Review: The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

Directed by: Drew Goddard
Starring: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchinson

As you’ve almost certainly already heard, director/co-writer Drew Goddard’s collaboration with fan-favorite Joss Whedon takes genre conventions, flips them on their heads, then tosses the lot into a messy heap and torches them with a flamethrower. Hyperbolic, indeed, and it’s a shame that the dynamic duo won’t score any points with those outside their intended demographic, however to deny the production of the praise it deserves on account of its unrelenting uniqueness is, frankly, near impossible. This aside, absurdity becomes inevitable as the appealing, non-conforming mean streak Cabinsports gets a bit carried away, but does this take a detrimental toll on the entire production? No it doesn’t, and very understandably so.

Sporting a rather flawlessly competent blend of head-scratching ingenuity, laughs and genuine scares, The Cabin in the Woods gets off to a promising start as peculiar details surface regarding the reality of a group of college students’ fateful trip to a remote vacation retreat. Purposefully laying down the framework for your typical slasher flick with all the presumably laughable archetypal, caricature-esque youngsters unknowingly settling into their respective roles, events unfold at a more than reasonable clip as the truth behind their nightmarish getaway quickly unfolds. Without spoiling what you may or may not already know, let’s just say that they’re not the ones pulling the strings during this meticulously orchestrated bloodbath.

The science behind the scenario laid out before the titular victims is agreeably implausible but admirable as such, allowing the film as a whole to remain more of a ninety-plus minute string of “What if?” instances as shit continuously hits the fan in the most satisfying ways possible. Those with an appetite for blatant genre mash-ups will undeniably be sated as sheer unpredictability paves the way toward the next ridiculous, sometimes hilarious reveal, leaving the film room to fumble slightly beneath the weight of its ambition during a series of increasingly bizarre, gleefully gory latter moments involving a grimly fantastical doomsday scenario. It’s easy to admire how balls-out the sequences in question are, presenting us with alternating bouts of gut-busting laughs and sci-fi infused, literal nightmarish debauchery as things spiral well out of control, allowing Cabin to culminate rather wonderfully despite everything going completely off the deep end. Unfortunately, herein lies a wee bit of room for pretension to set in, prompting those less absorbed by the outlandishness of it all to wonder if Goddard and company had their sights set on originality for originality’s sake, or for the sake of just being the odd man out in a cinematic sea devoid of imitators.

Nitpicking aside, the cast’s ability to deftly portray their confounded assigned stereotypes for the sake of the off-the-wall ritual at the film’s core is quite impressive, flip-flopping between forehead-slappingly naive at the hands of the cabin’s puppeteers and admirably playing against type as they remain all-too-aware of their predicament. Again, it’s refreshing to witness filmmakers throw caution to the wind in an attempt to create something so wholly one-of-a-kind both conceptually and technically, even if the horror itself is rendered negligible by the overbearing nature of the truth behind it all. The Cabin in the Woods, while sure to garner its fair share of detractors on account of its nonstop tomfoolery (and some slightly misleading marketing), is truly something to behold, aiming to please avid fans of horror-comedies, traditional slasher flicks and especially intelligent, moreover creative spins on formulas as trite as this. It’s thanks to its sheer sense of singularity among similar forays into the realm of the genre mash-up that Goddard and Whedon unrelentingly succeed in the areas outlined and more, making discrediting the production to any degree almost unfair given the dynamic duo’s intentions with the wildly inventive concept they’ve so kindly shared with us.

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