The Cabin in the Woods

Stop us if you think you’ve heard this one before. One weekend, five attractive young Americans decide to head to a remote woodland dwelling for few days of hijinks and drinking. Comprising their number we have an archetypal alpha couple (ditzy blonde, letterman jacket), two sensitive souls who look set to hit it off (fun yet moral, handsome yet bookish), and an additional nerdy one who wants nothing more than to get high and talk conspiracies (the Shaggy to their Scooby Gang). But when a game of truth or dare draws them into the cellar, things quickly begin to go awry. Picking up an old book, they read the Latin incantation and… you’ve stopped us. To be honest, we’re surprised it took you so long.

Yet the unusual thing is that, unless you’ve already seen The Cabin in the Woods, your assumptions about it may well be wrong. Sure, all the ingredients are there for an Evil Dead, or perhaps even for a Cabin Fever, but the difference is that this is a film less about these things being there and more about why they’re there. After all, with a script co-written by the creator of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and one of the show’s regular scriptwriters, this was never going to be a straightforward genre piece.

As two men who once took the image of a blonde, peppy teenage girl and turned her into a by-night killer of all things evil, Whedon and Goddard (who also directs) are long-time fans of playing with convention. The Cabin in the Woods is no exception. However, if you’re wondering why this review is taking so long to get to the reveal, please take note that this is a film best served cold. Even if you’ve only seen a trailer, chances are you may already know a little too much. But don’t be put off: this is not so much a tale with a twist as it is an ever escalating journey into self-satire.

With Whedon and Goddard hitting all the key notes – a box-ticking group of friends, a hostile gas station attendant, a cellar chock full of creepy looking artefacts – their film’s playful structure serves as an answer to the questions so often levelled at the genre. Why would sensible students (Connolly and Williams) be friends with an obnoxious jock (Hemsworth) who labels them as eggheads? Out of all the terrifying items in the basement, how do the kids always manage to mess with the one that’s cursed? And why are forests always full of dry-ice? It’s a fun, suitably gory ride, though not one entirely free of bum notes. Some prominent characters in the plot’s supporting segments seem to exist solely to provoke exposition, and the film’s last scene could benefit from being just a few seconds shorter, but such complaints are minor when set against a backdrop of otherwise consistent entertainment.

Smartly written and executed with love, The Cabin in the Woods is a treat not only for horror buffs, but also for the cynics, cannily suggesting that there’s reason all these films play out the way they do.  And with a story that builds wonderfully on its suggestion that these events are not “something from a nightmare”, but rather “something nightmares are from”, we guarantee you won’t find a more brilliantly insane final act any time soon.

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