Let’s get this out of the way up front: CABIN IN THE WOODS is one of the best horror films to come along in years.
Director Drew Goddard and producer Joss Whedon have delivered with CABIN the shot in the arm the genre has sorely needed; ironic, then, that it’s stayed on the shelf since 2009 thanks to MGM’s bankruptcy woes. (The delay prevented the post-conversion 3D MGM had in mind, for which I’m grateful–I’ve never been fond of that seemingly arbitrary, ticket-gouging practice–yet several sequences throughout the film, particularly during its balls-out third act, would’ve been fun to see in extra dimensions.) This really is a film that rewards you for going in as blind a possible, so I’ll keep specific comments to a minimum and say that CABIN IN THE WOODS is clever, ambitious, often funny, and inventive–deconstructing and commenting on the contemporary horror film with more than just characters remarking, “This is so like [insert title]!” And, refreshingly, CABIN’s knowing commentary on horror films is free of the smug, geek-cred boasting that drags down so many “meta” horror flicks. Fans will have fun spotting references to THE EVIL DEAD, HELLRAISER, Carpenter’s THE THING, and many more, but rather that trot out a checklist the genre’s greatest hits, Goddard and Whedon go deeper to the primal, primitive heart of scary storytelling, delving ultimately into the cosmic terror that Lovecraft spoke of so often.
If there’s anything negative I could say it’s that despite being an effective statement on the horror film, CABIN IN THE WOODS offers few genuine chills, sporting a few well-timed jump-scares but little in the way of genuine fear. Still, the script’s unrelenting barrage of clever twists, witty dialogue, and show-stopping effects gives the viewer more than enough to digest.
If you’re even remotely interested (or invested) in the horror genre, see this film. In the theater. Go to a matinee, stop in on bargain day, bribe a friend to pay your way in with promises of handjobs and candy if you must–but part with your hard-earned dollars for this one. It’s worth it. Vote with your wallet, and let Hollywood know that smart genre fare still matters.