Unbeknownst to them, however, they are being watched -- and not in a "Norman Bates weirdo eyeing them through a peep hole" way. Rather, there's a clandestine, highly professional, government-esque company of workers monitoring the students with high-tech video and sound equipment. But why? That's all part of the fun. Suffice it to say, they're highly invested in getting the kids to play out the typical blood-strewn horror movie scenario and will stop at nothing to see them die a violent death.
The End Result
But while the typical horror scenario plays out, it's all framed within the fascinating world of the "observers" who are manipulating things behind the scenes for reasons that become increasingly clear. The jarring jump between the "cabin in the woods" and the Office Space-ish corporate comedy world of the mysterious "suits" (headed by wonderful veteran character actors Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins) ratchets up the humor by juxtaposing these seemingly innocuous office workers with the horrific events of a typical fright flick.
It's the sort of deconstruction of genre standards that co-writer/producer Joss Whedon made his calling card in Buffy the Vampire Slayer -- and to some extent, what co-writer/director Drew Goddard did (with less tongue in cheek) to the "Godzilla-esque giant monster movie" with his script for Cloverfield. Once revealed, the plot is actually quite ridiculous, but it's such a fun, unorthodox ride, it's hard to nitpick about any lack of sense.
Whedon's and Goddard's screenplay reads like both a love letter to horror movies and a good-natured treatise on what's wrong with them. Despite the overall comedic overtones, the horror scenes are played straightforward and not like a Scary Movie spoof, with enough gore and scares to satisfy genre fans even as the carpet is being pulled out from under them. I'd like to imagine that this film will serve as a death knell for overused horror clichés, but with few filmmakers and studios as willing to step outside the box as the ones involved here, that's surely a pipe dream.
If Cabin in the Woods doesn't reinvent horror, it at least reinvigorates it.
- Acting: A- (Great comedic turns balanced by strong, straightforward horror performances.)
- Direction: A- (On target for both the humor and the horror.)
- Script: A (A fresh, funny stab at horror from outside the box.)
- Gore/Effects: A- (Several grisly moments, with strong real-world makeup effects combined with solid CGI.)
- Overall: A (An early candidate for best horror movie of the year serves notice to genre filmmakers who settle too comfortably into the standard conventions.)
The Cabin in the Woods is directed by Drew Goddard and is rated R by the MPAA for strong bloody horror violence and gore, language, drug use and some sexuality/nudity. Release date: April 13, 2012.