‘The Cabin in the Woods’

by Ryan Hill

(From left) Fran Kranz, Chris Hemsworth and Anna Hutchison

The rules of a teen horror flick are simple: A group of kids decide to spend a weekend at a remote location. Fueled by drugs, alcohol and hormones, they become alpha versions of themselves, carousing as if it’s their last day on earth. For most of them that’s true, as someone – or something – terrorizes the gang, dispatching the majority of them before the end credits roll. “The Cabin in the Woods” not only dissects those rules, but also the entire horror filmmaking and viewing experience.

Originally filmed in 2009, “The Cabin in the Woods” was a victim of MGM’s bankruptcy, preventing it from being released until now. Starring Kristen Connolly and Chris Hemsworth (“Thor”), the story is one that’s been done a thousand times, most notably in Sam Raimi’s “Evil Dead” series. But “Cabin” one-ups the stakes by adding a mystery to everything going on. Why are these particular kids there? Why do normal kids all of a sudden turn into horror genre stereotypes the second they arrive at their destination? Why is it necessary that they die? It’s almost like a “Twilight Zone” take on a horror film.

The staples of the genre are all here – the nudity, the partying, the unstoppable killer(s), the shock frights, the blood and the gore. There’s also an audience watching the kids’ every move, cheering when one of them bites the dust or fulfills one of the tropes of the genre.

Written by Joss Whedon (“The Avengers,” TV’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) and “Lost” writer Drew Goddard, who also directed, “Cabin” is every bit the genre-bending experience Whedon and “Lost” fans alike would expect, and then some. “Scream” may have been the first horror film to feature characters self-aware of their situation, but “Cabin” takes that to a new level by being aware of horror fans and even makers of the films themselves.

Without giving away too many of the twists, “Cabin” almost serves as an indictment of the entire horror movie experience, especially for fans of the genre. Goddard and Whedon seem to be pointing their fingers at the audience, condemning them for their unquenchable bloodlust and sheer enjoyment out of seeing attractive young people suffer and die. It may seem condescending, but that’s just part of what makes “Cabin” one of the most enjoyable horror films in years.

For the most part, “Cabin” juggles big ideas with a deft touch and a sure hand. The catch is a film this ambitious is nearly impossible to pull off without problems, and “Cabin” is not without a few of them. Goddard, making his directorial debut, leaves a few gaping plot holes, either to strictly adhere to the genre or provide exposition for what’s going on. The story almost falls apart because of these holes, but there are so many theories and ideas floating among the ridiculous violence that it’s difficult not to give the issues more than a passing glance.

“The Cabin in the Woods” is a landmark film in horror, twisting and turning the genre into one of the most entertaining films around as well as an almost academic examination of horror films as a whole. It’s a shame the film is seeing the light of day a whopping three years after it completed filming, but for horror fans, “Cabin” was well worth the wait.

Grade: 3.5/4

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