pointed out all the cliché characters and actions that take place in your typical teen scream movie and he did this with comedy. Sure the film at its core was first a horror film, but just below the surface was a witty tongue-in-cheek sub plot with characters fully aware of what makes up your typical scary movie.

Like Scream before it, The Cabin in the Woods similarly is aware of where it comes from, the roots of horror, and all the stereotypical characters that are major players in these films. In America the typical characters are usually a small group of High School or College kids fitting into the mold of either the Jock, Dumb Blonde, Stoner, Virgin, and Book Nerd who pines for the Virgin. If you want to see a perfect example of these characters then look no further than my review of Shark Night 3D. That movie is the perfect example of how a horror film and its characters have been exhausted in the genre and is now so formulaic that it’s boring.

So how does a first time director such as Drew Goddard take the genre and spin it? I would think he gets a solid script from Joss Whedon and adds his own Lost-style flare to it and takes a crack at it. This movie felt like it was born out of late night bong rips with a bunch of what if’s thrown into the conversation. Is that bad? Who am I to judge anyone? I’ve had plenty of “late night” discussions with my friends where we’ve contemplated why a horror movie doesn’t do this, or the villain doesn’t do that. The only difference between me and my friends and Joss and Drew is that we aren’t loaded.

With all that said, I’m sure you can now get a basic feel of what type of movie The Cabin in the Woods may be. It’s not one hundred percent horror film, but it’s not a campy comedy either. It lays somewhere in between the two and walks a fine line that leaves it open for interpretation, whether good or bad.

Synopsis – 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 mobile casino the woods.

It’s hard to find a really good description of this movie only because there is so much to talk about. Like I mentioned before you have the basic story of a group of kids heading out to a cabin in the woods. That is basically where the classic story ends and the new twist on that story begins. The film shuffles back and forth between the kids and two men who appear to be working behind the scenes as puppet masters to these kids. They are somehow in control of them and putting them in positions that are forcing them to live out the stereotypical horror story. The two men played by Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford seem to work for a major organization that heads up this effort that also monitors stereotyped horror tales from around the world. They seem to be in competition with other branches of this organization from around the globe that also work as puppeteers behind the scenes and serving to perpetuate these stereotyped tales (i.e.: the creepy long black haired Asian woman who preys on young school children, like The Ring). What is the purpose you may be asking yourself? Well, that isn’t really spelled out for us in this film. We’re led to believe that it’s due to some kind of ritual or sacrifice that the spilt blood of these people will somehow affect things.

Whatever the purpose may be, the story that unfolds of the teens at the cabin plays out pretty much how you think it would, but this time it’s because it is planned that way. Now, we know that they are going to die. We know what order. We basically know the rules of the game, with one exception, and that being that when you know all of those things, the game is now different and therefore must have a different ending.

The Cabin in the Woods doesn’t really get off the ground until the third act when there are only two of the main young people left to defend themselves, and they are the Virgin (Kristen Connolly) and the Stoner (Fran Kanz). Both of who do a relatively decent job of holding the movie together if you ask me. Sure, Kanz can be a little whiney at times, but that’s the point of his character. He’s the stoner guy who can see everything coming and who finally convinces the virgin of the truth. One of the things that he finds out is that there is an elevator in the basement of the cabin that leads down to another place. They decide to go down there and what they find is what truly sets this film apart from other horror films.

I have to imagine that Joss and Drew sat around while writing this script and asked themselves “Where do all of these horror ideas live?” or “If everything that scared you had to live in one place with all evil things, where would they live?” Well, the answer to those questions is at the bottom of the elevator shaft that’s located in the basement of the cabin that is in the woods. To see what all is down there is one of the best surprises of this movie and is borderline comedy and sheer insanity. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to laugh, be scared, excited, or what! And to be honest, I heard all of those emotions coming from everyone in the theater. Some people couldn’t stop laughing, others were screaming, while I sat there in amazement at what I was watching. In the end, this movie played out like no one expected and that is why this movie is being so well received by moviegoers and critics. Is there a huge surprise ending? No, not really, but it’s an ending that isn’t typical when seeing a big budget Hollywood horror film. Just to see the ending is worth the price of admission.

Overall this movie was fun and not really what I was expecting it to be. I honestly wasn’t even that impressed immediately after leaving the theater. But after letting the film sit with me for a day or so, it has me thinking that I really enjoyed it based on its pure creativity alone. There really isn’t a movie out there quite like this. The acting was decent, and even Chris Hemsworth (THOR) did a good job at being the dumb jock. There is also a surprise cameo in the film which I won’t ruin for you (I’ll let another review do that for you), but came as a nice surprise and made the movie that much more cooler.

So, should you go see this movie? If you’re a horror fan like me then you will love this. Even if you don’t like horror movies, this one is different enough that you won’t be rolling your eyes every five minutes and it’s creative enough to keep you guessing. I would say go check it out.
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4 out of 5 Bags

About the author

Sam Olecki

Sam is a certifiable smart-ass and Southern California native raised on the sarcastic and jaded L.A. smog. He received a B.A. in Film and Electronic Media from Long Beach State University focusing on Screen Writing, Film Theory, and alcohol. Sam studied improv with The Groundlings, performed in local theater, and has watched a lot of movies. When Sam isn't writing for GBC he likes to eat out and write reviews on Yelp.com, go running, watch the KTLA morning news, and play with his puppy.

  • thesoymachine

    Good Review. I’m glad you liked because I loved it! I’m a big Joss Whedon fan though. 

    Gotta be careful with the spoilers (like saying which characters survive). I think this is a film where people should go into the theater only knowing that it’s a horror movie with some other strange elements thrown in. Lots of funny and scary surprises.

    I loved how it seemed like a comic book in that the filmmakers actually just went all out and did weird stuff you wouldn’t see in other movies. 

    I thought the ending was surprising and I can’t really think of too many horror films that end that way. Avoiding saying too much here because of spoilers.

    I would give this film 5 bags. It was just a pleasure though the whole film. I really needed to pee halfway through and I knew that I couldn’t miss one scene.

  • Updownside

    I agree, it really was a good movie.  It just didn’t do it enough for me to warrant that fifth bag though, sorry.  I actually don’t think telling who dies necessarily spoils this movie because I think pretty much everyone knows that those stereotypical characters are killed off in a horror film.  Plus, it’s not like I explained how they die, and they aren’t integral to the final act. There is so much to see in this movie that I think it’d be hard to spoil it all!

  • http://www.top10films.co.uk Dan

    I can’t say the trailer impressed me much but your review definitely makes it sound intriguing. It sounds like one of those films that has enough surprise to merit the price of admission without straying too far from the conventions we all know and love.