Friday, April 13, 2012
Don't let anyone ruin this one for you. Not even the TV spots and trailers for "The Cabin in the Woods" can prepare you for what's coming. Written by Joss Whedon (creator of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer") and Drew Goddard (who penned "Cloverfield"), also serving as first-time director, these two long-time collaborators take the slasher flick genre and turn it absolutely on its head. They take every trope you can imagine, chop them up, throw them in a blender, mix them all around and serve them to us in what can only be described as maniacal and mischievous. Part "Evil Dead," part "Truman Show" and part "Scream," this experiment in mechanics and deconstruction is also one hundred percent nuts.
We begin with five archetypal characters heading out for a weekend of sleazy, carefree fun in some backwoods cabin. There's Curt the jock (Chris Hemsworth of "Thor"), Jules the slut (Anna Hutchison), Holden the nerd (Jesse Williams), Marty the pothead (Fran Kranz) and Dana the virgin (Kristen Connolly). The last stop before reaching the cabin is an abandoned gas station inhabited by a creepy old man warning them of the terrors that lies ahead. Of course, they ignore him and press on.
It turns out this old man is the first piece in a twisted test being conducted by a lab of scientists -- headed by Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford with a demented sense of humor. These guys push levers and turn dials to manipulate the scenario adding different storytelling elements to see how their characters will react, witness what decisions they'll make.
Think I've spoiled something for you? Think again. This is just the beginning. From here things get out of control. Not to mention a little too cocky. Self-aware cleverness and self-reflexive humor are characteristics that can get too overbearing, and that is exactly the case with Whedon and Goddard here. They're toying with the audience, but toward the end something happens -- something crazy -- and when it clicks in, you have to decide how far you're willing to go down the rabbit hole. I won't go into more detail because any spoiler would completely botch the experience of seeing it for yourself.
What I will say is this: it makes a devilish transformation. Beneath the apparent ingenuity and originality lurks something cruel and uncomfortable. It gives off the air of being something more than it really is. The initial joke is defeated later by nonsensical chaos, which is grisly fun but not brilliant. "The Cabin in the Woods" is the movie equivalent of a one-night stand. It's fine for a quick and dirty mindfuck, but you don't really know how it leaves you feeling afterward.