PG Cooper: The Cabin in the Woods Review

Posted: April 30, 2012 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

Release date: April 13th, 2012

Running time: 1 hour and 35 minutes

Written by: Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard

Directed by: Drew Goddard

Starring: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, and Fran Kranz

I didn’t really know what to think of The Cabin in the Woods from the trailers. Parts looked cliché, parts looked really interesting, so I wasn’t really sure what to think of it. If nothing else, I was intrigued. Then the film came out and started getting rave reviews from critics. Everyone was talking about how surprising it was, and how smart. I decided not to get caught up in the hype, but I did become very interested and decided to give the film a shot.

I don’t want to say too much about the plot because I think the less you know about the film the better. What I will say is that a bunch of young people go to spend a weekend at an abandoned cabin and the group is attacked. As cliché as that sounds, there’s actually a lot more going on then expected.

On a horror level, the film works well. There are some horror films which are genuinely scary, others which are more fun horror films. The Cabin in the Woods is one of those rare films that works as both. There are some scenes which are genuinely scary. In some ways, the scariest aspects of the film aren’t the visceral scares, but rather the ideas behind them. They’re well executed, dark, and inspire terror. There are other horror scenes which are more in-your-face and fun. Particularly near the end in a scene which was so crazy and off the rails that I was in awe.

The film also works very well as comedy. Despite a few jokes which fall flat at the beginning, this film packs a lot of laughs. Most of these come from the characters. Fran Kranz plays the stoner character Marty. Stoner characters are a dime a dozen, but Kranz makes the character feel fresh. A lot of the laughs in the film come from. Two other characters that were really funny were played by Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford. I can’t say too much about these two, but I will say they were hilarious. The film also derives humour out of the way it plays with the horror genre.

Most surprising about The Cabin in the Woods is that it is a deconstruction of the horror genre. It looks at all the typical tropes and clichés of the genre. But it does more than just look at these conventions; it actually asks why the audience has come to expect all these things from horror movies. My favourite deconstruction element of the film is the way it looks at the stock characters of the horror genre. This film has them, but shows them in a different light and I really liked what Whedon and Goddard did with these characters. That said, I don’t think the film is quite as clever as it thinks it is, but it’s definitely smarter than the majority of its contemporaries. I admire the way first time director Drew Goddard managed to blend so many different types of genres into one coherent film. I’m interested in seeing where his directorial career will go next.

The cast here is very strong. The main five characters, the ones at the cabin, are all playing typical horror characters. But as I mentioned earlier, they’re playing slight variations on these characters. Yes, you have the jock (Chris Hemsworth), the virgin (Kristen Connolly), the nerd (Jesse Williams), the slut (Anna Hutchison), and the fool (Fran Kranz), but they’re not like the typical stock characters. The jock isn’t a mindless brute, he’s a sociology major for example. Speaking of the jock, Hemsworth is one of my favourites in the film. It’s not a great performance or anything, but Hemsworth has a lot of charisma. As previously mentioned, I also really enjoyed the performances from Fran Kranz, Richard Jenkins, and Bradley Whitford. All the actors do a good job though. If I have one cast complaint, it goes to the character played by Brian White. The actor himself was fine, but the film frequently came back to this character despite him ultimately going nowhere.

For most of the film’s runtime, I found myself really enjoying it. It was fun, it was exciting, and it was scary. It had some flaws here and there, but overall I was having a great time. Unfortunately the film eventually had to end, and I don’t feel it delivered on that front. There are two main reasons for this. The first is that a lot of build up goes into a certain aspect of the story and I really wanted to learn more about it (I realize this sounds vague, I’m trying to avoid spoilers). The final reveal though is just ridiculous and I personally found it kind of dumb. It’s a very unsatisfying end. The other reason is because I feel the ending goes against the tone of the film. The ending is way too dark. I’m not against dark endings, a lot of my favourite films have extremely dark endings. But for all The Cabin in the Woods intense scares, the film functioned more as a fun film. For it to end the way it did just doesn’t really gel with the overall tone of the film.

Despite my problems with the ending, I did really enjoy The Cabin in the Woods. There’s a few lines that fall flat, it isn’t as smart as it thinks it is, and I have serious issues with the ending, but I had too much fun with the film to discredit it. I don’t think it’s nearly as good as some critics are claiming, but it is a very fun film with some good performances, good scares, and big laughs. It’s also admittedly the best horror film I’ve seen in a long time.

Rating: B+

Comments
  1. I agree with you on the whole, to a large degree.

    “There’s a few lines that fall flat, it isn’t as smart as it thinks it is, and I have serious issues with the ending, but I had too much fun with the film to discredit it. I don’t think it’s nearly as good as some critics are claiming, but it is a very fun film with some good performances, good scares, and big laughs.”

    Yup, yup, yup, yup and yup…

    “It’s also admittedly the best horror film I’ve seen in a long time.”

    Mnnnnnn…. No. I mean no for me, obviously I cant comment for you. LOL

    My issue is – arent horror films supposed to try to be scary first and foremost? I mean, this one was way too amusing to be scary at any point. How can I be scared when people are cracking jokes over coffee in the control room? I dunno.

    Great review though, we see eye to eye almost completely. :D

    • pgcooper1939 says:

      I did find it genuinely scary a lot of the time, but I see your point. But I compare it to a lot of recent horror films, and it’s better than any horror film I saw last year. The scariest film I saw last year was probably Contagion, but it isn’t really a horror movie. So as far as straight horror movies go, the best one I saw last year was Insidious, which isn’t as good as this.

      I’m glad we pretty much agreed with this though.

  2. I freaking loved this movie!

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