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'Cabin the Woods' Deconstructs Horror Genre with Wit and Style

Published: Thursday, April 12, 2012

Updated: Thursday, April 12, 2012 15:04

 

The Cabin in the Woods

Directed by Drew Goddard

Starring Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz

Rated R

Grade: A+

Director Drew Goddard and writer Joss Whedon have always had a hand in defining geek culture. Whedon, responsible for creating “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Firefly,” is set to direct this year’s “The Avengers,” a huge comic book endeavor. Meanwhile, Goddard has also worked on “Buffy,” as well as writing for shows like “Lost,” “Alias” and the monster flick “Cloverfield.” Safe to say, these two have the pedigree to deliver a crowd-pleasing genre film. And they do with wit and style.

“The Cabin in the Woods” is very much a deconstruction of the horror genre. Much like “Scream,” “Cabin” looks at the conventions, tropes and everything we love and hate about the genre. Unlike “Scream” though the movie never gets self-referential or falls to having its characters know that they’re in a horror movie.

Instead, the story and script give credence to every one of those tropes and does in it a way that shows the filmmakers genuinely love what they’re doing. The best parts of the movie are ones that should not be spoiled.

The set up is this: five college friends go on a vacation in the woods. What starts off as a booze-filled, hyper sexualized good time ends with murder and blood ‘n guts.

Initially filmed back in 2009 but shelved when it’s distributor MGM when bankrupt, “Cabin” has reemerged under Lionsgate, the studio responsible for the “Saw” series. “Cabin,” however, is very much an old-school experience that exists outside the current horror landscape. Found-footage ghosts, which replaced the “torture porn” series, are nowhere to be found.

Instead we get an experience more in line with the vibe popularized by directors like Sam Raimi (“Evil Dead”), Peter Jackson (“Dead Alive”), Joe Dante (“The Howling”) and Stuart Gordon (“Re-animator”). Realistically, comedy ties those films together much like “Cabin” is just as funny as it is scary.

Horror has always relied on laughter to relieve the tension before or after a really big scare. So the conceit that a horror movie can be funny isn’t that much of a stretch. Goddard and Whedon have always excelled at snappy dialogue, and “Cabin” proves just that. The witticisms dropped in the midst of heart-crushing terror exist as some of the funniest moments this year.

Credit goes to the delivery by the actors including Chris Hemsworth, who’s visibility as Thor helps the movie get more publicity, Fran Kranz (“Dollhouse”) and veterans like Richard Jenkins (“The Visitor”) and Bradley Whitford (“The West Wing”).

Performances are especially important in the horror clichés on display, which each of the college kids playing a well-known horror archetype while Jenkins and Whitford have pivotal roles. But that is just one of many elements that make “Cabin” a near-perfect event.

Horror and geek-friendly fans should be well-served, with this being a landmark film. “The Cabin in the Woods” is one that will be analyzed and imitated for years to come. However, non-horror fans should also give this one a shot. If nothing else, you’ll have a film unlike any seen in recent memory.

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