So I feel bad because I promised this review to you guys like 2 weeks ago, for the day the film released, and I really planned to have it up, but life got in the way. I’ve had internet outages, double shifts, last minute trips and the general craziness of moving (which is still going on but I owe you guys a review and owe it to this movie)
So without further ado let me tell you about Joss Whedon’s horror movie, which sadly is gonna be hard to do as the movie is wonderfully twist filled and it will be a challenge to not spoil even one twist. The best I can do is “spoil” one twist that is technically spoiled in the trailer as even the PR department can’t avoid spoilers to advertise this film.Now, if you haven’t seen the trailer (which you probably haven’t as its not getting much TV play) then I advise you don’t, in fact I advise you don’t read past the jump. Here’s I’ll give you a basic review and Reelization right now, and a fuller Reelization with spoiler notes at the end.
SPOILER FREE REVIEW:
Joss Whedon crafts a horror film that intentionally plays up the general tropes of horror, and namely the slasher but redefines it in ways that to my generation can only be related to the original Scream. It knows what it is and revels in it and takes advantage of your expectations at every turn and unless you’re closed minded you’ll revel in it too. Mind you, Whedon rights it but his friend and fellow writer from his shows Buffyand Angel as well as the movie Cloverfield, Drew Goddard co-writes and actually directs this. Its his first time directing but he does a terrific job with directing the talent and getting Whedon’s dialogue to sound right, a flaw many fall victim to as they miss interpret some of his jokes as something serious. Whedon’s well known flair for humorous and clever dialogue with great character interaction shines here, and for a movie where the only true star is Chris Hemsworth (technically pre-Thor) you’ll be amazed by the talent. It may not be the scariest horror movie you’ve seen, not even recently, but it is the best crafted one in years and you’ll enjoy every twist as it deepens the experience. The only reason its not a perfect 5/5 is because there’s a kinda important bit myself and a friend aren’t sure made sense, though another had an idea that explained it, but until I get to see it a second time I can’t fully say he is correct and as such this film will have to stand at a 4.5, still a glowing must see.
There, as I’ve now done a pre-review and my longest pre-break section ever, now prepare for the full review
SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW! YOU’VE BEEN WARNED!
*HERE THERE BESPOILERS*
Ok, time for the real Reel Review people, get yourself for a review with some spoilers. As I said before, the only spoiler I’ll cover is one seen in the trailer, this trailer to be exact. In that trailer you see the most stereotypical horror setup ever, college kids go on a road trip to the aptly named cabin in the woods, there’s a creepy country gas station attendant they ignore, and then go to party in the woods. What comes next though is interesting, we see a bird popping on a force-field and a control room watching the kids and essentially affecting their actions in this cabin and the woods. That’s right, there is some big conspiracy to have these kids brutally murdered as we expect from a horror movie, and we see slasher opponents hunting them with weapons. Why are they being manipulated, watched, hunted and killed? Well that’s part of one of the many more bigger twists that I refuse to spoil for you, but let me tell you its a doozy.
See the most important thing is that as they’re being watched and manipulated, that means that the tropes of a standard horror movie are being crafted and ensured, and as such Whedon gets to poke fun at the horror genre while playing tribute. The most obvious comparison you might make would beShaun of the Deadas it was a true zombie movie and well crafted, but that is more of a comedy, in fact a better comparison is Edgar Wright’s other movieHot Fuzz.HotFuzzwas legitimately an action movie, it had the action movie plot, action scenes and setups, but it still had great clever dialogue and comedy while referencing action movies and treating them lovingly. That is whatCabin in the Woodsis, a true horror movie in every way but it also looks at horror movies and jokes at them and in them. Everything plays great reference, most notable in the trailer for me to point out is the creepy gas station attendant reminds me ofPumpkin Headand the cabin is a direct reference to/recreation of the one inThe Evil Dead 2. If you have even a passing knowledge of horror films you’ll find these references throughout and they’ll only bring you joy.
What he also does well is spend time playing with the things expected of a horror movie, from where the enemies come from/why and why all horror movies, namely slashers, have the same types of characters. We have those general characters like the slut, the joke, the party animal, the jock and the virgin, but Whedon never writes one sided characters like this so there’s some fun in how we actually have these one note characters without jeopardizing his flair for characters that I won’t rob you the joy of discovering. What I can say is that these characters feel real while also giving you the pleasure of knowing their stereotype and how that plays out in a slasher story. They don’t go about explaining them exactly but do bring them up, and for better analysis just see the firstScreamas I mentioned earlier, this movie can be related to that movie in how it gets meta at times but I can’t even explain that more (damn good twists) I guess the only other noteworthy film to mention that could give you some idea is maybe the 80’s horror filmApril Fool’s Dayfor how it messes with expectations, but I just keep adding more that I want to go off on but can’t say.
