Directed by Drew Goddard
Starring Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Fran Kranz, Bradley Whitford, Richard Jenkins
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a group of college kids - a jock, a nerd, a stoner, a slut, a virgin - head off to a remote rural shack for a weekend of fun and debauchery, but find their weekend plans scuppered when they awake an ancient evil that proceeds to fold, mutilate, and spindle them.
It’s the plot of every second horror movie produced for the last 35 years. Thankfully, debut feature director Drew Goddard, who co-wrote the film with geek svengali Joss Whedon, adds an intriguing extra layer to the scenario in the form of two bureaucrats (Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins) in a high-tech laboratory, who seem to be observing and orchestrating the events. But to what purpose?
And that’s really all the news that’s fit to print. Cabin is a perfect film to go into blind, and horror fans, having already learned who’s behind the curtain on this one, should already be running to the cinema. Not that the film’s appeal is predicated on a Shyamalan-style twist; rather, much of the enjoyment comes from the way the film’s underpinnings are slowly revealed as the story progresses. It’s a jigsaw puzzle, not a riddle; you already know what the final picture is going to look like, more or less, but it’s so satisfying to watch as the pieces come together.
Goddard and Whedon have crafted a smart, funny, and scary film that works as both an examination and celebration of the genre. While it starts out as a commentary that focuses solely on the hoary old teen slasher subset, the film’s scope soon widens to take in every aspect of the horror world. Zombies? Check. Torture porn? Check? Lank-haired Japanese ghost girls? Check. Lovecraftian cosmological terror? Check. The Cabin is vast, and savvy viewers will find countless homages tucked within its rooms.
And yet, whereas Wes Craven’s Scream - Cabin’s most obvious thematic antecedent - took great delight in splaying open the genre’s tropes like a pithed frog, rendering them largely inert and frightless, here we never lose sight of the base and visceral aims of the genre: to shock, to scare, and - let’s face it - to delight. While the film’s subtext is a rumination on the sociological and psychological implications of the deathless popularity - you can’t deny that a big part of the appeal of any splatter flick is the anticipation of seeing some luckless fool chopped into quivering piles of human sashimi - it never overwhelms the main thrust of the narrative. Goddard and Whedon manage to both comment on and satiate our voyeuristic and sadistic urges at the same time, and that’s an impressive trick.
Delayed from release for three years following MGM’s recent financial woes, The Cabin In The Woods is finally seeing the light of day, although with a very limited theatrical run. An instant genre classic, this should be at the top of any self-respecting gorehound’s must-see list.