In times like this, I kinda want to pull my hair out. Most movies, books etc. can be explained in fairly straight forward terms without the fear of ruining the experience. Even those based around some pivotal twist moment can be dealt with by avoiding that moment and working with the rest. But, what the hell am I supposed to do with a movie that constantly twists expectations and uses that to create the tension that makes the story work?
So, please forgive me if I am a bit vague here.
If you don’t know the drill, I don’t know what to say for you: Like the set up to a bad joke, five college kids go out to a family cabin out in the remote woods of … somewhere. Of course, there are the requisite stoner, jock, slut, brain and sweet innocent girl who just had her heart broken. They ignore the warning of the crabby, creepy old man at the broken down gas station and proceed to party it up with a game of truth or dare until they find something in the cellar of the cabin. Blood, boobs and guts ensue.
Nothing new there, except that everything about how the situation is treated is very much so. I don’t want to call this a horror movie about horror movies, because that calls to mind self-referential material like Scream and Behind the Mask. No one in Cabin in the Woods ever utters the dreaded “This is just like a horror movie” and it never directly winks at the audience. At the same time, every standard trope is used in some way and they are all used purposefully. Maybe I should just call it a movie about our fascination with horror and how we deal with it and let you draw your conclusion when you see it.
Trust me here, you do want to see this. The acting’s spot on, the script is tight and the action is paced well, creating a nice rhythm of laughter, horror and abject confusion. Joe Bob Briggs fans will love the inclusion of Anne Hutchinson’s tits, though there are some that will be just as enthralled with Jesse Williams shirtless, as well as the profusion of flying blood and body parts. Whedon fans will adore the sharp dialogue. Everyone should like the fleshed out characters and the solid acting (Fran Kranz, as the burnout realizing more than even he thinks he should is especially interesting to watch). And the choice of "Last" by Nine Inch Nails as the credits rolled was pure genius. It’s just a damn good movie.
I warned that I would be vague and I don’t want to say more than that for fear of ruining the experience. Hopefully, it will be enough to say that I was sporting a grin that split my head in half and that I overheard someone saying “what did I just see?” as I was leaving the theater. I can’t come up with a better endorsement than that.