The Cabin in the Woods isn’t your typical hack-and-slash horror flick, but you probably already know that by now. There are twists and turns, surprising reveals and shocking moments, and horror tropes are applauded, audited, and turned inside out. It’s pretty damn clever, and I’m happy to learn that a movie this good (and this strange) is doing reasonably well at the box office. But here’s the thing I loved best about Cabin in the Woods: It kept me engaged from start to finish. I was never bored, I was never able to guess what would happen next, and I genuinely cared about the characters and their connection to the strange goings on at the heart of the movie.
There aren’t many movies like Cabin in the Woods. Actually, it’s probably more accurate to say there aren’t any movies like Cabin in the Woods. It’s a unique film with many layers and big, bold ideas, and it kept me intrigued right up to its shocking and hilarious conclusion. Not everything works, but most of it does. And even the few missteps are fun to watch. Director Drew Goddard and writer Joss Whedon (who collaborated on Whedon’s groundbreaking genre TV shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel) have made a fun, engrossing and suspenseful horror flick that dubs as a smart commentary and celebration of the horror genre (and the horror movie audience). The movie works on several levels, delivering almost everything you’d expect to see in a teen horror movie while subverting the expectations of both gore hounds and casual moviegoers.
I love it when a movie defies my expectations. I usually go to the movies looking for surprises. I want movies to take me to places I’ve never been before. I want to see strange new ideas make their way onscreen, and I want to see movies that challenge me and keep me on the edge wondering, “What the hell is gonna happen next?” I also want to see movies that make me laugh. Cabin in the Woods fulfilled all of these wants without skimping out on the great exploitative stuff I love about horror movies – stylized scenes of ultraviolence, wise-cracking characters, suspense and scares, and a “big bad” that’s one of the biggest and baddest of them all.
I don’t want to spoil too much here for those who haven’t seen it. It’s extremely difficult to write about the movie without giving too much away. I’ll just say that Cabin is definitely worth watching in a first-run theater. This is a smart, often hilarious movie that cinemaphiles and average movie lovers can enjoy together. The Cabin in the Woods is a rare example of a Hollywood studio allowing a boldly innovative creative team to express its unique, untested (and un-franchised) vision in theaters across the country. Judging by the critical raves and the decent opening weekend box office tally, it looks like the gamble has paid off.