To say that Drew Goddard (Cloverfield, Lost) and Joss Whedon’s The Cabin in the Woods is a horror movie doesn’t do it justice. It’s a gross oversimplification of the broader concept. Before I proceed, permit me to clarify that I’m under no delusions like “The Cabin in the Woods isn’t a horror movie”. It most definitely is a horror movie and a fairly gory one at that. People die. Gratuitously. Be sure that Goddard’s decision to conceal the more grizzly details of certain deaths serves only to preserve the viewer’s sensitivity to such things for the biggest punch when it really mattered. Think of it like giving up coffee for 30 days so that on the 31st, when you drink three pots in a single hour, you see God. This isn’t a criticism, mind you. I simply feel compelled to emphasize the bloody nature of this movie to disspell any notion that it will be a Whedonesque flick in the campy Buffy/Angel style of horror. To be honest, I expected The Cabin in the Woods to lean toward being viscerally sterile. While it isn’t High Tension or Hostel, it’s also not good, clean, prime-time-television fun.
Now that I’ve told you what this movie isn’t, I’ll tell you what it is. The Cabin in the Woods is a heavily layered movie which tells a story that’s far deeper than “these people over here want to do despicable things to those people over there.” Dare I say its an intelligent horror movie. Almost immediately, the viewer is presented with disparate but internally consistent elements. What I appreciated was that the meaning of these disparate elements wasn’t immediately handed to the viewer on a silver platter in bite-sized pieces. I had time to ponder them and develop my own Theory of Everything before the explanations began to roll in. This movie clearly isn’t a Masterpiece Theater mystery and it’s entirely likely that you’ll have narrowed what’s going on to one of two options by the time the puzzle starts filling in. Despite that, quite literally anything can happen until the very last line of dialog.
Fans of horror will appreciate this movie for it’s creative fusion of thematic elements and a sense of self-awareness not seen since Scream (1996). Whedon devotees will recognize this self-awareness as well as the rapid-fire, apropos-yet-witty dialog. Also, fans of Dollhouse will love that Fran Kranz got the opportunity to shine (and shine he did!), though fans of Chris Hemsworth (Thor) and Jesse Williams (Grey’s Anatomy) will be disappointed in the scarcity of shirtless scenes.
I really wish I could tell you more about this movie but I can’t without including spoilers. In fact, as I was thinking about how I hadn’t seen a single trailer for this movie, it struck me that any trailer would necessarily either (a) be devoid of spoilers but completely misrepresent the movie or (b) accurately represent the movie while simultaneously negating any need to actually see it. This is a brilliant film so the idea of spoiling anything and, as a result, dampening the initial journey of discovery makes me sad. If you’re inclined to see The Cabin in the Woods, then do so in a theater on the big screen and do it before someone blows the secrets for you. Seriously.