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The Cabin in the Woods

by on September 23, 2012
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The Cabin in the Woods is a fast-paced thriller about a couple of teens on a remote vacation who are brutally massacred by a family of zombie farmers.

Sound familiar?

That’s the charm of “Cabin.”  As the tagline, “You Think You Know the Story” suggests, there’s a bit more to the tale than the standard horror riff. The film uses the classic horror storyline to comment on the genre itself, while still maintaining a compelling and emotionally involving storyline. Like Shaun of the Dead, it tells a self-aware story without ever falling into the realm of parody. It is referential, but not reverential, to all the horror classics.

Joss Whedon might as well adopt the title ‘Joss the Boss.’ He and Drew Goddard’s script is clever without pretension. It is both frightening and humorous, more often than not simultaneously. The story’s framing mechanism has to be seen to be believed (seriously: the first five minutes are the best ‘cold open’ I’ve seen in years). Whedon and Goddard set out to tell a horror tale divorced from the modern trend of ‘torture porn,’ and they manage it absolutely. I know I keep writing Whedon first, and perhaps that’s a disservice. Goddard’s direction provides quite a few scares and well choreographed moments of triumph (and tragedy, of course).

The cast is led by Kristen Connolly, an relatively unknown actress whose turn as ‘survivor girl’ is well played, and Chris Hemsworth, otherwise known as Marvel’s “Thor.” Hemsworth had yet to be cast as Thor when “Cabin” was filmed in 2009, and while this would not have been a star-making role, he is surprisingly nuanced.  Richard Jenkins of “Six Feet Under” fame and Bradley Whitford of “The West Wing,” however, steal the show as a couple of bickering blue-collar workers. Whitford and Jenkins are ‘too old for this shit,’ but truly companions, two men who just want to clock in and get the job done with as little difficulty as possible. The nature of their job is and how vital it is to the plot, well, that’s something I can’t divulge here. Overall, the film’s character work is good as one should come to expect from Whedon.  Motivations and personalities are clear and resonant. Which comes in handy when the mechanisms of the story cause them to mysteriously change…

I had the story spoiled before seeing the film, and envied ignorance when the credits rolled. Trust me: do not spoil this film. It is clever, violent, funny, and utterly unique. The third act alone is probably responsible for the destruction of fan-fiction communities all over the world.  It’s difficult to imagine another film, another story, topping the Horror-bible scenarios dreamed of in Cabin. Whedon and Goddard set out to tell a horror story their way, and they more than succeeded.

The special features on the disc include the standard commentaries and behind the scenes featurettes.