Do you miss the biting dialog and clever characters that filled the Whedonverse of Buffy, Firefly and Angel? Then Cabin In the Woods, which premiered at South by Southwest this past weekend, is the movie for you.
Simply put, the whole movie feels like a very special Buffy episode. And in a genre that's currently buried under the scraps from the success of past torture porn and "found footage" horror films, Cabin is a shining beacon of promise for people that don't need shaky cam to get their fear fetish rocks off. It's the thinking geek's horror film, and we love it so much we want to pony up and buy it a hotel room after Prom. Seriously, we want Cabin In the Woods inside of us.
Warning, there are a few minor spoilers ahead...
The premise for Drew Goddard's directorial debut isn't as simple as the title. Although, yes, five kids do head out to a remote cabin and unknowingly meet their untimely demise. But as you already know from the trailer, it's so much more than just a simple "let's see what the inside of these horny teens looks like" type of film.
Together, Goddard and Joss Whedon (also the producer on this project) penned one lovingly twisted screenplay. The movie is halved into two worlds, lovingly described as Upstairs and Downstairs (which, yes, gave us some hefty Wolfram & Hart Angel flashbacks, but this is a completely separate experience entirely).
Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford and a team of white-collar button pushers, pied-piper the group of party-hungry teens towards their destruction with a collection of high tech trickery. The audience sees this manipulation from both the POV of the paper pushers Downstairs, and through the terrified eyes of the kids stuck Upstairs in the cabin. You see the people down below deal in the business of nightmares, and with the simple click of a lighted button or the flip of a switch, the Upstairs world molds to form a death trap for the kiddies. All for reasons that will not be revealed in this review.
By physically manufacturing horror Cabin in the Woods allows itself to just marinate in a collection of genre tropes — not skewering these staples, rather greedily drinking up the bloody bathwater before quickly spewing it back all over the viewers, Gallagher-style.
Jenkins and Whitford:The day-to-day office job bullshit, sharply delivered by villains Jenkins and Whitford. There is nothing more delightful than to watch people nonchalantly operate machinery that determines whether or not someone will live or die. But the best part? It's all just shtick. Jenkis and Whitford (while seemingly the bad guys in all of this) are well-developed characters that make you laugh, wince and force you to laugh along with the two old white guys. The whole movie straddles this ambiguous moral post which is the size of a redwood, that changes and moves with each new clue dropped into the audience's lap.
The Comedy: Hot Christ, is this film funny. So funny. Not just "LOL, there's a hippie with a bong" funny (although that's in there). It's "We know you're watching now watch us turn this all around and scare you with the silliest horror trope in the history of the world" funny.
The Writing: You could pair this with the comedy, but the whole twisted plot deserves its own positive plug. Not once does anything feel forced or like some sort of jury-rigged teenage vernacular penned by a bunch of old guys desperately trying to court the teenage audience. The dialog, the plot, the big reveals, it's all great. Even if you don't agree with the final verdict you can't help but admit that the whole thing is delivered in style. This movie's got flair, and lots of it and you can bet your bottom dollar that it all started on the page.
The Easter Eggs: We don't want to see this film again, we NEED to see Cabin again. Boards were covered in clues, cellars were stuffed with items that had more than one meaning, heck the cabin itself is a bright shining Easter Egg from movies past, the whole thing is stuffed with clues and monstrous secrets — we just know we won't be satisfied until the Blu-Ray comes out and we can go through this entire film shot-by-shot.
The Conclusion: We could easily see how some folks might be a little miffed with the ending. But we would argue that it works really well with the rest of the film.
The Comedy: If you're looking for a straight up and up horror movie, you should know. By the end of the feature, the horror has been traded for sheer unbridled hilarity. So if you hate fun in your gore, this might not be the movie for you. We don't actually consider this to be a "bad" — but more of a warning for people who hate to laugh. Full disclosure, at one point during the screening I literally had a joy word vomit and just blurted out, "I'm so happy right now!"
This movie is unlike anything you've ever seen before. Go and see it before some asshole friend ruins the big surprises for you. Then go see it again, and we'll all get beers and talk about it some more.