I can’t remember the last time I left the cinema feeling so frustrated. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not frustrated at the film itself. I’m frustrated at having to review the thing for the benefit of those yet to see it while I’m dying to mention 101 things that I can’t actually mention to people until they’ve seen the movie. As if to emphasise my point, I tried to praise this movie to my wife when I came back from the cinema. I knew that I couldn’t spoil anything for her (she’d only missed the showing due to unfortunate timing and it’s a film that we both were looking forward to seeing) but I wanted to share just one great moment, that I considered unrelated to the main content of the movie. Then, and luckily, I thought a bit more before I spoke. Then I sighed. “Nope,” I said, “I can’t even tell you what I was going to tell you as it would spoil some of the good stuff”.
Frustrating. Times THAT frustration by ten and that’s where I sit while trying to form this review. I don’t want to mention anything that could spoil the good stuff for you. But 95% of this movie IS good stuff. When was the last time that a movie you were so eager to see actually lived up to your expectations? And even excelled them? Okay, it can happen. It’s rare but it’s not unheard of. But how often has it happened with a movie that you then realised you couldn’t really say ANYTHING about?
Having carefully considered every part of what I’m about to write I have decided that I can safely say the following: The Cabin In The Woods sets up every genre standard as a bunch of energetic youngsters head out for a break to the titular building. It then spends over 3/4 of the film twisting, breaking and/or re-energising them all. If you hated Scream then you may hate this but, despite the fact that I rate the two equally, I suspect that there’s a chance even those who disliked the postmodernism of that film could find it in their hearts to love this one. In ways that I daren’t mention, it has a fantastic gimmick that allows for the same level of playfulness with the horror genre trappings while also never turning into something that feels the need to toy with the audience. There is plenty to discover along the way but we, the viewers, remain one step ahead of the central characters and THAT is the biggest difference that separates this from Craven’s modern classic.
The cast are all superb. Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz and Jesse Williams make up the group of pretty young things and they’re all very likeable, some more than others. Each character gets at least one great moment as the plot unfolds and the madness escalates. Then we have Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford almost stealing the entire movie with their interplay and deadpanning.
Director Drew Goddard, working from the script co-written by himself and (as if you didn’t already know) Joss Whedon, gets things almost perfect from the very beginning. Do be warned that this is a smart horror comedy through and through, purists after something with a standard machete-happy killer will feel disappointed, but it will be the “full-time” horror fans who derive the most pleasure from it as they pick up on reference after reference. Other moviegoers will be entertained, if they know what they’re getting into, but they won’t find it as rewarding as those with a more extensive knowledge of the horror genre.
There are maybe 10 minutes that feel like a generic horror movie but the rest is pretty much unlike anything you’ve ever seen in the genre before now. If you think that I’m being far too complimentary and obviously talking rubbish then just hold on to that thought until you see the movie. Then PM me so that we can both praise the film without spoiling it for everyone else.
The Cabin In The Woods hits UK cinemas on Friday 13th April and I implore all horror fans to go and lend it their support. Pretty please. I’d love to see this make a dent at the box office and surprise the Hollywood execs who just love to categorise and compartmentalise everything.
DIRECTOR: DREW GODDARD
WRITER: JOSS WHEDON, DREW GODDARD
STARS: RICHARD JENKINS, BRADLEY WHITFORD, JESSE WILLIAMS, CHRIS HEMSWORTH, FRAN KRANZ, KRISTEN CONNOLLY, ANNA HUTCHISON, BRIAN WHITE, AMY ACKER
RUNTIME: 105 MINS APPROX