There are many to whom the mere mention of Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Serenity) will instantly increase their interest in something. But, until The Avengers put him firmly into the Hollywood spotlight, there were many who had never heard the name – those are most likely the people not rushing out to see this independent horror film he created alongside writer/director Drew Goddard (Cloverfield/Lost).
That the film was granted little advertisement worked in its favour – to go into Cabin in the Woods with more than a hint of the plot could seriously damage viewing pleasure. This is not your average horror film; there is no set up to be inevitably paid off twenty minutes from the end. The story, more than a series of jumpy moments, although there are plenty, moves as one excellent arc through proceedings. Every time you think you’ve cottoned onto something the story moves again and the entire experience steps up another notch. Of course there are obvious references to the horror genre played with by the film – The Evil Dead being the most obvious. But it’s important to note that The Cabin in the Woods is not a spoof. It is an out an out horror film from start to finish. That is not to say, however, that it isn’t funny. At times it is so much so that it could rival any of the year’s comedy films for nailing a joke in exactly the right way. There is no humour gained in the genre’s standard way – through the use of cringe worthy awful clichés – the humour is thoroughly intended and it works in the films favour. Softening the tension just enough so that each time it returns the audience is more on edge.
The cast, as might be expected, contains multiple actors from Joss Whedon’s other projects – most notably Chris Hemsworth (The Avengers) and Fran Kranz (Dollhouse) as well as other minor characters. Each cast member brings something and each is in his or her own way excellent but the two standout performances are those of Kranz and leading lady Kristen Connolly. Connolly, a relatively unknown actress before The Cabin in the Woods, holds much of the plot weigh on her own, particularly in scenes in which she is alone on camera. Kranz brings comedy when needed but the rest of the time heightens tension and makes observations set to draw audience attention whilst claiming himself many new fans as Cabin’s best actor and one of the main reasons for the films excellent developments.
It is difficult to review Cabin in the Woods as one might any other film. Whereas normally it might be expected to see hints of a plot in a review, for the purposes of this film it seems necessary to give away nothing. The film is a game-changer in many respects and its ever-unfolding plot sets it leagues above the majority of modern production line horror. Cabin in the Woods is a terrifying experience, occasionally poking fun at the genre but forever highlighting what it is that makes horror lovers so dedicated, and when funny, it’s hilarious. It already looks set to be the horror film of the year, if not one of the films of the year, and hopefully now on the back of The Avengers more people will get the chance to see it. A must see.