As I can’t say more about plot, or connections and references, lets go into characters. As I said earlier, the only real star in this movie is Chris Hemsworth as Curt/the jock, but this film was shot in 2008 so he’s less built and bearded then when he played Thor. As the jock though, he’s not even the main character, everyone knows the only character to have a true chance of making it to the end is the virgin, Dana played by Kristen Connolly, a girl who is truly the most innocent and trusting and she has to see every horror this film dishes out and try to survive it mentally and physically. She carries the story really well and you truly root for her as the film goes on. The next noteworthy character, and possibly my favorite as he gets the best lines and gives one of the best performances is Marty the party animal (or pot head) played by Fran Kranz. Kranz is probably best known as the eccentric programmer from Whedon’s short lived showDollhouseand he was great there and terrific here playing a paranoid pothead with crazy paraphernalia that gets laughs as well as already expecting and reading the horror setups that the others ignore (yay drug based paranoia for being correct) When he’s on camera he steals his scenes. Remaining are the brains played by Jesse Williams, the guy that the jock and slut try to set Dana up with, and you know what it almost succeeds as he is a kind hearted guy who can be a gentlemen despite not being homely in any way that would imply he has trouble with women. Finally is Jules the slut, played by Anna Hutchison, she’s the jock’s girlfriend, Dana’s best friend and not a natural blonde plus she has an unnaturally high libido (if that sentence didn’t get you thinking about what I meant then you clearly haven’t taken into account what I’ve been saying) Now in the control room we have 2 more semi-main characters, though they are barely given real backstory, though they are played by technically the only other notable actors/ Sadly most people won’t know them, at least by name, as they are great character actors, namely Bradley Whitford (The West WingandBilly Madison) and Richard Jenkins (Step BrothersandThe Visitor) they do a great job as always, but I again can’t say more as even the mention of them being in this film can only happen from the trailer ruining a twist. They are the 2 backs we see in the control room in the trailer, so I’m not ruining anything.
Now listen, I’ve typed a lot and generally not given you much at all. I’ve talked about Whedon’s whit and great lines, the references and connections and the characters and yet I know I’ve told you nothing more then you’d already know. Why? Because honestly this movie does so much and has so many twists and secrets from the get-go that I can’t even mention great parts without spoilers, and I really just want to go off singing the praises of every bit of this film. I haven’t really mentioned the director, Goddard, at all because really its a movie that feels all Whedon, like people saidSuper 8felt like Spielberg did it instead of Abrams. Really I think that I might just be selling Goddard short because he co-wrote it and has written Whedon shows before so its just he works well in Whedon’s style and knew it well enough to do the movie properly. I can say as a matter of fact he shot the movie terrifically and all the kills feel right and slasher-y and gory and brutal like you want. One thing to note, and I believe I said this before, this movie isn’t a truly scary horror movie, but not all horror movies are, one of the best horror movies to come out in the last 5 years (sadly only DVD) wasTrick ‘r Treatwhich was a kind of compilation movie of horror things in a town on Halloween. I didn’t find that movie particularly scary so much as a fun ride through horror setups and brutal kills and cool monsters, and yet it was certainly a horror film as isCabin in the Woods.The thing is while you may not be scared, at least spare a few scenes, you will certainly be laughing at some intentional comedy from both great lines and well directed character action (don’t know how to better describe that, but you’ll understand) Now I say that and get specific like this because as I left my screening people were bellyaching about it not being a horror movie because they weren’t that scared and actually laughed, and that they’d want their money back if they paid for it (it was a free advanced screening) and honestly, those people are why movies this fun and clever can’t be made more often or get studio budgets and releases. Anyways, onto the scoring.
This movie messes with expectations and your emotions as you know by now what a slasher has in store and yet while it fills those expectations it also doesn’t as it exceeds them in strange and new ways. You’ll have your one sided stereotypes and yet they’ll be enduring and new this time around and you’ll root for them. You’ll have some scares and great kills and gore and yet you’ll also laugh at and with the characters just as often if not more so. As the poster implies (especially the Mondo special edition poster you can look up that looks like an MC Escher painting) the movie will warp the horror world and the cabin in the woods and you will be twisted all over the place. The old joke about M Night Shyamalan liking twists is kinda out the window as clearly Whedon likes them more as this movie is literally made of them and yet its not confusing either. SEE THIS MOVIE! SEE IT NOW! I don’t care what else is out that you want to see, I’m telling you this is better. After you see this then go seeThe Raid: Redemption and then you can go see whatever the hell else is out because you’ll have seen the best movies of 2012, at least untilAvengers (can Whedon go 2 for 2?) This movie messes with expectations and your emotions as you know by now what a slasher has in store and yet while it fills those expectations it also doesn’t as it exceeds them in strange and new ways. You’ll have your one sided stereotypes and yet they’ll be enduring and new this time around and you’ll root for them. You’ll have some scares and great kills and gore and yet you’ll also laugh at and with the characters just as often if not more so. As the poster implies (especially the Mondo special edition poster you can look up that looks like an MC Escher painting) the movie will warp the horror world and the cabin in the woods and you will be twisted all over the place. The old joke about M Night Shyamalan liking twists is kinda out the window as clearly Whedon likes them more as this movie is literally made of them and yet its not confusing either. SEE THIS MOVIE! SEE IT NOW
SEE THIS MOVIE! PAY FOR A TICKET AND JUST BE HAPPY ITS WORTH IT!