The Cabin in the Woods

Directed By: Drew Goddard

Starring: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Richard Jenkins, and Bradley Whitford

It's Friday the 13th, and I'm here to talk about a newly released horror flick.  There is a catch though.  It doesn't involve the undead, machete-wielding menace Jason Voorhees.  I'm talking about the new horror movie The Cabin in the Woods by Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon.  While this new horror flick does pay homage to Jason and many other legendary murderers, it takes the campy horror formula perfected by these icons of terror and shakes things up in a refreshingly innovative way.

Curt (Chris Hemsworth) decides to take his girlfriend Jules (Anna Hutchison) and their friends—Dana (Kristen Connolly), Marty (Fran Kranz), and Holden (Jesse Williams)—to his cousin's cabin in the woods.  They're trying to set up Holden, who just arrived on campus, with the reluctant Dana, who just got out of a relationship with her naughty professor.  Marty, on the other hand, already has a date for the trip, a bong full of weed.  The five friends get in a van and drive off into the remote woods where the cabin is located.  Along the way, they get spooked by a man named Mordecai (Tim De Zarn) at a gas station near the woods, but they just keep going anyway.

After getting settled in the cabin, things start to get interesting as the vacation of these friends becomes a reality TV show for scientists in a nearby underground facility.  Led by Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) and Hadley (Bradley Whitford), the scientists unleash hell on these young teens.  They create a situation whereby Dana is dared by her friends to go down into a cellar in the cabin.  There she ends up reading some words from an old diary that wake the undead Buckner family.  Dana has unknowingly chosen how she and her friends will die.  With blood-thirsty zombies on the loose, the scientists facilitate the murderous sacrifices of the five friends to the ancient gods.  There's just one problem.  Marty is onto their game and is not going to roll over and die.

Reality TV has been a noticeable theme in big blockbusters as of late.  We just got a taste of Katniss Everdeen and her struggle to survive the other kids in The Hunger Games.  Now, we've got a survival story of a different sort.  The Cabin in the Woods is a sleek horror flick that takes reality TV in a new direction and introduces us to a whole new world of blood and brutality where killers and victims are both puppets in a much larger game of survival.

Goddard and Whedon build a film that relies heavily on horror clichés and a formula of sex, drugs, and youth that many before them have employed.  You have the whore, the athlete, the scholar, the fool, and the virgin.  They all go into the woods and go off the grid away from everyone and everything.  They have no way of reaching the outside world and no way of escaping the terror that awaits them.  This has been done a million times already on the big screen, but we have to suffer through Goddard and Whedon setting this situation up all over again.  While I understand its purpose, it's still tough to endure during the first 30 minutes or so of the movie.

The Cabin in the Woods is a flick that pays homage to every killer to ever slice up some horny teens on the big screen.  While there are plenty of overt references to many series, there are three that stand out.  The formula used pays considerable respects to Friday the 13th, Halloween, and especially The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. An undead zombie family is terrorizing the woods.  That definitely has echoes of Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, and most notably Leatherface.

The Cabin in the Woods has a slow start because Goddard and Whedon try to play on every horror stereotype in the book.  Despite this, the film ultimately gives a nightmarish yet fun critique of the horror genre.  The scientists trying to appease the ancient gods resemble studio executives trying to please their wallets by peddling the same formulaic horror films into theaters over and over again for decades.  I do respect the creative and innovative filmmaking behind The Cabin in the Woods.  However, the second half of the film improves upon a rather boring opening.  The Cabin in the Woods gets a 0.06% rating.  Have a few rounds of beer during this one.