Remote and Controlled
The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
Five years ago in a review of “28 Weeks Later,” I extolled the virtues of Danny Boyle’s “28 Days Later,” describing it as “genre busting” and praising it for reviving and redefining the horror genre — even going so far as to call it “a wake up call” to the industry. Well, if Mr. Boyle’s intelligent and sophisticated zombie romp did indeed succeed in doing that, then Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard’s “The Cabin in the Woods” can only be described as a landmark, watershed moment in film history, because this is such an innovative, brave, inspired and original entry into the horror oeuvre that nothing will ever be the same again.
Whereas Wes Craven’s self-referential, genre-mocking “Scream” played with convention, “The Cabin in the Woods” positively delights and revels in it, indulging in knowing nods and winks to the history of the genre. Ostensibly, its premise is the typical clichéd collection of kids-go-down-to-the-woods-and-get-into-all-manner-of-scrapes type fare, but this is in fact so much more than your standard slasher film.
It’s impossible to delve into any details about the plot without giving away what makes “The Cabin in the Woods” such a winner, but let’s just say that the suitably creaky cabin and the identikit harbinger our heroes encounter en route are not all that they seem. Tonally, Messrs. Whedon and Goddard’s script is incredibly self-aware and tongue-in-cheek; and there are numerous laugh-out-loud moments, the majority of which come from stoner Marty (a superb Fran Kranz).
As events play out, jaws will invariably hit floors as Messrs. Whedon and Goddard continuously turned the genre on its head, picked it up, spun it round and kicked it up the ass. It’s a subversive, deliciously violent, hilarious roller coaster that is expertly realized and superbly played. As chaos ensues in the final act, it’s obvious that Messrs. Whedon and Goodard were luxuriating in an unbelievably frenzied celebration of horror. It’s unrelenting, frenetic and tremendous fun; and crucially, it always remains the right side of the farcical.
Messrs. Whedon and Goddard have done what Mr. Craven did 16 years ago, but with bells the size of Big Ben on. They’ve broken new ground in what was rapidly — and not for the first time — becoming a staid genre. “The Cabin in the Woods” hasn’t just re-energized the genre; it’s positively and completely reinvented it. This is game-changing stuff and an absolutely essential piece of filmmaking.
THE CABIN IN THE WOODS
Opens on April 13 in the United States and Britain.
Directed by Drew Goddard; written by Joss Whedon and Mr. Goddard; director of photography, Peter Deming; edited by Lisa Lassek; music by David Julyan; production design by Martin Whist; costumes by Shawna Trpcic; produced by Mr. Whedon; released by Lionsgate. Running time: 1 hour 35 minutes. This film is rated R by M.P.A.A. and 15 by B.B.F.C.
WITH: Kristen Connolly (Dana), Chris Hemsworth (Curt), Anna Hutchison (Jules), Fran Kranz (Marty), Jesse Williams (Holden), Richard Jenkins (Sitterson), Bradley Whitford (Hadley), Brian White (Truman) and Amy Acker (Lin).