Every so often a horror movie comes along that revitalizes the genre. It does something a bit out of the ordinary that makes horror “fun” again for fans. The Cabin In The Woods is the latest flick to pull off the feat. It was written and directed by Drew Goddard and was produced by Joss Whedon (of The Avengers & Buffy The Vampire Slayer fame). The film stars Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth (pre-Thor fame), Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, and Jesse Williams.
SPOILER ALERT: This review WILL talk openly about the plot of the film. There are “twists” to the plot that will be ruined here. If you want to experience the film as it was intended – which I’d STRONGLY recommend – watch it before reading this review.
PLOT: Senior technicians Gary Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) and Steve Hadley (Bradley Whitford) are planning some sort of ritual. Apparently, there are several such rituals going on around the world in some sort of global “competition”. At this point in the movie we really have no idea what’s going on other than several other competitors have failed.
Meanwhile, too pretty college coeds are planning on spending a romantic, drug and alcohol fueled, weekend in the woods. Dana (Kristen Connolly), Holden (Jesse Williams), Marty (Fran Kranz), Jules (Anna Hutchison) and Curt (Chris Hemsworth) represent a perfect cross section of horror movie teens you’ve seen a million times before. We’ve got some hot women, some jocks, some intellectuals and a stoner who’s smarter than most people who win Jeopardy.
It soon becomes clear that the guys from the intro are somehow manipulating the situation going so far as drugging the “kids” with drugs that gradually hinder their thinking while increasing sex drive and making them make generally stupid horror movie decisions. The group shortly discovers a room full of all kinds of horror movie shit you’ve seen 100 times, including a diary once maintained by Patience Buckner, the former resident of the cabin they’re staying in. Dana takes a linking to the story and (naturally) speaks the incantation from the book summoning the zombie Buckner clan.
Curt and Jules head outside where the guys calling the shots manage to get them to bone. The reanimated Buckners kill Jules but jock Thor manages to escape telling the others what’s going on. Stoner Marty starts to figure out that something’s going on and manages to find cameras watching the group confirming his hunch. He gets snatched by a zombie and drug away to be killed. The rest of the kids attempt to escape only to be thwarted by a convenient rock slide triggered by the guys in charge. Thor is killed trying to be heroic by jumping a ravine on his motorcycle when he runs into some sort of force field. Only then do the rest of the kids start to believe Marty’s theory that they’re being set up.
Holden is killed after their RV crashes and Dana is apparently killed by the last of the zombie clan and the group manipulating the situation celebrates the “win”. The party comes to a crashing halt when they realize that stoner Marty is in fact still alive and well. Not only is he not dead, but he’s managed to rescue Dana and they find their way to the facility where the shot-callers are. There they see a slew of movie monsters being held in wait for the next set of “games”. They’re cornered by security staff, but open up all the cells and the monsters wipe out the security team.
From here, they make their way to an underground temple where the rest of the plot is revealed to them by the “director” Sigourney Weaver. She explains that every year, worldwide rituals take place to appease the “Ancient Ones” who live beneath the Earth. They’re kept at bay by these rituals as long as certain stereotypical beings are slaughtered. This year’s lucky “winners” are the Whore (Jules), the Athlete (Curt), the Scholar (Holden), the Fool (Marty), and the Virgin (Dana). They don’t have to die in any particular order as long as the whore is first and the virgin is last. The virgin (Dana) doesn’t even really have to die… she just need to be the last survivor. If the sun rises with both Marty and Dana alive, the world will end when the Ancient Ones rise up. The Director tells Dana to kill Marty, completing the ritual, but a werewolf attacks Dana. Marty saves her, and the little girl zombie shows up, killing the Director. Marty knocks them both into a pit. The flick ends with Dana and Marty lighting a doobie and waiting for the Ancient Ones to rise up and destroy existence as we know it.
THOUGHTS: That’s a longer plot summary that I normally knock out, but it’s important to understand that level of detail when you’re talking about this flick. Similar to the way Scream did, it takes many of the cliches of the horror genre and turns them on their ear. It starts out as a pretty typical “kids in the wood” horror flick but as the plot evolves it gets simply awesome.
The kills are great with plenty of blood and gore. It’s an outstanding way to give us several types of kills as toward the beginning we get zombies and as the flick goes on we get a ton of others as well. The movie monsters in the facility give us a wide range: Pinhead-types, zombies, unicorns, mermen, killer cobras, ghosts, demons, etc. (I’ll add the video the outstanding kill scene below).
The acting here is top notch. Kristen Connolly is great in the lead role, but I can’t stop thinking about Erin from The Office (Ellie Kemper) every time I saw her. Hemsworth gives a great portrayal as The Athlete, though I’d have preferred if I’d not seen him in Thor beforehand as it skews the performance in my mind (The Cabin In The Woods was filmed before Thor, but release after it). Anna Hutchison does an admirable job being hot and Jesse Williams does an OK job of looking like Alex Rodriguez. I’m not a Grey’s Anatomy fan but I hear he’s on that as well. A special shout out to Fran Kranz here for his portrayal of Shaggy… er… The Fool. He’s got some of the best lines in the flick and he’s a character that the audience can really get behind.
Here’s the monster scene I referenced earlier:
If that doesn’t give you enough to get excited about, I’m not sure what will. This is a gory good time which is super “smart”. It’s a great take on the genre and I had a super enjoyable time watching it even though it was full of quite a few contrivances. It starts out as one type of flick and about halfway through it takes a huge swerve that both the characters and the audience alike don’t see coming. Buzzfeed ran an article recently why The Cabin In The Woods is the perfect Halloween movie. I’m not sure I’d go quite that far but it’s definitely well worth the watch.
Have you seen The Cabin In The Woods? Let us know what you think!