The Cabin in the Woodsis easily one of the most interesting films in cinematic history. But is it a good film? Despite its faults, The Cabin in the Woods is an entertaining film that does enough right to be one of the better films that will come out this year. The film’s parts may be better than the sum of its parts, but the parts that work, work really well.
The Cabin in the Woodsfollows a group of college students that are going on vacation at a remote cabin. At the same time, a group of technicians at a laboratory prepare to work on their latest project. The two storylines do ultimately connect in horror film fashion, but to say anymore will ruin the many surprises in this film. The film is directed by debut director (but veteran television genre writer) Drew Goddard and is based off a script written by Goddard and geek legend Joss Whedon. Goddard’s direction is surprisingly strong here as he raises the film above its horror film foundation. The film at times even becomes a deconstruction of the entire horror genre. A strong vision is always necessary to effectively do a deconstruction. Goddard clearly has that vision.
The script is where some of the issues of the film occur. The film tries to tackle multiple storylines (and at times multiple genres) during the course of its runtime. While the visual style of the film allows these storylines to mesh, the script doesn’t do much to relate these storylines. Also causing a problem is that one storyline in particular is terribly written. This particular storyline just uses every cliché of the horror genre and offers nothing new (which is something all of the other storylines have in spades).
Ultimately, the script does a lot more than most films even think about doing. It tries to make you look at one of film’s less critically acclaimed genres (horror) in a new light. While not all of it works, it is easily one of the most ambitious scripts in recent memory.
The acting is also surprisingly strong for a horror film. Kristen Connolly plays the lead. While all she is doing is playing the stereotypical teenage horror lead, she does it very well. Also helping her is a script that takes her character in some surprising directions in the film’s second half. Actually, all of the teenage characters are played well (with the exception of Jesse Williams as Holden).
The storyline at the laboratory involves the more experienced actors and you can tell. Richard Jenkins and Amy Acker are solid as two of the “scientists”, but it is Bradley Whitford who steals the show. Whitford (despite being most remembered for his role on The West Wing) is one of the funniest actors around, and this film takes full advantage of that.
While not everything in this film works, The Cabin in the Woods succeeds with a talented cast, a strong second half and the ambition of two masters of genre films/television.