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Cabin in the Woods, The
Release Date(s)2011 (September 18, 2012)
If you’re going to watch The Cabin in the Woods, it’s best to know as little as possible about it beforehand. I know that’s antithetical to the way we’re supposed to approach movies these days. How can you even claim to be interested in a movie unless you obsessively search out script reviews, casting reports, production blogs, teasers, trailers, international trailers, exclusive scenes and images before it’s released? But trust me on this one.
So here’s the review for those of you who have not yet seen The Cabin in the Woods. If you like horror movies, you’ll love this one. Stop reading now and go watch it. Thanks for stopping by.
OK, so the rest of you have already seen the movie, right? Hang on, there’s still a couple people who haven’t seen it yet lingering in the back.
Seriously, stop reading this. This review will still be here when you get back.
Is that everybody? All right, good.
The idea of a horror movie that simultaneously functions as a commentary on the genre is nothing new. Obviously the Scream franchise immediately leaps to mind, although the first one I remember seeing was Rolfe Kanefsky’s entertaining low-budget indie There’s Nothing Out There. But for my money, Cabin is the most effective and entertaining of these (and forgive me for using the term) meta-horror films.
Most other movies like this focus on one specific type of horror movie, usually slasher films. But Cabin is a valentine to the entire genre, embracing everything from slashers to zombies to J-horror to pretty much anything else you can think of. At the outset, the movie seems as if it’s going to be a simple kids-menaced-in-a-cabin movie like Evil Dead. But director Drew Goddard and producer Joss Whedon quickly reveal a far more ambitious agenda.
The movie doesn’t try to subvert the conventions of the genre. It embraces them and uses them in both familiar and original ways. The script by Goddard and Whedon is genuinely funny but not jokey. They never lose sight of the fact that they’re making a horror movie, not a comedy. The first hour effectively blends suspense, mystery and scares, building up to a hellzapoppin’ finale that probably used more fake blood than the entire Friday the 13th series.
The video quality on Lionsgate’s Blu-ray is generally excellent. The movie is occasionally so dark that it’s a little hard to make things out but that’s a choice, not a flaw. The 7.1 DTS-HD sound is phenomenal. Extras lead off with an amusing and informative audio commentary by Goddard and Whedon. The half-hour documentary We Are Not Who We Are: Making Cabin in the Woods blends behind-the-scenes footage and new interviews with Goddard, Whedon and others. The Secret Secret Stash includes two mini-featurettes, one with actor Fran Kranz’s props and another with Whedon giving a guided tour of the cabin itself. You also get a Q&A with Goddard and Whedon, moderated by Geoff Boucher, from a WonderCon screening and a picture-in-picture “BonusView Mode” feature with additional interviews and behind-the-scenes footage.
By far, the two best featurettes on the disc are An Army of Nightmares, focusing on the film’s makeup and animatronic effects, and Primal Terror, about the visual effects. These are more interesting than your usual effects features, in part because the movie seamlessly blends practical effects with CGI. But it’s also a chance to get a better look at the dozens of monsters and creatures that are barely glimpsed in the movie itself. It made me want to go back and immediately watch the movie yet again just to try and pick them out.
For a lifelong horror fanatic, The Cabin in the Woods is pure joy. It’s an affectionate tribute to the genre as well as an imaginative and effective horror movie in its own right. This is one of the best horror movies I’ve seen in years. If you love the genre like I do, don’t miss it.
- Dr. Adam Jahnke
Be sure to read more of my reviews in this year's Hell Plaza Oktoberfest by clicking on the image below...