I’ve never done this before on House of Mortal Cinema, but I think it’s reasonable to offer a mild spoiler warning here. While I have no intention of giving away the entire plot of THE CABIN IN THE WOODS, it is one of those films that many will get the most enjoyment out of if they come to it cold. So if you’re one of those kinds of people I suggest you go and watch it now, because you won’t be disappointed, and then come back and read this.
I’ve always been a fan of Joss Whedon. I’ve seen every episode of Buffy, Angel and Firefly, and while he’s not a perfect writer by any means he has a love and knowledge of the genre that means he is indisputably One Of Us, and that knowledge and love has never been more in evidence than in his latest project, which is a glorious deconstruction of horror movie conventions of the last couple of decades while at the same time never being anything less than affectionate regarding its source material.
Five young friends set off in their camper van to spend a weekend at the title location. They consist of: a hot young thing who has dyed her hair blonde, her athletic boyfriend who is majoring in sociology, a young chap who turns out to be a bit of an academic type, a bong-puffing slacker modelled on Scooby Doo’s Shaggy, and a virginal Final Girl. On the way to the cabin they stop for gas at the kind of place that could have fallen out of THE HILLS HAVE EYES, with a creepy proprietor to match, who warns them that if they head for the cabin, they may well not be coming back. So far so cliched, BUT, and it’s a big one, which is why I’ve put it in capitals, as well as this there is also a separate subplot running alongside this, one that takes up the entire pre-credits sequence, as well it might, considering how important it’s going to be later on.
In the kind of undefined highly secure and highly equipped facility that Irwin Allen could only dream of, a group of scientists and engineers are preparing for Something Important, something which involves our bright young things as they are closely monitored on as they travel to, and arrive at, the cabin. By the time they get there we've been given enough information to know that Things Are Not As They Seem.
Once inside the cabin the friends increasingly start to act like the traditional horror movie cliched characters we’ve seen a hundred times before, and before you can say Evil Dead the cellar door springs open. The cellar itself turns out to be home to a thousand and one different horror movie plotlines, and which one they end up choosing then determines the method by which they are supposed to die.
I’m actually not going to say much more than this, except that the film didn’t go where I was expecting and instead turned into a wonderful monsterfest of biblical proportions. In fact, during the utterly glorious climax, the movie I was most reminded of was Anthony Hickox’s WAXWORK, to which this film bears more than a passing similarity. THE CABIN IN THE WOODS, however, does the same basic idea so, so much better. It’s thrilling, clever, scary, well-written, and has a climax I wish I could have watched at a horror film festival just to feel the buzz of the room. Fans of Whedon’s filmography will appreciate appearances by Tom Lenk and Amy Acker (always easy on the eye and particularly delightful here in her lab-coated scientist role). Whedon even throws in the kitchen sink in the shape of a huge dollop of Lovecraftian cosmic horror to round things off.
Above all it’s sheer unadulterated fun, and all the more so if you’re a horror fan with a sense of humour. If you are, then you’ll need to watch it at least twice because during the ensuing mayhem of the marvellous climax there are so many horror film references that even I couldn’t keep up. THE CABIN IN THE WOODS is glorious, glorious fun. In fact I can quite safely say it’s probably the most fun you can have without causing the end of the world. It's going to be one of the year's best and I cannot recommend it highly enough.