There’s a certain curiosity to be had before going in to see The Cabin In The Woods - one that asks the question as to whether it actually does strip the horror genre of its tight cheerleader uniform before grabbing it by its long blonde hair and pulling its head off as promised from its marketing campaign. The combined writing effort of Joss Whedon (creator of Buffy and Angel and writer of Toy Story) and Drew Goddard (writer of Cloverfield), who also directs, there was certainly the promise of a fresh take on a tired format. And it certainly doesn’t fail to deliver - providing us with a smart and reflexive genre film whilst remaining freshly entertaining and full of laughs.
It all starts off with every possible cliché known to man: a jock, a nice guy, a stoner, a whore and a virginal type all venture off for a cabin holiday in the middle of nowhere. They stop off at the traditional creepy gas station and have the usual foreboding crazy gas man act all crazy at them before leaving him behind as the obvious last post of civilisation. They get to the cabin and you instantly picture their blood all over the walls as everything just screams YOU ARE ALL GOING TO DIE!!! Please - stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
But The Cabin In The Woods is much more sophisticated than that. Revealing much of the ulterior plot quite early on in the film, it uses that to riff off the unfortunate events that befall our generic heroes and in turn flip our generic expectations, thus keeping the film continuously fresh despite using the common tropes of horror films. With a tongue firmly in its cheek, it isn’t afraid to use the plot devices that it is mocking in order to propel the story and it falls very firmly into the category of self-referencing films that are being released at the moment (see my review on 21 Jump Street).
However, despite its intelligence it never gets too smart for itself and isn’t afraid to break out the big guns for what quite frankly is one of the most batshit insane third acts I’ve ever seen in any film. There’s plenty of humour and gross out moments to satisfy the teenage audience Hollywood is so desperately trying to please these days - but it doesn’t stoop to the juvenile level of the Scary Movie franchise to get the laughs. The large part of the cast play out their roles to an acceptable standard, with a couple of stand out performances and one completely unexpected appearance - but the large part of the entertainment is down to the fantastic script and solid direction grounded in a firm understanding of the genre they are satirising.
Don’t think there aren’t any scary parts though; there were moments where I did jump a little and a few moments where the tension is ramped up to great effect. And like all good horror films, there is an underlying message or fear that’s in the subconscious of society - but I’ll let you watch it and figure it out because if I were to go into detail, it would spoil some of the twists and turns in this great genre mashing mental film.