The horror genre has been through something of a rough patch over the past twenty years. The genre which launched the careers of Steven Spielberg (Jaws), Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead), Peter Jackson (Bad Taste, Braindead), David Cronenberg (Shivers). It’s also hard to imagine where Ridley Scott would be today without his second film, Alien.
Every single one of these director’s films showed not just an understanding of how to scare people, but also a creativity in how they did it. A lot of things about these films are iconic, the music from Jaws, the set and character design from Alien, the first person perspective in The Evil Dead (a film from which The Cabin in the Woods purposefully borrows the premise).
However, it’s hard to think of too many American horror films since Scream that have anywhere near the joy, creativity, or scares of so many of the films of the 70s and 80s. The best horror films seem to have come from outside the Hollywood studio system, The Blair Witch Project, Ringu, Battle Royale, Let the Right One Inand Pan’s Labyrinth for example.
In recognition of all this comes The Cabin in the Woods, described by co-writer, Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly) as a “loving hate letter” to the horror genre. He’s teamed up with Drew Goddard (Buffy and Cloverfield) to try and give the genre the shot of adrenaline it needs.
In writing a review of The Cabin in the Woods, it’s important not to give too much away. Although you’ll know from the opening scene, this isn’t a traditional slasher flick. The tagline boldly proclaims “You think you know the story”, and what I can say is that you haven’t seen a horror film quite like Cabin before.
The premise is basically five college students go to a mysterious cabin, inconveniently placed a long way from anything. Surely nothing can go wrong on their innocent break from modern society, right?
Hopefully, it also would not be too much to say that like Funny Games, Scream, and the underrated Drag me to Hell, it is a film which uses the audience’s existing knowledge of the genre to make light of a lot of its character’s actions. As such if you’re not at least passingly familiar with horror films (as I know the genre provokes a marmite reaction) quite simply you will not enjoy the film. In fact I think it’s fair to say that your enjoyment of the film will almost be in direct proportion to your enjoyment of horror.
I’d love to be able to say more about the film, about my favourite moments, lines, and characters but I feel that would be giving too much away. What I can say is that it is a highly enjoyable, brilliantly paced thrill ride which reminds me why I own every single episode, film, and comic Joss Whedon has ever written. Needless to say The Cabin in the Woods will be added to that collection and I look forward to watching it many, many times in the future.