The Cabin in the Woods was made back in 2009, before star Chris Hemworth had become a comic book action hero in Thor, then shelved. Choosing to release the movie on both sides of the Atlantic now could be seen as a deliberate ploy to give Hemsworth a bump in popularity ahead of his reprisal of Thunder God Thor in blockbuster Avengers Assemble in the summer, but to even consider that would be to overlook the smart thinking behind The Cabin in the Woods. This self-aware movie is written by long-time collaborative duo Drew Goddard and Joss Wheadon, with the former taking on directing duties, who use a very obvious love for cult shocker The Evil Dead trilogy as the basis for a postmodern, Truman Show style horror.
Wheadon and Goddard make no attempt to hide the formulaic elements of their horror disection. The story is a classic: five college students are embarking on a trip to an old family cabin deep in the middle of distant woods for weekend fun. There’s square-jawed hunk Curt (Hemsworth, again showing he can do Hollywood cheese with dignity), his hot, ditzy blonde girlfriend Jules (Anna Hutchinson), her single best friend Dana (Kristen Connolly) who she’s trying to hook up with new arrival Holden (Jesse Williams) and stoner Marty (Fran Kranz) who is introduced smoking a bong as he drives a car, then claims there is logic as to why the police would not pull him over. So far, so predictable, especially when the whole first scene of Dana sees her missing an item of clothes to retain a little modesty.
If you thought Scream squeezed the last of the clichés out of horror cinema, The Cabin in the Woods_ puts them in the blender for a refreshing spin.
However, The Cabin in the Woods is no ordinary horror film and before we even meet the soon-to-be-threatened teenagers, we’ve met the suited Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) and Hadley (Bradley Whitford) who seem to be working on a science project involving factions in Japan and Spain. They make claims about being reliable and wheel away from their lab-coated colleague Lin (Amy Acker) saying everything will be fine – but for who? It soon transpires the group are being sent to a cabin of peril under their watch and the thrill of the movie isn’t just about which clichés they will have to face, it’s also at guessing under who’s orders Sitterson and Hadley are acting.
Wheadon and Goddard most likely has a whale of a time writing this film and Goddard relishes in the opportunity to nod to one of the finest horror trilogies ever made: The Evil Dead. The cabin, the setting, camera angles and even the background features elements of Sam Raimi’s masterstrokes making for a fan’s dream, plus there are enough red herrings and scenes you think you know which get subtle changes to keep you on the edge of your seat. Then, just when you think you’ve nailed the thinking behind The Cabin in the Woods, there’s a final turn which echoes that of From Dusk Till Dawn in the manner it adjusts your focus for an exciting end. If you thought Scream squeezed the last of the clichés out of horror cinema, The Cabin in the Woods_ puts them in the blender for a refreshing spin.