Written by J.T. Johnson
“The Cabin in the Woods” is a mangled mess of a movie. At one moment, it is a moody, chilling piece that switches back and forth between a slasher and a more humorous science fiction thriller. Somehow, writers Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon manage to bring all the pieces together.
The film follows five generic horror types such as the alpha male jock Curt (Chris Hemsworth), the virgin Dana (Kristen Connolly), the rather loose Jules (Anna Hutchison), the standard male protagonist Holden (Jesse Williams) and the massive stoner Marty (Fran Kranz). This time, though, the stereotypes are manufactured by a mysterious organization in order to prevent something cataclysmic.
While the kids at the cabin deal with monsters in the woods in an old fashioned manner, the film switches back to a mysterious facility mainly overseen by Richard Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) and Steve Hadley (Bradley Whitford). During these moments, it feels as though the writers are critiquing the horror genre they obviously love. It is also during these moments that Whedon’s influence as a writer bleeds through with his trademark humor in the midst of all the horror.
Surprisingly, the performances from the college kids in the cabin are done really well. Connolly is great as the heroine Dana and Hemsworth does his job as the take charge man who is manufactured as the heroic archetype. The standout performance, though, comes from Kranz as the humorous stoner Marty.
Several horror films have the intended funny guy and more times than not, they just come off as unfunny and an annoying character that the audience can’t wait to see die. But this is Whedon behind the wheel of the script and this time, the funny guy is not just funny but is also smarter than the rest of the cast. Kranz has great comedic timing and knows the material.
As far as the mysterious facility goes, it’s also quite humorous to see Richard and Steve’s witty banter about their normal lives while facilitating the horror shows playing out on their screens. There is also celebrating to be had with the rest of the facility’s workers as the kids are being terrified. These people obviously represent the audience itself as they wait and see how the unfortunate kids meet their untimely demise.
Earlier in the review, it was mentioned that the film is a mangled mess. To elaborate, this means is that Goddard and Whedon threw everything but the kitchen sink into their tribute to the horror genre. With the constant genre-bending, it could be a little jolting to the audience as they try to figure out exactly what type of horror film they are watching.
Still, the audience manages to find a way to keep up and there is an attempt at a twist towards the end, but the audience can see this part coming from a mile away. This and the genre jumping are surprisingly the only real problems with the movie. With a great cast and cool script from Goddard and Whedon, “The Cabin in the Woods” is a surprisingly effective horror tribute.