Movie Review: The Cabin in the Woods

By Edwin Davies

April 11, 2012

Are we sure this isn't from Twilight?

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The Cabin in the Woods is the natural successor to Wes Craven's Scream, far more so, in fact, than any of the Scream sequels. It's a film steeped in horror lore, and genre fans will be delighted by the nods to classic iconography. The main thrust of the film obviously calls to mind The Evil Dead - the Cabin comes complete with easily broken windows and a basement full of assorted creepy-ass haunted bric-a-brac - but it also tips its hat to J-horror in a couple of hilarious scenes, the work of John Carpenter, and Hellraiser, to name but a tiny fraction of the tiny reference points that are dotted throughout the film. It also manages to tie in the thrill of horror cinema to the elemental thrill of scary stories that has roots in every culture, finding a novel way to play on the way in which different nations have developed their own unique strains of horror.


Yet the film is far more than just an assortment of familiar images and ideas. Like Scream, it's an incredibly intelligent and insightful critique of the standard tropes of horror cinema that also manages to be genuinely frightening in its own right, balancing its commentary on the way in which film-makers torture and butcher their characters for the purpose of entertaining an audience with moments of giddy, unabashed gore and violence. It's not an easy balance, but at no point is there any sense that Goddard does not know exactly what he's doing, and as the plot and mythology of the film spiral outwards, it feels both hugely surprising, yet completely natural to the world of the film.

By the time you reach the finale, which is a ridiculously violent and wonderfully balls-out dive into gonzo horror, the film has reached a point that it would be impossible to envisage going in, but which feels completely right in the moment. That's a hell of a trick to pull off, and Goddard does so with aplomb.

As of right now, The Cabin in the Woods is my favourite film of 2012 thus far. It's hilarious, scary and it contains more wit and invention than you'll see in twenty other blockbusters released this year. Goddard and Whedon have created a smart, savvy dissection of a genre they love which is also a relentlessly entertaining example of that genre. It's a rare film that is an entertaining as it is intelligent, and easily one of the best horror films of the last decade. But whatever you do, don't be a dick and ruin it for everyone.

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