The Cabin in the Woods

1, 2, 3, 4, 5 - who do you think is gonna survive?

There’s an interesting moment about twenty minutes into Drew Goddard’s debut film, The Cabin in the Woods (co-scripted by Joss Whedon) where an inanely bad CGI bird comes gliding down into the open space outside a mountain tunnel and crashes into some kind of invisible electrified grid imprisoning any living thing that travels through the tunnel.  As if the weirdly mundane pre-credit sequence featuring Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford wasn’t enough to clue viewers in…this moment reminds us that something conspiratorially massive is afoot.  Is this “snarky and attractive college kids are about to get stalked and killed in the woods” flick really just some sadistic reality show?  Is it all just an overly elaborate set-up for a modern-day spin on yee olde human sacrifice game? 

But the bad CGI bird hitting the electrified grid is deliberately misleading because it doesn’t prepare you at all for Goddard’s gleefully bonkers denoument…a rollicking special-effects laden and gore-strewn twenty minutes of balls-to-the-walls horror show fun.  I don’t know how else to describe it but to say it’s as if the “Imaginationland” episodes of South Park went live-action meta-horror.  The whole thing is wonderfully paced to lull you into thinking it’s going through the genre motions only to defy every expectation you have of a modern horror film. 

Yes, The Cabin in the Woods is very meta and very ’90’s.  It’s deconstructionist and satiric.  It’s like The Matrix meets Scream meets South Park meets every stupid horror flick you’ve ever seen.  It’s also a hard sell to modern audiences.  Hell, its nondescript title, ho-hum trailers and bad buzz around a long-delayed release (this was filmed back in 2009 and then stuck in limbo due to studio legal wranglings and a botched attempt to convert it to 3D) reveal nothing of the smart-aleck and gore-hound fun housed inside.  I wasn’t even remotely interested in watching it until the rave reviews started rolling in and a few people strongly recommended it.  I strongly recommend it, too, to anyone well-versed in modern horror film language and desiring to watch a film that spins all of that clichéd nonsense on its head. 

Part of me wants to respect the studio for not wanting to give anything away in the trailers, and another part of me thinks they were simply clueless as to how to sell this thing.  And I’m going to respect my readers by not giving away any further plot points.  All I will say is that of the five nubile cast members trapped in this cabin, Kristen Connolly makes the best case for someone who deserves a bright career beyond this, and in that enormously entertaining final twenty minutes there’s a great cameo by…oh…should I tell you?  Okay okay okay.  I’ll tell you!  Taa daa – it’s Sigourney Weaver!  But that’s all I’m going to tell you. 

I hope The Cabin in the Woods finds its proper audience.  I hold firm that there are hungry people starved for entertainment who will eat this up, and you should be knowing enough of yourselves to know you will love a film like this if you already know who you are and can trust others in the know who refuse to give anything away that they know what they are talking about when they tell you, “I’M NOT GOING TO TELL YOU ANYTHING ABOUT IT…JUST GO SEE IT ALREADY!”  You know what I mean?  Yeah, c’mon, you know you do.



  1. Very good review that makes me want to see the movie. I have been disappointed by newspaper and magazine accounts that sidestep their job under the guise of not wanting to give anything away. Yes, but we need something to go on besides ads and trailers. You have given us that. John

    Thanks, John. It’s twisted funny stuff – I think you’ll enjoy it. –DHS

  2. References . . . .

    Mayans and many other ancient cultures sacrificing virgins to the gods. . . in the Cabin–the film’s virgin is close enough.

    Polytheism . . . appeasing the many gods goes back to ancient Druid and Greco-Roman sacrifices

    21st Century take on religion . . . inclusion rather than separatism.

    Close of movie: huge price to pay for inclusion–the many gods.

    Probably adds more mystery than answers concerning the film . . . go see it and you will have all the answers to the universe (no really!)

    Dianne – the film’s take on religion certainly was interesting! –DHS

  3. Well I’m sold, I’ll check it out.

    D, did you happen to see “Tucker and Dale vs. Evil”? If so, can you compare it?

    No, I haven’t seen that film, though I’ve heard of it, and I’ve heard this is similar in taste…if that helps at all. –DHS

  4. “I don’t know how else to describe it but to say it’s as if the ”Imaginationland” episodes of South Park went live-action meta-horror.”

    Good call!

    Thanks, I couldn’t help but think the satire in this film was very South Park-ian – and then those last twenty minutes – YOWSER! –DHS

  5. Sorry David, but I’ve been busy with Tribeca as of late, and am delinquent with some of the blogging. Excellent piece on a very imaginative horror film that ups the ante after a purposely pedestrian beginning. I saw this in the theatre weeks back, and have thought about it a number of times, a sure sign that in large measure it worked.

    Sam – yes, and it’s a fun film to talk up. I’ve convinced a few folks to check it out and they’ve loved it. –DHS

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