The Cabin in the Woods: A Review

Fresh from the success of the worldwide hit The Avengers, director Joss Whedon collaborates with his protege Drew Goddard on the screenplay of a low budget horror/supernatural/suspense/indie flick whose marketing strategy relies on mystery as close to no details of the plot was leaked prior to the release of the movie. I for one, was so intrigued by it that I chose to see this popcorn movie first before I tackled MIB 3. While Whedon’s humor was obvious in the wisecracks in the script, I’m not quite sure that the overall result of the film worked out the way these two creative minds expected.

The Cabin in the Woods revolves around five college students who decide to take a break from the city by going to Curt’s (Chris Hemsworth) cousin’s cabin. Unbeknownst to them, the cabin is rigged with cameras and equipment that controls the environment and dictates their every move. Meanwhile, in an advanced facility, technicians are observing the teenagers with the intent of eliminating them and using them as sacrifice for ancient and unspeakable horrors that have lain dormant for centuries.

The problem with Cabin is that it wanted to accomplish too much in too little time. I had no doubt that Whedon and Goddard (who directed the movie) had fun playing around with the concept of the film as it incorporated elements of Pulp Fiction/Grindhouse, Cabin Fever, Wrong Turn, and the Walking Dead into the plot and I could just imagine how one of them would think of a good idea and the other one would think of another until everything was integrated into one overambitious screenplay that lacked focus and fell short in the actual execution.

Cabin had all of the elements of a great horror movie, teenagers, a remote and creepy location, an equally scary dude who warns them against going to the cabin, comic relief and the typical character slots that they should belong — the jock (Hemsworth), the slut (Anna Hutchison), the nerd (Jesse Williams, Grey’s Anatomy’s Jackson Avery), the pothead (Fran Kranz) and the virgin (Kristen Connolly). And up until this point, I admired that the filmmakers were planning to do something different with the typical horror staple which was obvious with their emphasis on the characters’ personas. What I had a problem with was 1. the casting: I felt that the people playing college students looked too old to be in college (yes, despite Chris Hemsworth being smoking hot). It also did not help that the lead female character Dana  was so whiny and pathetic and did not contribute at all to the overall resolution of the movie, that I was praying for her to die sooner. Marty the pothead, in my opinion brought the movie together. He was the only one with enough brains to figure things out and do something about it. 2. The film wanted to dip its foot into too much aspects of the genre, zombies, ghosts, mermen, poltergeists, monsters, and adding the reality show factor was a bit too much. 3. the transitioning between the scenes in the woods and the facility seemed faulty and abrupt, thereby not successfully establishing audience empathy with any of the characters from the cabin or the facility. Also there were too many scenes that audiences would feel that the movie should have ended long before the final twist (and guest star is unveiled). As a result, the movie was messy (not in a good horrific way) and made audiences more confused than entertained.

In the end, it came as no surprise that I was totally weirded out by the movie, so much so that everything just kind of passes my mind like a blur. For a meager budget, it was passable at best but if I do get nightmares from the movie, it will not be from the horror of the movie but rather the horror of poor execution. Moral Lesson: Filmmakers should have a clear idea what they want first before shooting a movie, or writing a script. Horror is a difficult genre to tackle as it is because almost everything has been done already, but still, a generic plot and good execution beats a smorgasbord of ideas poorly adapted any day.