Wood you believe it: a horror everyone can enjoy

I AM SURE you’ve all heard of the term ‘gender bender’. However, the term ‘genre bender’ (copyright Kevin Evancio, 2012) best aptly describes the latest from writer/director Drew Goddards and his mentor co-writer Joss Whedon. They worked together on the TV shows Buffy and Angel and bring the same sort of horror feel (more stylised and refined than all-out gore) to The Cabin in the Woods. But to classify it simply as a run-of-the-mill horror film does it a great injustice.

One would not be totally incorrect if you described The Cabin… as a comedy. Or a drama. Or even a social commentary. It does such an extremely good job combining humour, characterisation and social poignancy with horror that it is difficult to call it JUST a horror film. It has, in fact, more genuine comedic moments in it than some of the all-out comedic films I have reviewed in the past.

The movie opens oddly, for a horror film, in a military looking facility as two older white collar employees are chatting away as if they were apprenticing for a character on The Office. Follow this up immediately with the movie’s title in bold blood red and you get the idea that there are bound to be sudden jerks in perspective throughout the film. It’s these types of juxtapositions that work in good comedic films that Goddard and Whedon have put to excellent use in The Cabin…

The actual Cabin-bound crew make for the perfect stereotypical horror film eye candy. There is Chris Hemsworth as Curt, the stud athlete,  and his good looking and trampy girlfriend Jules (Hutchison). They bring along their brainy nice guy friend, Holden (Williams), in hopes that he may match up with their conservative bookworm friend Dana (Connelly). Finally there is stoner-dude Marty who may actually have something inside his head other than simply pot smoke. The difference here is that this script rounds them out into characters (some with surprises) that we the audience actually care about. The Cabin… only works if we care about what is happening and to whom.

The reason they go up to the cabin is rather weak, but it doesn’t really matter once they are on their way – although it is rather strange that someone sitting on the roof reports to his superiors that they are en route to the cabin. Meanwhile, we switch back to those two earlier water cooler guys, Sitterson (Jenkins) and Hadley (Whitford), settling into work as the kids get closer to the cabin. While their workstation looks like an early version of a NASA control room, their job tasks have anything but to do with outer space.

By far the film’s best moments belong to Jenkins and Whitford, who bring with them proven acting track records and absolutely nail their parts. Goddards  hit a home run in casting them. They really do make the movie. Plus, all of Goddards’ careful build-up leads to an immensely satisfying payoff: the kind that doesn’t really exist in mainstream modern horror anymore.

This movie is a proverbial feather in his cap for Goddards.

The Cabin in the Woods has a number of amusing twists and surprises, and to share them all would rob the moviegoer of the pleasures experiencing them themselves. And unlike some horror movies that are considered comedic because the films are so bad, The Cabin… is funny and thought-provoking by design. Finally, a horror movie that everyone can, and should see.



The Cabin in the Woods

Dir: Drew Goddards; US horror, 2012, 95 mins; Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford, Jesse Williams,

Chris Hemsworth, Fran Kranz, Kristen Connolly, Anna Hutchison, Brian White, Amy Acker
Premieres May 10
Playing nationwide