What do you do when a genre has completely played itself out? You reinvent it one last time and let all hell break loose.
Five friends set out for a weekend of fun, heading to that perfect of all places: an isolated cabin in the woods with an RV stocked with beer and swimsuits. All is not as it seems, however, and as sinister clues begin to drop, a few in the group begin to suspect that everything isn’t cool. Meanwhile, a pair of technicians working at a state-of-the-art facility finish preparations to make sure that their special project goes off without any glitches. Unbeknownst to the happy campers (but beknownst to us), they ARE the project, and it isn’t going to end well for anyone.
Joss Whedon fans have a certain level of expectation, and besides this summer’s The Avengers movie, The Cabin in the Woods has been unleashed upon the world after sitting too long on the shelf. “Buffy” and “Angel” fans won’t be entirely surprised by how many levels Cabin‘s plot delves down into (and we’re talking DEEP), but they’ll still be happily rewarded with the kind of movie budget effects that lets viewers actually see the promised consequences for the actions of characters onscreen (and that alone is worth the price of admission). While the creators have said in interviews that anyone can enjoy it, it’s the true fans of horror that will be most rewarded.
While the film is directed by Drew Goddard, the writer of Cloverfield, both he and Whedon collaborated on the script (Whedon himself is credited for some second unit directing). Every element has been thought through, from props to characters to location; in other words, blink and you’ll miss something (repeat watching to catch every horror reference may be required when this thing hits Blu-ray). It’s a love letter to the “woods” genre and horror in general, including some brilliant nods to many of the most successful and infamous franchises around. While it doesn’t have to be viewed in theaters, horror fans will kick themselves for not seeing it with all their friends before this thing explodes across social networks.
The sad part is that no one can talk about this without giving too much away, even as little as mentioning some of the particular films being looted for source material. Rest assured that everything that has gone before has been marked, ‘membered, and lovingly rolled up into the plot to end all plots. In fact, the film ends with such finality as to not only destroy any believable possibility of a sequel but is also pretty much the last word on the subject. This means that anyone trying to follow this is going to be sorely tested to break fresh ground, and that’s not a bad thing. So, if you call yourself a horror fan or a Whedon fan, get thee to a theater this weekend and celebrate the true end of an era.
(a four skull recommendation out of four)