The Cabin in the Woods (2011) – 4/5

Creative, yet somewhat shallow horror comedy fantasy science fiction hybrid that nonetheless works despite a rather ambitious, thinly stretched plot that doesn’t always make a whole lot of sense but is usually always fun, occasionally quite funny, and very well acted/shot/made. And what a crazy, over the top, gore splattered last act. Definitely more fantasy than horror, though, so be warned.

Like a lot of Joss Whedon’s stuff, the plot of this film feels like something out of an anime, especially the last third. I’ve noticed he often borrows heavily from Japanese anime type themes and story elements, most noticeably here through his meshing of **SPOILERS** corporate bureaucracy/advanced technology and fantasy/the supernatural. **END SPOILERS** He even sort of acknowledges this with the hilarious **SPOILERS** scenes from Japan of the schoolgirls being terrorized by that little girl demon thing that’s in a lot of their horror. You know what I’m talking about: the iconic wet haired monster thing that looks like the demon girl from The Ring. **END SPOILERS** Funny, funny stuff whenever that came on. But yeah, not very many mainstream American writers take their inspiration from Japanese anime, or steal from it nearly as readily or as often, or with as great success, so, good for him, getting rich and famous from stealing and all. Bastard.

And yeah the dialogue is the usual Whedon cutesy clever fluffy stuff he’s known for. It’s a decent story; not the groundbreaking horror redefining brilliance I had heard it was, but it does interesting things with old clichés. The rules aren’t always clear, though, nor do they always make sense, and some of it feels like it could have been explored more, especially the **SPOILERS** monster escape scene that follows the third act,**END SPOILERS** and the final “reveal” at the very end, but it still delivers as far as all around crazy insane stuff goes.

Overall, I liked it. The film is flawed: the plot isn’t as well-developed or as narratively consistent as it could have been, nor does it go as far with its unique concept as it could have. But it’s entertaining and funny and clever when it wants to be. There are also hints of depth here that are ever only briefly touched upon, then never explored again. One in particular that comes to mind is the scene **SPOILERS** in the elevator near the end of the second act when the lead girl and the nerdy guy are led through the ever shifting cubes of monsters, and it briefly stops at the one monster who’s clearly a reference to Pinhead from the Hellraiser series, and the two just stand there looking at one another, this woman and this monster, only a few inches of glass between them. **END SPOILERS**

It’s a great scene visually, but what did it mean? Nothing. Because, emotionally, it was empty; nothing was established between the two before that brief meeting, so there was nothing there for the audience to get once they did despite the film attempting to make you think there was. It was a missed opportunity for something that could have been quite powerful. It’s the scene that sums up this whole movie, in a way: clever and creative, but ultimately hollow and meaningless. Even the ending is like this; yeah, that happened, but so what? Who cares?

Still, it’s a good movie for what it is. Entertaining, gory, creative, funny, well shot, decently acted. Worth a watch.


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