There are two things that I want to say about The Cabin in the Woods before I start the review proper. The first is that, if anyone tries to tell you the best thing, or the coolest thing, or the weirdest thing about this movie, do yourself a favor and hit them in the head with a shovel. This is not, repeat, not a movie you want spoiled for you. Trust me, it doesn't matter what they qualify it with, or how they present it, just knock them the fuck out.
The second thing is that, in talking about this movie, I might accidentally spoil it. So I'm gonna pull a Black Swan here and tell you: This is the best horror film I've seen since 2007 when Let the Right One In blew me away, the best American Horror film since I cannot even REMEMBER when, and easily the best film I've seen all year. It will inevitably be listed among the best horror-comedies ever made right up there with Shaun of the Dead. So before you read the rest of this review, GO! FUCKING! SEE! THE CABIN IN THE WOODS! No, no excuses. I don't care that you don't like horror or Joss Whedon or whatever. Go fucking see it. Seen it already? Go see it again. Once you've seen it, you can come back and read the rest of the review. Or not, just see it.
Alright, you're back. Wasn't that great? Anyway, as you probably know, since you're pressing on, the movie is about...5 teenagers who are going up to a Cabin...which is in the Woods. Once they get up there they discover the requisite creepy basement and are soon under siege by unknown evil. Yeah yeah, I know, this sounds like the setup of 100 other horror films. But, Cabin is looking to use that, both as a jumping off point for it's own incredibly unique narrative, and a surprisingly deep meta-narrative about the business of making horror films itself. All of this is leading into one of the all time greatest third acts in a horror film ever, which as stated above will NOT BE SPOILED HERE!
Aside from that there's not a whole lot to talk about. The special effects are out and out incredible throughout, from the fantastic practical effects and makeup to some great CGI. The script is pure Whedon, balancing varied characters, smart characterization and genuine funny dialogue. While I was repeatedly frightened or surprised, I was shocked by how often I, and the audience, found ourselves laughing, sometimes at an amusing line, sometimes at a well presented moment. Drew Goddard proves himself an excellent director, with fantastic camera work and great mood setting.
Even the actors do great jobs, and while the requisite number of Whedon TV show alumni appear (for those of you who like Buffy/Angel/Dollhouse, I counted Fred, Andrew and Topher), it doesn't feel forced and everyone is well suited for their parts. Fran Kranz in particular reminds me why I was so fond of him on Dollhouse and Chris Hemsworth (looking oddly younger than he did in Thor a year ago) and Kristen Connolly are both brilliant in their parts. But the supporting standouts are Richard Jenkins and Steve Hadley in small but important parts that they really bring their A-Games to.
The math is NOT hard on this one guys. This is the best film to open wide this year so far and easily one of the best horror films you could hope for. There is literally no reason for you to avoid this, unless you have some strange hatred of fun and good things. Do not miss this one. Also: Go see it in theaters. Don't pirate it, don't wait for DVD, don't sneak in. Go to the theater, buy a ticket to see it, and sit in the theater. Partially because, you know if a movie's good, it should get support, but also because based on this movie, I'd love Drew Goddard to get a proper directing career (Whedon, who is doing Avengers is doing fine...in fact, that's probably why it finally hit theaters) and because horror movies this good do NOT come along often enough. And if it dies at the box office, I will be PISSED! See you next time.
Elessar is a 22 year old Alaskan born cinephile, and he's unhappy we didn't get 'Grr! Argh!' in the end credits.