Stars: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams
Genre: Horror, Comedy, Satire, Parody
I'll start out by saying that though there won't be any major spoilers in this review, I'd recommend, if you have yet to see this, that you watch it before reading this review as your viewing experience will most likely be significantly greater if you go into it with the least amount of prior knowledge possible.
The Cabin in the Woods is a extremely detailed love letter to the horror genre. Though it's really only barely a horror film itself, sure it has horror elements, even science fiction elements, but it really is just a comedy.
A group of five teenagers go out to a cabin in the woods (surprise) on a vacation or orgy or whatever. But, of course, some odd things start happening. So yes, it's essentially every other slasher film ever made. And that's the point. It's a satire of the genre.
The entire first hour of the film is basically an Evil Dead remake. The cabin looks nearly the same. Even the interior is very similar, donning a mounted animal head as well. There is of course a cellar door. They read Latin text from a book they find and it in turn summons creatures back from the dead. The inescapable woods. The first hour is The Evil Dead. It really is. Though, admittedly, not quite as good as the Evil Dead.
But this kind of works negatively for the film. I was actually a bit bored in the first hour because even though it was done intentionally, it was still boring and predictable. It just plays out like a generic zombie flick. It's like a really bad parody rather than a clever satire. And that really holds true for the entire film: at times it can be a very clever satire but it's also very often just a dumb parody. The only thing that got me through the first hour were all the references, but putting references in a film is easy; no artistic talents needed.
The characters are stereotypical slasher film characters, again done intentionally. It was cool how they started out as regular people, but upon arriving at the cabin they all turned into typical slasher characters, due to the puppeteers of course. The only one that wasn't effected was the stoner because due to smoking so much pot he was immune, but he started out as a stereotypical character anyway. So it's cool how they did that, but, that being said, they're still boring and stupid characters.
They make stupid decisions, done intentionally of course, and the film will make a joke about it but it's still stupid. Just because the film is aware of its stupidity barely justifies its stupidity in my book. It's just a cheap excuse. Don't get me wrong, I love so-bad-it's-good films, but this just feels...too easy? I dunno.
Also, am I the only one that felt like they were Scooby-Doo characters? You have the dumb jock who tells everyone to split up (Fred), the stoner with messy hair (Shaggy), the smart, sensitive girl (Velma), the slut (Daphne), and I guess that other guy was Scooby. And they drive around in a van.
There are tons of references to other horror films in here. TONS. Even the title card is a nod to '70s grindhouse flicks. Just the ones I caught alone couldn't be counted on my fingers and toes. This truly is a horror fan's horror and anyone dedicated to the genre will be greatly rewarded with tons of references that will probably all bring a smile to their faces. There was even a Boomer from Left 4 Dead in here, which I thought I only imagined and even when I rewinded it I could barely believe my eyes. It'd be pointless to try and name half the references in here. Maybe when I rewatch it I will make another post listing all the references I caught. To give a brief idea here are just a few films that were referenced: Ju-On (The Grudge), King Kong, Hellraiser, The Thing, It, Cube, Evil Dead series, etc.
In the last 35 minutes is where things get especially good. Again, if you didn't see it yet, I recommend watching it before continuing. The whole film we know that the teenagers are being spied on and manipulated, we don't know exactly why, but we know. The film opted for letting us know early on rather than saving it for later for a twist ending type of thing. I think the twist ending route would have been more effective but the route they went with led to more laughs and more references. So I guess it worked out.
The last thirty five minutes not only contains the most references but also the most action. Seriously, shit just gets crazy. Dozens and dozens of monsters are on the loose and killing anything they see, and though I hate that they used CGI for certain parts that I feel could have been done awesomely without, I can't help but love it at the same time. Who can forget that bloodied room scene? That was unbelievably awesome. But as many have asked before, out of all those monsters they had, why in the world did they chose to have zombies for the first hour?
So the last half hour of the film really, really makes this worth watching. It stops being a typical slasher, it stops being a typical parody of a typical slasher, and it becomes complete mayhem and fun. Just pure awesomeness. Everything you hope happens, happens.
I hear a lot of people calling this film intelligent or clever or groundbreaking. I think those people are idiots. This film is not smart or artistic, it is just a very fun time with a load of references. So it is a bit overrated in that regard, but I also think that those who dislike this film because it's mindless fun are idiots also. Enjoy yourself, it's quite the fun ride.
Again, this isn't really a horror film, there's nothing scary in it. I suppose it's more of a comedy, but there's really only a few genuinely hilarious parts. It's a parody, it's a satire, I just think it's crazy. I can't say this enough, those last thirty five minutes man...CRAZY.
The ending was a bit of a cop-out and a tad unsatisfactory (I'm talking about like last 3 minutes). But it wraps up the film well enough while leaving it open for possible sequels (in typical slasher fashion). Plus we get a cameo by Sigourney Weaver (Ellen Ripley from Alien), so I suppose it suffices.
So The Cabin in the Wood's strongest points are also its weakest. All the references are cool, but references alone don't make a film good. It makes fun of the stupidity in slashers, but that in turn makes itself stupid. The characters are humorously portrayed as stereotypes, but they're still stereotypes. So I suppose it conforms to as many conventions as it breaks. I also feel that there was a bit of missed potential in the first half of the film; I liked where they were going with the whole "chose how you die" thing, but it never capitalized on it.
The Cabin in the Woods really is just as dumb as the films it pokes fun at, and it's much less intelligent than many of the films it references. The plot, even towards the end, is not incredible. It's just ridiculous. Which bring me to my point: This film is not art; it is pure enjoyment and any one who can't enjoy themselves while watching this, the end in particular, is either completely missing the point or is a real boring person.
I will compliment the point made in having the evil gods (ancient ones), or gods of any sort really, of whom many sacrifices have been made to, be a big metaphor for the audiences themselves. It is the audiences who demand and truly create the stereotypes of film. The audiences demand a certain formula, a standard, and must be kept entertained by the directors. That is an example of cleverness in this film.
Maybe one of the main problems I have with this film is that it is demanding horror filmmakers to up their game and create something new and unique, but yet The Cabin in the Woods doesn't practice what it preaches. Instead of setting a new standard by creating a groundbreaking horror film, it just threatens to ridicule any that don't. Sure, The Cabin in the Woods is much fresher than many releases we've been seeing lately, but it still doesn't really do anything new, it just spices things up a bit.
There's no amazing cinematography or engaging characters here. No impressive script writing, no great non-CGI effects. It really is a B-movie with a big budget, no matter how contradictory that may sound.
I hate this film as much as I love it. And it's just as easy to hate this film as it is to love it. I'm a bit in-between but I'm immensely glad I watched it, I may even watch it again, and I'd gladly watch a sequel.
Watch it, you'll have a good time. Horror fans will love trying to catch all the references and nods, and it may even warrant a second viewing to try and spot them all. The first hour is pretty unlikable, but I'll be damned if I can think of a single person who wouldn't enjoy the last thirty five minutes.
+Puts a bit of a spin on the genre
-Not much originality or artistic merit
-The first hour kind of sucks and rides a fine line between plagiarism and parody
-Characters, though satirical, are unlikable
-Stuck between genres