Needing some rest and relaxation, Dana (Kristen Connolly), her best friend Jules (Anna Hutchison), and Jules’ boyfriend Curt (Chris Hemsworth), retreat to a remote cabin recently purchased by Curt’s cousin. The trio is joined by stoner-buddy Marty (Fran Kranz) and scholarly Holden (Jesse Williams), a friend of Curt’s who Jules would like to set up with Dana. The cabin, while a bit on the rustic side, seems to be the ideal spot for the group to chill out and let loose. But before long, a hidden cellar full of creepy and mysterious artifacts is discovered and when Dana reads from an old journal, she unwittingly unleashes a terror upon the cabin that comes straight out of a nightmare that perhaps none of them will survive.
But before long, I found that Cabin had no sense of true identity. Or rather, that its identity isn't one that I want to get to know. I think the point of the film is to both poke fun at the horror genre while at the same time creating enough gore to satisfy genre enthusiasts. At times, Goddard and Whedon succeed in this but over the course of the film, I felt that instead of mocking the typical hallmarks of a horror film in hopes of creating a laugh in the midst of the scares (see: Scream), the duo only succeeded in laying the ground work for their own demise. That is to say, the film goes out of its way to point out the generic pratfalls that you could to expect from a slasher film and then deliberately falls directly into those traps over and over again. In essence, the film ends up becoming exactly what it sets out to make fun of in the early going. As a result, almost all of the jump-out-of-your-seat moments have been hamstrung by the Goddard telegraphing what was about to happen for the sake of the self-aware jokes. At the same time, I didn’t find the film to be consistently funny enough to play as a real comedy (see: Shaun of the Dead). To be clear: there are some truly brilliant, witty moments and more than a few laugh-out-loud pieces of dialogue but not enough to keep the comedic ball rolling for 90 minutes. I think Cabin wants to be both a capable slasher film and a hilarious R-rated comedy but for me, the mix comes off almost as a half-hearted spoof.
I think that all of that would have resulted in a three star, “totally acceptable entertainment”-type review from me had it not been for the fact that the vaunted twist which has had so many critics and viewers in a titter is really not that big of a deal. Again, I won’t spoil anything but you can guess the basics of the twist within the first 15 minutes of the movie. (I promise I’m not one of those people who says, “I could totally see the twist coming” or, “I knew Bruce Willis was dead the whole time”; this is just a onetime thing.) I kept waiting and waiting for a real turn to catch me off guard and not only did it never come, that waiting took away from my enjoyment of the back half of the film. So while the whole, “Don’t tell anyone the secret!” marketing campaign got me into the theater for a movie I probably wouldn’t have seen otherwise, it also caused me to come out feeling extremely dissatisfied with the finished product.
Believe me when I say, I wanted to love Cabin in the Woods. I wanted to write about Joss Whedon had reinvigorated the horror genre. And maybe more importantly, I wanted to see what all of my colleagues saw in a movie that almost everyone seems to love. But while the concept is fantastic and there are some definite and delicious Whedon-isms that play out through the course of the film, I just could not get completely on board. You may now begin to cast stones.