At times, Drew Goddard’s horror comedy, The Cabin in the Woods, feels like two movies going on at once. The amazing part, is for most of the movies run, the two parts run and compliment each other well, adding a nuanced meta-tension. The film follows a group of college students who go to a cabin and experience a slew of horrors. The film chronicles their discovery and reaction to those.
The plot summary here is going to be sparse. A lot of the movie comes from knowing as little as possible before watching , so I don’t want to give anything away.
The first act of the movie is brilliant and constantly keeps the audience guessing as to what the underground facilities underlying purpose and meaning is. Horror tropes are constantly referenced, exaggerated, and toyed around with, in a critique of overdone and macabre cliches. It’s up to the viewer to ascertain the trope to get the full meaning of the scene. This lends the movie well to re-watches, especially by people who aren’t as familiar with some of the genres of horror referenced. For horror veterans, the movie is filled with great Easter eggs, and there was definitely a few moments that had me chuckling in appreciation at what was being done to change a certain convention.
On top of this the movie is genuinely funny. Watching the tropes come to life and be deconstructed becomes funnier and more rewarding the more you get to know the characters, which is only possible because the acting here is great. Everyone is slightly off the archetype they’re supposed to be, and everyone here is capable of breaking in and out, adding nuance to the old horror molds and helping to create something new. But the comedy also feels perverse. There were times I was laughing, but I felt wrong for doing so, and that confused feeling elicited a sense of horror.
The issues with the plot only start rearing up near the third act of the movie. A lot of the subtlety and novelty of the movie becomes more pronounced and heavy-handed which starts taking some of the “magic” away, but it’s that problematic because by that point a lot of the movie has already been “foreshadowed” in some fashion. Some of the character decisions also feel a bit strange. Almost as if the antagonist in the movie has an inconsistent”power scaling.” This feels more like a nitpick than anything and has to do with my own biases, but it felt like something worth mentioning.
TLDR: The Cabin in the Woods is a wonky and surprising ride. It deconstructs and plays with horror tropes in a way that not only elicits humor, but also disturbs the viewer by forcing them to confront the perverse nature of that humor.
Final Rating: 9.3/10. If you’ve ever enjoyed a horror movie you owe it to yourself to watch this movie. It’s well written, funny, scary, and illuminating without ever feeling too haphazard.
Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!