Movie Review

REVIEW: Joss Whedon resurrects horror genre with innovative 'Cabin in the Woods'

Marty (Fran Kranz, left), Curt (Chris Hemsworth, center) and Jules (Anna Hutchison) in "The Cabin in the Woods."

Marty (Fran Kranz, left), Curt (Chris Hemsworth, center) and Jules (Anna Hutchison) in "The Cabin in the Woods."  (Lionsgate)

“The Cabin in the Woods” is a quick-witted, mind-bending fright fest. A truly rare and original horror film.

On the surface, “Cabin” looks like a knock-off of the “Evil Dead” films, but that’s where the comparisons end. “Cabin” uses the horror medium to create a very funny, very scary commentary on our exploitative culture and the gratuitous turn of horror movies in the past twenty years.

It is one of the most innovative horror/sci-fi stories to hit the big screen since “The Matrix” and fans are lucky to even have it released. The film was made in 2009 but was shelved until now due to MGM’s filing of Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

“Cabin” takes to task a variety of horror films and their sequels like “Saw,” “Hostel” and “Dawn of the Dead” that have seemingly made the genre clichéd and stale. By stirring those lukewarm coals, and returning the use of metaphor to the genre, writer Joss Whedon and his co-writer Drew Goddard (making his directorial debut) have rekindled a fresh, new flame.

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“Cabin” is a tricky film to describe without ruining the fun of the whole experience. The film starts with a group of smart, somewhat geeky college students taking a weekend trip to a remote cabin in the woods. En route they mysteriously start slipping out of character and suspiciously become stereotypical genre characters. The bookworms become jocks, sleazy nymphs, etc. Once they hit the titular cabin, things go bump in the night. But everything is not as it seems as our college friends are being spied upon by a group of scientists.

Whedon and his “Buffy the Vampire” scribe Drew Goddard have written a razor-sharp script, funny dialogue and a grand finale that should make the most jaded and cynical fans of the horror genre very giddy.

Whedon is beloved by many in film and television today for his unbridled ability to push creative boundaries by blurring the lines between literary memes, philosophy and popcorn entertainment. He is completely comfortable pushing the limits of a viewer’s comfort zone and that rings very true here.

Kristen Connolly (“Revolutionary Road”) leads an excellent cast featuring Chris Hemsworth (“Thor”), Jesse Williams (“Grey’s Anatomy”), Fran Kranz (“Dollhouse”), and new from New Zealand Anna Hutchison. Stealing the show, though, are Bradley Whitford (“The West Wing”) and the great Richard Jenkins (“The Visitor”) as the peeping-tom scientists.

The real treat here is experiencing something brand new. This film’s popularity will almost surely spread like wildfire among sci-fi and horror fans and will probably inspire dozens more like it in the next few years, which would be a great disservice to the originality and point of this film.

Bottom line: Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard have made the horror film a viable medium again and “The Cabin in the Woods” is destined to become a cult classic.