I don’t like horror movies. They are always just a magnet for bad acting. It’s also a magnet for bad dialogue. Action movies are the same way. They spend so much of their minds on the spine of the plot that everything just gets functional. But I like action movies. Probably because while I like the idea of shooting bad guys, I don’t take pleasure in the supernatural coming up behind me to gnaw my neck or whatever. Well, The Cabin in the Woods (2012) is a horror movie, but they didn’t scrimp on the dialogue.
Someone brought their baby to this thing? Are you kidding me?
No wait, Bradley Whitford is in this? I’m so in.
Hadley (Bradley Whitford) and Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) are heading into work today. The same sort of banter you’d expect of any office folk. But this seems a little different. The newbie on the job has to be “prepared” (so as to imply emotionally) for the day. It involves surveillance. Meanwhile, five friends virginal Dana (Kristen Connolly), athletic Curt (Chris Hemsworth), ho-bag Jules (Anna Hutchison), dope-head Marty (Fran Kranz), and smartypants Holden (Jesse Williams) are all going to a cabin in the woods that Curt’s cousin just bought. Once there, it’s clear that Hadley & Co. have quite a bit of control over events while also feeling not so awesome about their jobs. Don’t we all know what that’s like?
What makes this movie something special is that you’ve basically got two stories and your choice as to how you’ll root. As the story opens with the surveillance team, I don’t know why reviewers appear to have taken this as a major twist/spoiler. This is as much their story as our five fine friends. But, this is horror, and it is twisty, so it’s just a part of the structure that we can’t get as close, plotwise, to those who know what’s going on.
But the two-stories thing is interesting because they both work. While the fearsome five are in what we might call a The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) world, our super surveyors are in a The Hunger Games (2012) story with a different look and feel. Because both sides work their limited magic, both stories are interesting. Neither steals from the other because, in fact, neither requires all that much. Towards the end-ish of the movie, I thought, quite loudly, “Awesome!” That’s because a third kind of story started. *Wink*
Now there’s a lot of genuflecting going around on the unpredictability and genre on-head turning that goes on, but I’m not sure that’s entirely earned. While it is a pretty wild premise, it’s nothing out of the way for co-writer Joss Whedon. More likely is that people haven’t seen Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1996-2003), Angel (1999-2004), or Firefly (2002-03). Those who have experienced any of the above are familiar with his traits and subjects.
I’m not actually huge on Whedon despite having seen all of Angel and owning, but never finishing, Firefly. He’s often pretty funny, but I laugh at roughly have the jokes he cracks. I shouldn’t say that because obviously he didn’t write those shows on his own, so maybe he was hilarious and everyone else sucked. Option 2 is that the actors just didn’t deliver on the jokes. I think there’s a combination of factors.
Here, however, all the jokes hit the spot for me. Again, it could be that Whitford, Jenkins, and Kranz are simply superior to the Angel crew (or benefited from more time and money). In any case, Whedon and co-writer/director Drew Goddard delivered the humor throughout the movie. It is mostly one-liner-based, but that’s easier to get wrong than right.
The story is also quite good. Not just because it’s twisty-turny, which it isn’t, but because it’s a solid idea well executed. Goddard, you get double points for directing these three differently feeling parts of the film while never seeming jerky or contrived. I’m in danger of genuflecting. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t Inception (2010), but it’s darn good.
Shout outs have to go to Whitford and Jenkins for stealing the show. Well done. I knew you would.
Marty’s got this sweet telescopic bong that doubles as a coffee mug that I was rather impressed with. I don’t do drugs, but you’ve got to appreciate engineering when you see it.