I’m warning you right now that this review contains a large spoiler, so brace yourselves.
Having waited to watch The Cabin in the Woods for a long while now, my expectations became perhaps a little too high for this movie. Upon seeing that Joss Whedon (famous for the Buffy and Firefly television series) and Drew Goddard (who has written for the Lost television series) were involved in The Cabin in the Woods, I naturally presumed that all good things would come of it. However, sadly, I don’t believe this film lived up to its potential. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a decent enough film but I feel that so much more could have been done with it. The concept was such a good one – I like seeing people taking the mick out of horror films as much as the next guy – but it ended up falling flat on its face, to be honest. I don’t think a description of the film is necessary, as the word-of-mouth for this film has spread like wildfire, but basically it tells the story of a group of college kids who are staying in a cabin in the woods (duh!) when they start getting attacked by zombies, but things are not as they seem. And, I just want to clarify that I do ‘get’ the movie, it’s another one of those post-modern, selfaware horror/comedy flicks (think Scream, only not as successful, in my opinion).
Don’t worry, I shall be backing up these claims, as I’m acutely aware that this film has received a whole ton of praise (which I very much wanted to be a part of!). It seemed to me that The Cabin in the Woods was torn from the start about what it actually was, either a horror or a comedy, and therefore ended up failing on both accounts. Every time things would start to get ‘eerie’, the film would cut away to the guys in the ‘organisation’. The viewer is constantly being forced into two completely opposing situations leaving them unable to really get into any of them. I didn’t feel much (if any) sympathy for the group of kids being attacked, but then I didn’t feel like the organisation was portrayed very satisfyingly either. The kids are such stereotypes that it borders on looking like a Scooby Doo cartoon (although this may have been the intention) but it does not make them likeable to watch. The ‘comedy’ that was exhibited during the film (note the sarcastic speech marks!) didn’t really do it for me because things just seemed to be rather too chaotic. This fundamental problem hurts the film greatly, because if an audience can’t connect with its characters, then this is a very dire problem indeed.
As the viewer is not invested in any of the characters, the only real reason that they continue to watch and be interested in the movie is to find out the motivations behind this organisation. Once this is finally revealed, I felt awash with disbelief – to placate Ancient, ‘evil’ gods? Are you kidding me? This lost it for me, I could think of a bunch of different reasons that would be much more satisfactory than this, it’s completely ridiculous and silly! Up to the point this was revealed, I thought it was going to try and be more of a statement about the horror film industry and its bloodthirsty audiences, but instead it seemed to settle on an unnecessarily ending that, quite frankly, baffled me a little bit. Ancient Gods? Please…
The film had an original concept and can definitely be described as an original horror (?) movie, but that is about as far as I go compliment-wise. Being a horror fan, I suppose I did enjoy spotting all of the homages that were contained throughout – and boy, there were a lot of them! Where I think The Cabin in the Woods fell down is that these self-referential instances were not at all sophisticated or subtle, at times it almost appeared to be another film from the Scary Movie franchise, and trust me, that’s not a good thing.
I am genuinely gutted that this movie failed to live up to the mark, as I had high hopes for it. For me, it turned out very average and not at all the ‘game changer’ that many claimed it would be. It will not ‘change horror movies forever’, it did not ‘upend every horror movie cliche’ – it merely prodded them a little bit.