Yesterday I started off my horrorathon (see what I did there? I am so awesome!) with a vintage film about one monster. Today I am going to talk about the exact opposite. If you even utter Cabin in the Woods to anyone people will yell at you to not spoil it, so approach with caution if you are the one person on Earth that has not seen it yet. I have warned you.
This film has been buzzing around the film geek world ever since it came out in April of this year. The Whedon fanatics proclaimed this film to be one of the best things he has ever done. But their inclination to not discuss any aspect of the film for fear of giving the dramatic twist away made me feel like they were pulling my leg. Also a couple of critics that I consider important either hated it or thought it was just okay without giving reasons why they thought it was bad because they did not want to spoil the dramatic twist. So my burning sensation to see it in the theaters died pretty quickly after I found out no one actually wanted to discuss the film. But boredom, and roommates’ redbox purchases led me to see it a couple of nights ago. I have been debating ever since on whether or not I should give the twist away.
The film starts off innocent enough if slightly plastic and boring. A group of stereotypical teenagers (stereotypical for a reason now!) head out to the woods in order to enjoy a weekend of debauchery. However they have got something in store for them. This story is juxtaposed with two men (Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford… great choices by the way, Mr. Whedon) dressed up in suits working in what seems like a high-tech plant. But wait are these men watching this group of teenagers? Creepy!
Meta horror can be grating on my nerves. I get it you are making fun of these clichés that you have seen (and everyone else has seen by the way) over the last couple of years, but have you actually succeeded in telling a good story full of suspense? Most of the time this film succeeds in telling a compelling story with some suspense. But I would not call this film a masterpiece. I would call it an almost masterpiece. There are places in this film where the story just drags beyond any comprehension. We spend waaay too much time with the vapid teenagers before we get to any of the good scares. (By the way I know by the end they made two of the teenagers compelling but how much harder could it be to make all of them compelling? I am looking at the bimbo girl and her boyfriend. Man I wanted to kick them in the face.) The control room scenes that happen while the killings are happening seems to slow the film down more than it needed to be. The dialogue also seemed to be a little bit to spot on for me. But all of these things seem like minor things compared to the blast in the face the second act is. The events that happen in this act are so superbly done that I completely forgot the annoying stuff that troubled me in the first act. This is where the film actually started to feel like that film all those geeks were singing about so many months ago. I was scared, I was creeped out, and I was at the edge of my seat. It was invigorating. If only the first act was the same way.
One of the things that I would like to commend Mr. Whedon for would be the two main characters. He took two well-worn archetypes, the virgin and the stoner, and gave them some depth. It is hard for a writer of big budget films to give a stoner any motivation beyond the incessant need to get high. I liked how he turned this compulsion to constantly be high into a way for the wool to be taken off of his eyes. He knew that what was going on around him was wrong and a set up long before any one else did. It was refreshing.
I will end with this thought: What if Joss Whedon wasn’t making this film because it was just an unique premise but because he wanted to warn us that if we stopped making archetypical horror films that what happened at the end of this film will happen to us? Think about that and get back to me with your wacked out theories.