Once in a while, a movie comes along and is said to reinvigorate a genre. A game changer, a film that sets the standard for a specific kind of movie. The Cabin In The Woods hit theatres this weekend, and tons of people have said this is that film for the horror genre. How does it stack up to such high praise? Does it deserve every nice thing said about it, or should it be systematically killed off?
First and foremost, this review will not contain spoilers of any kind. If you’ve seen the trailers, that’s all I’m going to detail. The films strength is in its completely off the wall plot, and I don’t want to ruin it for anyone. Ok, if you’ve seen the trailer, you know the basic set up. Five friends take a vacation to some family member’s cabin in the woods, only to have their vacation go from good, to completely insane. All I’m going to say about the rest of the plot is this - if you think you know how the rest of the film goes, I guarantee you will be 100% completely wrong. I don’t mean to gush, but when I say that this has easily one of the best, most original plots I’ve seen on film in a very long time, I’m not exaggerating. Joss Whedon completely knocks this out of the park. Forget endless cheap jump scares, forget over the top gore, forget everything in every bad horror movie of the past five years. This film doesn’t rely on any of that. Sure, there’s a couple of cheap scares and there is some over the top gore, but the film doesn’t rely on those aspects. There’s so much more to the film than you would expect. There’s well placed humor, there’s a touch of campiness and cheese, but it never feels out of place and it always works.
But the film would fall flat if it weren’t for the cast. From a couple of relative unknowns to bigger names like Chris Hemsworth and Whedon regular Fran Kranz, everyone fits their character. Even though the characters are typical archetypes for generic horror movies, it works for the story. There’s the jock, the brains, the whore, the stoner, and the good girl. They pull off their respective characters fairly well, and mostly give good performances. But that’s where the one flaw I can find lays. Some of the lesser main characters fall completely flat. Luckily, they don’t get much screen time or lines. But when they are front and center in certain scenes, it completely almost kills the flow of the film. Luckily though, those moments are few and far between, and pretty much done with halfway through the film. But the better actors really do carry the rest of the film. Every time there’s a scene that falls flat, it’s usually followed by a scene that completely makes you forget about the not-so-great acting you just saw. Easily the best two performances of the film aren’t even the kids in the cabin, but characters portrayed by Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford. There’s also an awesome cameo at the films climax that comes completely out of left field.
So how do the scares stack up against other recent films? Very well. It doesn’t rely on jump scares every 15 minutes ala Paranormal Activity. It doesn’t rely on over the top gross out gore ala Human Centipede. There’s moments where you’ll want to yell at the screen, there’s moments where you’ll jump to the edge of your seat. But its all very well done, and nothing seems out of place. It’s a great balance of elements that make a truly suspenseful and terrifying piece of film. And it all culminates in one hell of a final act.
All in all, if you like horror movies, see it. If you like movies in general, see it. If you don’t like movies, buy a ticket and give it to someone who wants to see it. This is one of the rare films that completely smashes the mold of current films, and it needs to be successful. It’s a great piece of cinematic mind fuckery that’s guaranteed to make you leave the cinema completely satisfied.
I wish I could give it a 10 out of 5, but 5 will have to do. This is a must see.
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