"Cabin in the Woods" Conjures an Alternative Explanation for Musty Slasher-Flick Tropes

By Sean Burns
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Apr. 10, 2012

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"The Cabin in the Woods"

Grade: B-

So this horny jock and his ditzy blonde girlfriend drag a sweet virgin, a studly nice guy and a comic-relief stoner off-campus for a party weekend in a remote cabin. But all the hormone-drenched decadence comes to an abrupt halt when these beautiful young folks start getting picked off one at a time by ghastly monsters beyond their limited imaginations. We’ve all seen this movie at least a hundred times, right?

Not exactly.

With some help on the screenplay side from reigning emperor of snark Joss Whedon, director Drew Goddard’s The Cabin in the Woods conjures a nifty alternative explanation for all those musty slasher-flick tropes, cheerfully deconstructing its own cliches as it goes along.

One must tread lightly here, as giving away too many of this picture’s crafty conceits would pretty much negate its entire reason for being. This is one fiendish little prank of a movie.

All I can safely reveal is that our stereotypical boobs-and-blood pastoral is cross-cut with the inner machinations of a sterile, flourescent-lit underground bunker. Two sardonic, white-collar middle-managers played by the invaluable Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford traipse around in beaurocratic drudgery, orchestrating the film’s shock effects according to a rigid formula provided by “The Director.”

So, essentially, we’re watching a crummy horror film make itself, with sly commentary from the peanut gallery. The effect is sort of like Scream crossed with that final sequence from Woody Allen’s Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask) in which sperm cells were portrayed as paratroopers.

Give The Cabin in the Woods credit for coming up with enough twists to keep its one-joke premise fresh for the entire running time. Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, has earned demi-god status on the Internet for his ability to flatter savvy viewers, and there’s no denying that the man knows how to turn a phrase in the dialogue department.

But something about his style always strikes me as too clever by half, and Cabin is perfectly enjoyable without ever quite feeling like there’s anything at stake. A better version of this movie would have found a way to be scary, too.

Read our interview with stars Kristen Connolly and Fran Kranz here.

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It wasn’t an easy time sitting down with The Cabin in the Woods stars Kristen Connolly and Fran Kranz for an interview. The studio had issued a stern NO SPOILERS warning, to a point where three babysitters were perched in the back of the room, listening in on our conversation.