Dir. Drew Goddard, 95 min., In theaters
Before seeing this film, I suggest you watch the trailer, then prepare to seriously adjust your expectations for what you are about to see.
In my mind, a serious problem with most trailers is that they give away far too much. When I was waiting to see this film, I saw the trailer for the upcoming Sacha Baron Cohen film, The Dictator, where I witnessed what will likely turn out to be fully 75% of the funny moments in the film.
You will not have that problem with The Cabin in the Woods.
From the trailer, you can tell that five college students will end up at a cabin in the woods that is mysteriously controlled by suits in some kind of bunker, but that’s all you get. What you will actually watch is a meta-commentary on the horror genre, a deconstruction of the archetypal characters of said genre, and what can only be described as a comedy.
Because much of the delight in this film is in not knowing anything going in, I can’t really discuss the plot other than what I said above. The characters heading to the woods include a jock, a ditsy blonde, a stoner, and the matched pair of an a nerd (with glasses) and “virgin.” The reasons why there is one person of each type in this friendship clique are flimsy (much like every horror film), but their inclusion becomes readily apparent by the end of the film.
Similar to Cabin Fever (2002), this film smartly invokes cannonical entries in the horror genre, and it manages to avoid the problem of having to finesse in awkward meta-discussion (see the Scream tetralogy). This film is more of an exercise in analysis, culminating in an orgiastic merger of every type of horror film into one; as Ebert puts it in his review, “This is like a final exam for fanboys.”
It’s hard to believe you could stumble into such a great find, but it happened. If you are a lover of horror films, you will be able to appreciate the multitudinous references (as Nicole did when we were watching). Can this film be considered a success outside of a meta-commentary on the genre? Yes, but not as a horror film. While it approaches horror tangentially at points, the scares and gross outs dwindle as the plot progresses and there is no real sense of terror: they do not succeed in making the subject of the film strange or disturbing through atmosphere or exposition.
It’s not hard to imagine why this film sat on the shelf for two years before release. It doesn’t fit neatly into either the horror or comedy genre, but films that successfully combine the two are often instant classics. I’m not sure if this film will enter the pantheon of cult horror, but after leaving the theater I immediately wanted to watch it again.