Filmed in 2009 but left in distributor limbo after MGM went bankrupt, Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard's The Cabin In The Woods finally picked up a new distributor (Lionsgate who distributed the Saw franchise) and has finally made it to the cinemas. I have to say, it would have been a crying shame to have left such an inventive, funny and downright bizarre movie on the shelf.
We know the set-up. Five young and nubile guys and gals- jock Curt (Chris Hemsworth), wild girl Jules (Anna Hutchison), good girl Dana (Kristen Connolly), studious Holden (Jesse Williams) and stoner Marty (Fran Kranz)- take off from the city for a weekend away at the titlular dwelling. Everything seems primed for a Texas Chainsaw Massacre type of scenario - a sinister local, dilapidated cabin, the characters morally transgressing (sex, drink and drugs, oh my!)- and, true to form, the cabin comes under attack. It's a fight for survival and not everyone will make it out unscathed. So far, so-so. A well-worn tale, I'm sure you'll agree.
But then you have to factor in the genius of Joss Whedon. If you've seen the extended trailer, this won't be a spoiler in the strictest sense of the word: the events in the cabin and its surroundings are being manipulated by a shadowy underground team (played perfectly by Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford). But why? This plot reveal is where things go into the truly surreal- it kind of comes out of left-field- and I'm certainly not going to spoil it for you. I think this twist will be the test of what people think of the film: you may, like me, think it was a reasonable (if slightly insane) explanation or it may be a preposterousness too far. You be the judge.
For me, I really liked the film. I'm not a huge fan of horror, having been repulsed and bored by many subpar slashers who think that breasts and blood come first with a decent plot limping in at the end. The Cabin In The Woods plays with this notion quite well; the film comes off as a bit of a mix- taking Scream's self-referentiality and mixing in a bit of The Evil Dead's comedy-horror blend. The gore is not excessively over-the-top (until the end) and some moments are a bit jumpy. There's also a great deal of comedy to be found- Marty gets some of the best lines which had the audience in stitches and there's a particularly funny scene involving a telephone call on speakerphone which had me giggling.
In the last thirty minutes or so, things do get a bit out there but there's a stunning cameo which I didn't expect. All said, the film is a bit crazy but very enjoyable nonetheless.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5