USA TODAY US Edition
Enter ‘Cabin in the Woods’ for a primordial gore-fest
Though it conjures up creepy images, The Cabin in the Woods is not the same old hauntedhouse fright-fest. Nor is it a classic horror movie, or even a teen slasher pic.
For maximum enjoyment, it’s best to know as little as possible about what it really is.
The genre-bending Cabin has a hint of The Hunger Games, a whiff of Big Brother and a touch of The Truman Show. There’s a key character named Truman.
Ultimately, though, this is a sendup of the genre, and as such, it’s not scary as much as it is funny. Thanks to the savvy script devised by Joss Whedon and director Drew Goddard, humor abounds. There’s no shortage of mayhem and gore at the hand of weapon-wielding zombies, sinister porcelain dolls, eerie winged beasts and other nightmarish figures. Even a galloping white unicorn contributes to the bedlam.
Some dialogue will remind audiences of the sassy sarcasm tossed off in the face of monstrous creatures in Whedon’s cult TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, episodes of which Goddard also co-wrote.
The plot is intentionally familiar: Five college pals head off in an RV to a remote country cabin for some lakeside frolicking. There’s brawny jock Curt (Chris Hemsworth); his sexy girlfriend, Jules (Anna Hutchison); shy Dana (Kristen Connolly); nerdy but hot Holden (Jesse Williams); and lovable pothead Marty (Fran Kranz).
They venture into a creepy basement where Dana finds a girl’s diary detailing all manner of horrific torment at the hands of her sadistic father. Soon, a “zombie redneck torture family” comes crawling out of the grave and sets upon the teens.
Interwoven throughout are less spooky and un-undead adults in shirt sleeves and ties. Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford are particularly funny in their middle-management roles. Things build toward a shattering conclusion.
While simultaneously rearranging and indulging in horror’s most recognizable tropes, Whedon and Goddard comment on the formulaic nature of horror films and increasingly grotesque methods of disposing of characters. Their story also prompts audiences to examine their fascination with carnage.
Though there are plot holes in the elaborately concocted scenarios, The Cabin in the Woods gets points for the twists and turns that come along with its sly wickedness. And who can resist a killer unicorn?