The Cabin in the Woods (2011)

12 Mar

Five years ago in a review of 28 Weeks Later I extolled the virtues of Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later, describing it as “genre busting” and praising it for reviving and redefining the horror genre, even going so far as to call it “ a wakeup call” to the industry.  Well, if Boyle’s intelligent and sophisticated zombie romp did indeed succeed in doing that, then Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard’s The Cabin in the Woods can only be described as a landmark, watershed moment in film history, because this is such an innovative, brave, inspired and original entry into the horror oeuvre that nothing will ever be the same again.

Whereas Wes Craven’s self-referential, genre mocking Scream played with convention; The Cabin in the Woods positively delights and revels in it, indulging in knowing nods and winks to the history of the genre.  Ostensibly its premise is the typical clichéd collection of kids go down to the woods and get into all manner of scrapes type fare, but this is in fact so much more than your standard slasher film.

It’s impossible to delve into any details about the plot without giving away what makes The Cabin in the Woods such a winner, but let’s just say that the suitably creaky cabin and the identikit harbinger our heroes encounter en route are not all that they seem.  Tonally, Whedon and Goddard’s script is incredibly self-aware and tongue in cheek and there are numerous laughs out loud moments, the majority of which come from stoner Marty (a superb Fran Kranz).

As events play out, jaws will invariably hit floors as Whedon and Goddard continuously turn the genre on its head, pick it up, spin it round and kick it up the ass.  It’s a subversive, deliciously violent, hilarious rollercoaster that is expertly realised and superbly played.  As chaos ensues in the final act, it’s obvious that Whedon and Goodard are luxuriating in an unbelievably frenzied celebration of horror.  It’s unrelenting, frenetic and tremendous fun which crucially always remains the right side of the farcical.

Whedon and Goddard have done what Wes did 16 years ago, but with bells the size of Big Ben on.  They’ve broken new ground in what was rapidly, and not for the first time, becoming a staid genre. The Cabin in the Woods hasn’t just re-energised the genre; it’s positively and completely reinvented it.  This is game changing stuff and an absolutely essential piece of filmmaking.

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