Cabin in the Woods
You already know the way this goes: A group of friends head up to an abandoned cabin in the middle of nowhere and get picked off one at a time. It’s a cliché seen often enough, with a number of successful franchises and mass merchandising around the globe. It’s as traditional and comfortable as an apple pie, as hokey as the Oscar-baiting dramas released in November through January, and as predictable as the sun set. You know the characters… bland and uninteresting caricatures of punishable “offenses” with a lead caricature of “purity” wrapped in naïveté. You already know about the bloody kills, you’ve seen this movie a hundred times over and why should you even bother to see it again with the price of movies as it is?
Let me make this clear: You have not seen this movie yet. You do not know what it is about, you do not know who these five leads are, and you do not know why they are really at this cabin or who is watching and manipulating events from behind the scenes. And while that may be a bit of a spoiler, deal with it because we start the film knowing. I don’t mean it’s obvious from the previews or that I was reading the script before or that someone told me the story. We START the film being introduced to the puppeteers. They’re average guys getting ready for what might as well be another day at the office and preparations are being made for the events that are about to transpire. And by making the audience part of this initial “twist” we are not entirely prepared for the twists that occur later. They disarm us and wrap us into the larger story where every cliché carries a little more weight and depth, where not much is really what it seems, and the true “horror” is revealed a little more slowly than is immediately obvious.
And while there are plenty of twists and turns, this is not a movie that depends upon the shocks to keep its audience engaged. There’s plenty of grue for the traditional gore hound, there’s fantastic humor that is smartly written and expertly delivered by a cast that proves itself extremely capable, and there’s almost an immediate urge to watch this film again for the sake of picking up on side jokes and brief moments the audience may have missed with the first go-round. The script is fantastic and plays with the audience, plays with our expectations and gives the occasional wink and a nod before showing us precisely how they’re going to trick us and then doing it in plain sight. It’s like a Penn & Teller magic show in that respect, but while the humor is there to blow of steam there is a sense of serious urgency in the actions of our puppeteers. This whole train ride is going somewhere and it’s an absolute joy from beginning to the end.
5 out of 5.