(From the June 1-15 issue of The Fortnightly)By Oliver M. Pulumbarit
Avengers director and screenwriter Joss Whedon’s smaller film this season is The Cabin in the Woods, a clever, genre-examining horror flick he produced and co-wrote with frequent collaborator and director Drew Goddard (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel).
The film’s official trailer gives away really important story details, so try to avoid it. Those who’ve seen the spoilery trailer beforehand will still be treated to a bunch of surprises, though.
Australian actor Chris Hemsworth takes a break from playing the Marvel movies’ thunder god Thor, and portrays an all-American college jock, Curt. He and four other friends—the provocative Jules (Anna Hutchison), the virginal Dana (Kristen Connolly), the stoned Marty (Fran Kranz), and the scholarly Holden (Jesse Williams)—plan to spend the weekend at a place where they can freely unwind.
The titular cabin is an old, creepy house situated in the middle of nowhere. Ignoring a few strange and disturbing ornaments, the friends try to have fun, but they’re eerily interrupted by the sudden opening of a basement door.
The Cabin in the Woods also co-stars The West Wing’s Bradley Whitford and Six Feet Under’s Richard Jenkins. Fans of the Whedonverse will enjoy characters portrayed by Amy Acker and Tom Lenk (from Angel and Buffy, respectively), aside from Kranz’s perpetually high Marty.
Its dialogue is typically witty, but deliberately skips the use of more flippant Whedon-isms. Storywise, it looks somewhat inspired by a concept that was partly explored during the fourth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But the similarities end there; Cabin elaborately and imaginatively explains the structure of several horror movies, and creates a unique, unifying bond between them in the process.
So no, it’s not a typical slasher flick, that’s for sure. There’s a favorable synergy between the actors as well, thankfully. Also enhancing the tenseness of the last few scenes is the surprise cameo of a sci-fi/horror icon.
Those expecting a traditionally structured horror movie will still be pleasantly surprised. Horror fans, or those already familiar with the genre and its tropes, will appreciate the fact that The Cabin in the Woods offers familiar scares, and more importantly, bigger and stranger enigmas to solve.