Thursday, May 17, 2012

Movie Review: Cabin in the Woods

Posted by: Seleste deLaney/Julie Particka
I have to admit that I'm not a huge fan of horror movies. I never watched them as a kid and only started in high school because I was more or less forced to. Eventually, monster movies became okay, but the movies where people just go around killing other people? Uh... no. The closest I came was the first Scream movie because it made fun of all the tropes of horror movies.

When I heard the name Joss Whedon associated with the new Cabin in the Woods, I was tempted to see it. Then I saw that Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth, was in it and I wanted to go. When friends kept saying how good it was, I started bemoaning both my husband's dislike of horror movies and our lack of a babysitter. In the end, I went through a rather expensive and convoluted plan to go with a girlfriend from high school.

I am happy to report that those tropes I mentioned? Cabin in the Woods used all of them AND made them have a purpose within the story. If you haven't seen me mention this elsewhere: Joss Whedon is brilliant.

The story starts with a rather odd clip that takes place in a lab type setting where two men (Sitterson & Hadley) are discussing work. My friend and I glanced at each other with the "What did we get ourselves into?" look in our eyes. Then the title flashed on the screen and the action moved to a college town (specifically the apartment shared by our two female leads: Jules and Dana). They're getting ready to go away for the weekend with Jules's boyfriend, Curt; the guy they're trying to fix Dana up with, Holden; and their stoner friend, Marty. (I missed a bit in here because of a phone call from my mother--don't ask.) They pass the requisite creepy old man who tells them not to go to the cabin. Of course they go anyway.

Scenes between the kids at the cabin are broken up by scenes in the lab/control-room where bets are being placed on outcome and other things that are a bit confusing at first. But, the control-room scenes are also the primary comic relief in the movie. As things progress at the cabin, people start behaving... strangely, and then during a game of truth or dare, a trap door in the floor is sprung and they go into the cellar to investigate. This starts the real chain of events in motion. And it's one hell of a fun ride.

I really don't want to give away more of the story, let's just say if you like the twists and turns Joss Whedon always worked into his television shows, you will love this movie. Plus, he made sure to cast some fan favorites: Amy Acker (Fred from Angel), Fran Kranz (Topher from Dollhouse), and Tom Lenk (Jonathan from Buffy). There's even a Firefly Easter egg that I totally missed :(

A couple complaints.
It needed to be longer. At 95 minutes, it was a pretty short movie anyway, but an extra thirty minutes would have allowed for more showing of how the college kids were manipulated, which would have made their personality changes more obvious to the viewer (as it was, we didn't see enough of them before being at the cabin to see the difference).
The end was... not what I (or my friend wanted). It wasn't a horrible ending, but it felt too easy--lazy almost. It was fine, but the movie opened itself up for some brilliant, crazy ending and it just wasn't there. I'm very curious to get the blu-ray and see if it includes an alternative ending (or more than one).

Overall though, Cabin in the Woods has taken its place as my favorite horror movie ever. If you're a fan of intelligent spoofs or of Joss Whedon's work, you should definitely check it out.


  1. I haven't seen this one yet and now I want to. I've been kind of hesitating because I'm not big into horror movies (nor is my husband) but we both love Joss Whedon's writing.

    1. If you like Whedon, you'll like this. I'm not a huge horror movie fan either, but I love Whedon.

  2. I, too, loved it. And I, too, went despite my iffy attitude toward horror because of my status as a Whedonite. I liked the second half better than the first, and from the elevator on I LOVED it. I had mixed feelings on the ending, but I finally came down in favor (although there was a tiny part of me waiting for Buffy to show up!). I felt like the movie made a general critique of horror specifically because, as a genre, it violently reinforces a strict value system. In a typical horror movie... Stoners? Die. Non-virgins? Die. Mean people? Die. (Although I'm not as opposed to the last one, but still.) The choice the characters face at the end (and I'm trying to say this abstractly enough to not give anything away... might not want to read if you're totally anti-spoilers!) is between loyalty to friendship and bowing to an external authority for the sake of utilitarianism. In a debate between the importance of friends and the importance of a central power structure, Joss Whedon takes a consistent side. This is just a more extreme version than usual. Plus it led to my favorite line with the apology about a werewolf.

    Anywho, I loved this movie! It will be one of the first horror movies I voluntarily see twice. :)

    1. Sort of spoilers...

      LOL I wanted that at the end too! Like a portal connecting the Sunnydale world to this one :P Or Whedon himself to be the thing that came out.

      Either would have been cheesy, but... <3

      And totally agree on the horror movie value system. I like that Whedon kind flipped that attitude the bird in the way he used it.

  3. I wanted to see this one but I couldn't talk my husband into it. Think I'm going to have to wait for the DVD. Boo.

    1. I'm really geeked for the DVD/Bluray release. I'm hoping it has alternate endings. But your hubs will kick himself when he sees it (at least if he's a Whedon fan. It's very very Joss.

  4. I saw this movie opening weekend because I'm a Whedon fanatic and LOVE horror films. I wasn't disappointed. Glad to see someone else appreciate it as well since it really didn't do well at the box office. Nice review. :-)


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