After being shelved for two years, the Drew Goddard film, The Cabin in the Woods was finally released into theaters on April 13, 2012, and the horror/comedy was met with critical praise as it currently stands at 92% on rotten tomatoes. Described as a loving-hate letter that mocked classic horror movie tropes and turned them on its head. The film was a moderate success at the box office, though it never reached the heights of Scream or even cult status like Shaun of the Dead. While the feature film is highly acclaimed by many critics, the same reception isn’t met with all fans. Looking at the Drew Goddard feature, does the 2012 film deserve the high praise that it’s received? Or does The Cabin in the Woods fail to live up to the standards that movies like Scream set? Let’s dive deeper into this loving hate letter.
The Cabin in the Woods is meant to be strange, scary, funny at the same time. At the root of this film, it’s mocking most of the tropes that have plagued the genre for so long. A final girl who happens to be a virgin. Check. Sex between two young and pretty soon-to-be victims. Check. The group decides to split up because they think it’s a good idea. Check. Each of the classic horror movie tropes is mocked throughout and The Cabin in the Woods does an amazing job of being the loving hate letter that’s it presented to be. It’s a huge feat for such a film to be some many things at once, yet still remain compelling, surprising, and good. Actually, scratch good. This is an amazing film that does deserve more credit than it gets. Even if you can take out all of the mockeries of horror movie tropes, The Cabin in the Woods still holds its own as an original movie.
The opening sequence is simply perfect. Usually, a horror movie starts out with a kill to establish the tone and villain of said movie. How could you forget a young Michael Myers murdering his sister on Halloween? Or Casey Becker and her boyfriend being slaughtered in the opening moments of Scream. Instead, Goddard provides a misdirection, starting off with a conversation between Hadley and Sitterson. Yes, some plot details are given away but the first scene doesn’t indicate a horror movie. That opening actually sets up for a very unpredictable film, especially in the third act. Of course, every film needs strong characters. Representing the cliche horror characters in the genre, Goddard and Whedon wisely don’t beat audiences in the head with who they are. The slut (Anna Hutchison), The jock (Chris Hemsworth), The virgin…well sort of (Kristen Connolly), The stoner (Fran Kranz), and the scholar (Jesse Williams) are given their own personalities and the actors do a great job of portraying the roles that they were given. More importantly, each character actually comes across as likable. This is a rare feat as there’s always at least one d-bag within the group, but our connection to each of the core cast makes it harder for them to be picked off one by one.
The story is pretty simple and despite all the misdirections, the film’s message never gets lost in translation. The film cleverly builds up to the third act that explodes with numerous bombshells. Seeing the homage to some classic horror villains is the icing on an already perfect cake. Having both CGI and practical monsters is a cool concept, though it does expose which monsters are “real” or CGI a bit. The film did miss an opportunity with Sigourney Weaver as The Director. This is a legendary actress who brings her A-game whatever she’s on screen, so to not reveal her character until the very end can be disappointing. Granted, it does take some of the mystery away over who’s in control of the entire operation; however, Weaver could’ve been a meaty and multi-layered villain that could’ve been far more memorable. Overall, The Cabin in the Woods is deserving of the high critical praise that it’s received. The horror/comedy did what the Scary Movie franchise failed to do, mock some of the horror tropes while still making an original story its own. With strong characters, excellent production design, and a clever story, The Cabin in the Woods is truly a top-notch thrill ride for horror fans.