One of the reasons I like horror movies is because they’re simple. They feature some evil force whether some near indestructible boogeyman finding creative ways to kill teens or some creepy curse possessing people and slowly wiping them out. It’s a good and safe formula and one that’s worked pretty well for a long time.
To paraphrase Ke$ha (and how many times do you think those words have been uttered?) horror movies are what they are. Occasionally there’s room for a horror movie with a twist ending you don’t see coming like a “Friday the 13th” or “Scream,” but since horror fans are the least demanding fans, it’s not necessary.
Director/Writer Drew Goddard (“Lost”) and co-writer Joss Whedon (“Serenity”) unite to put a new spin on the genre with “The Cabin in the Woods,” a hodgepodge of every horror cliché with a bit of reality TV thrown just for fun.
Your enjoyment of the film is largely going to hinge on whether you like the payoff, which is built up considerably throughout. For me, Goddard sets up the big reveal so much that while I watching the normal horror movie trappings, I was more interested with the end result that could make this good movie great depending on the ending. It’s close, but Goddard doesn’t nail the landing.
Five friends go to a cabin for a fun-filled, memorable weekend. All the horror movie archetypes are here from the jock (“Thor’s” Chris Hemsworth exuding his star in the making charisma), the party girl/slut (Anna Hutchison), the scholar (Jesse Williams, “Brooklyn’s Finest”), the stoner (Fran Kranz, “Training Day”) and the virginal sweet girl (Kristen Connolly, “The Happening”).
From the moment they start their vacation, they’re being monitored by a secret organization, led by Sitterson (Richard Jenkins, “Liberal Arts”) and Hadley (Bradley Whitford, “The West Wing”) who are less concerned with being voyeurs than whatever reason for the observation. Less sure of how everything will play out are security rep Truman (Brian White) and chemist expert Lin (Amy Acker). Jenkins and Whitford are a blast and such a random pairing that I’d easily have been fine watching them interacting for the entire film. The friends quickly learn not all is what it appears in the cabin as Sitterson and Hadley watch and await the inevitable conclusion amidst bets, tequila and dancing.
Not surprisingly for a Whedon-penned project, the dialogue is sharp, poking good-natured fun at horror traditions with a twist. Goddard stays true to horror guidelines while Sitterson and Hadley play the role of the audience (and Goddard and Whedon) sarcastically mocking the proceedings.
It’s all great fun until the ending, which feels a little too safe, simple and silly to what had otherwise been an enjoyably twisted horror film. It’s worth a watch as it’s an unusual take on the genre just don’t expect too much from the over-the-top finale.
Rating: 6 out of 10
Photo credit: Diyah Pera/Lionsgate Publicity