Ditzy blonde who gets hot and horny for her alpha-male jock boyfriend? Check. A rustic and isolated locale with no cell phone service? Check. Creepy, deadly things that go bump in the night and terrorize a bunch of clueless college kids? Check and check.
In the Joss Whedon-scripted, Drew Goddard-directed horror-comedy The Cabin in the Woods, all of the slasher movie stereotypes are presented to us in typical fashion – and swiftly dispatched and turned inside out halfway through the film. There’s Curt, played by a pre-Thor Chris Hemsworth (the film was shot in ’09), a hulking bro of a dude who just wants to have sex with his hot girlfriend (the bimborific Anna Hutchison), Holden (Grey’s Anatomy’s Jesse Williams) the quiet scholar with a crush, Dana (Kristen Connolly), the “virginal” chick who just wants to take a break from studying and enjoy a weekend with her friends, and Marty (Dollhouse alum Fran Kranz) the shaggy-haired loser who may not be your average pothead.
This may seem like an Evil Dead/Cabin Fever/Friday the 13th rip-off, but think again.
If last year’s Scream 4 squarely satirized the past decade in the genre, then Cabin takes it even further…and runs with it…then takes a giant leap over it. The film opens on a pair of pencil pushers named Sitterson and Hadley, respectively played by a game-faced Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford. From there, the story unfolds at a seat-grabbing pace during which something rare in movies occurs: We, along with the characters, have no idea what’s going to happen next, even though we think we do. To give away anything else would be to give away the inspired twists and turns that two of our protagonists encounter as they try to survive and figure out what the hell is going on. And what it is exactly that’s going on says a lot about the horror genre.
“I love horror,” says Whedon (pictured, left, with Goddard), who also directed this May’s much anticipated The Avengers. “But the plots are becoming more and more predictable. The killings are more and more disgusting. The kids are becoming more and more expendable. And more love is put into the instruments of torture, and no love at all is put into the dialogue polish. The ritual of it is getting cheapened.”
Goddard adds, “The horror movie is merely a jumping-off point for the inherent questions about humanity that the genre suggests. Why, as a people, do we feel the need to marginalize, objectify, and destroy youth?”
The “why” definitely turns out to be quite the Big Reveal, and the movie takes pleasure in its own insanity as the story twists, turns, and twists again. And for you Buffy and Angel fans out there, enjoy the choice casting of Amy Acker and Tom Lenk as office coworkers who get caught up in the craziness. Speaking of Buffy, die-hards and horror geeks who may be quick to analyze the movie once the credits roll (myself included) will probably see a resemblance to a particular season of the Sarah Michelle Gellar series (hint: it’s Season 4). And loyalists may want to go back and watch it again as the film is filled to the brim with some awesome references (one character calls nerdy Marty "Comic-Con").
The Cabin in the Woods (opening Friday April 13), long overdue for a theatrical release (blame that MGM fiasco), turns out to be worth the wait…and the best horror film of the year.
- Hiko Mitsuzuka (@TheFirstEcho)