I don’t know why I didn’t go see Cabin in the Woods at the cinema when it was released. Written by demi-geek-god Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard (Buffy and Angel), this film had all the signs of being just the thing I like.
Still, I missed it at the cinema and had to wait for the DVD. Then I had to wait for the price of the DVD to drop to a reasonable price. I gave up a little while ago and just bought it.
After last Saturday (when I watched it), it is now one of my most prized DVDs. I’m not sure what I was expecting. I thought it was a horror and it is, but it’s so much more than that. It’s original, clever and witty.
There isn’t a lot of gore in this film, the fear is more pychological and in the form of making you jump every now and then. It’s also a fantasy type of horror rather than one based in reality. I cannot cope with the real horror of a person being kidnapped/tortured/murdered disgustingly but throw in a werewolf/zombie/demon and it’s fine.
Cabin in the Woods is almost a clever spoof of horror films. It begins in an office, which is fairly ominous as anyone who works in an office would know. We then meet the young people. Of course, there is always a group of young people in a standard horror film. Young people with wild hormones, a good sexual appetite and strong screaming lungs. There’s always the blonde girl and the jock, there’s always the kid who does drugs and the academic. There’s always the girl who is naive and looking for love.
Well, this group aren’t like that. These are normal students, fun, kind, lovely students. Except that one of the girls, Jules (Anna Hutchinson), has recently dyed her hair blonde and her boyfriend, Curt (Chris Hemsworth of Thor fame), is built like an athlete despite being a sociology major. Jules’ friend, Dana (Kristen Connelly), has just had a bad break up with her lecturer and has sworn off sex for the time being. Then there’s Marty (Fran Kranz), the drug taking but very intelligent, sweet guy and Curt’s friend, Holden (Jesse Williams), who is being set up with Dana.
What we’re actually looking for is the athlete, the whore, the virgin, the fool and the academic (Holden is pretty smart, especially with glasses on). Well, as they say in the film, they work with what they’ve got.
Yes, (major spoiler coming here) the Cabin in the Woods is a set up by what is essentially a Government branch. They provide the five stereotypes, bending them to their will, pumping hormones into Jules through her hair dye to make her more promiscuous, and chemicals into the others to raise the testosterone in Curt and the virginal feelings in Dana. They have to decide their fate but ultimately, they are a sacrifice to the ancient gods. If the sacrifice should fail, the gods will rise and the world will end. This isn’t just happening in America either, this is taking place all over the world.
It’s a sort of Truman Show meets the Hunger Games and it’s genius.
The writing is also incredibly clever. In most horrors, the viewer will side with someone, usually the victims. But in this case, it’s difficult to pick a side. We want our group of unstereotypical youths to live but if they do then the world will end. This resulted in me being on the edge of my seat throughout the film, never sure if I wanted people to live or die. This is not entirely helped by the fact that all, each and every one, of the characters is truly likeable. There are no villains in this film.
Although the film constantly made me jump and the tense music often made me look away for no good reason, the real fear came towards the end. What should have been scary – the fate which the youths brought upon themselves – was not. What Marty and Dana found beneath the cabin in the woods set, however, was. It was scary and it was incredible. What Marty and Dana found took my breath away. It was one of those simple ideas that I curse myself for not thinking of first.
Speaking of Marty, he was the only predictable character throughout the film and, despite this, also my favourite. The two are connected. Marty was supposed to be the ‘fool’ and if there’s one thing I love in this world, it’s a fool. I’m always drawn to the wacky, good natured, strange ones. The fools tend to be very intelligent and, if the writing is good, the heroes of the day. It is seen throughout literature, and notably fantasy, and the Cabin in the Woods is no different. Perhaps I found Marty predictable purely because of my love for fools. I have unwittingly studied them and so knew how he should respond and what he should be capable of and, because the writing is so good, I was right.
Of course, this is also a Joss Whedon written/produced film so you need to look out for the Whedonites, those actors who are part of Whedon’s circle. Does Chris Hemsworth count? The Cabin in the Woods was his first Whedon film, before The Avengers. Including Mr Hemsworth, I counted four.
The Cabin in the Woods manages to successfully mix an original storyline with humour, philosophy, mythology and nods to other horror films. The writing, acting and special effects leave nothing to be desired. That is why it’s now one of my most prized DVDs and that is why you should all go and watch it!