Every now and then a horror flick comes along where the story behind the movie is almost as good as the movie itself. Usually there’s a lot of studio interference delaying the release of the movie like in the case of the wonderful Trick R Treat and sometimes its big names have a surprising time getting a movie distributed. In the case of Cabin In The Woods, it’s a little bit of both. The film was written by Drew Goddard and a guy named Joss Whedon of Cloverfield and Buffy The Vampire Slayer fame respectively with Goddard directing. You’ll also remember that Whedon went on to direct a little film called Avengers and both films happen to star a guy named Chris Hemsworth. Of course, that was all well after CITW had finished shooting. Even so, you’d think that a pair of beloved genre guys could get a movie out to the public. Well, Lionsgate shuttered it for whatever reason and then finally decided to release the thing last year to critical acclaim.
All of which brings me to watching the movie, which I honestly had pretty high expectations for. The trailers hinted pretty heavily that the Evil Dead-type set-up they were showing off was just the conceit and that there was a kind of Truman Show thing going on where people were monitoring these probably soon-to-be-dead teenagers. As it turned out, for me at least, this movie turned out to be more about finding out exactly what was going on and not so much the horror or teen character stuff.
It’s nearly impossible to talk about this flick without getting into SPOILER TERRITORY, so let’s do just that for a few paragraphs. We’re instantly introduced to characters played by Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford who clearly work for some kind of organization that manipulates college kids into some pretty horrific situations in a cabin, but we’re not exactly sure why. Here’s the deal (remember that SPOILER WARNING), the kids represent specific archetypes (the athlete, the fool, the whore, the scholar and the virgin) who need to be sacrificed in a certain order to appease old gods living beneath the surface of the world. We’re not told when this somewhat high-tech organization was put into place to fulfill these duties, but we do know that several other projects like this one exist all over the world.
To achieve their goal, the organization manipulates the quintet to the location and, using a series of drugs and other elements to mess with their heads, get them down to a crowded basement where they inadvertently chose the form of their destroyer. There’s apparently an entire Cube-like set-up of potential supernatural and mythical murderers to chose from (everything from redneck pain-loving zombies to regular zombies and killer unicorns to mermen). Two of our characters screw up the order, find their way into the facility and wind up unleashing every single monster before actively allowing the world to (seemingly) be destroyed by the old gods.
So, yeah, there’s a lot going on. I admit, I really like the story. Like I figured from the previous, it pays homage to the films that came before it, but also takes those tropes and actually does something new with them, which I really appreciate on a creative level. However I had some problems. First off, the stoner kid was just way too over the top. He was like every single stoner from every 90s movie all rolled into one, thrown into a bong and distilled into this annoying, Shaggy like kid who was pretty difficult to like for me. While the other characters’ weirdness was explained to an extent, his wasn’t and I found myself taken out of the movie by his cartoonishness. I was also as disappointed by the shoddy looking CGI as I was by keeping scenes that needed the heavy CGI in the film when they could have been changed to not even need CGI. My wife and I have been watching Once Upon A Time on Netflix and it’s a pretty good show, but the effects there can be pretty bad. Some of the CITW monsters looked almost as cheap and that really takes me out of a movie, especially one like this is that is doing a lot well. And it’s too bad because the redneck zombies looked amazing while the dragon or whatever looked silly. Cut the dragon out and use more costume effects and I think you’d have a much scarier experience here.
END SPOILERS. However, overall, I’d say I did really enjoy this movie. It goes places you won’t expect, does things that will surprise even the most jaded horror fan and has a certain amount of fun while doing so. At the end of the day, that passion is what I like to see on screen, even if it means some subpar special effects.