The Cabin in the Woods (2011) is the latest offering from the pen of Joss Whedon, creator of hit TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer and director of the forthcoming Avengers Assemble (2012), and also marks the directorial debut of co-writer Drew Goddard. The film worships unashamedly at the altar of horror, whilst simultaneously chastising it for becoming so tawdry and predictable. Enlisting Chris Hemsworth, Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins, Goddard and co. set out to prove that the horror genre’s reach can once again extend past the showy slasher and tasteless torture porn branches of the faith.
American college students Dana (Kristen Connelly), Curt (Hemsworth), Jules (Anna Hutchison), Holden (Jesse Williams) and Marty (Fran Kranz) are off to a cabin in the woods to let off some steam via the usual channels of sex and drugs. Those who are at all acquainted with the horror genre may think that they know where this is going, but although the merry party will most definitely be hunted, the beast in this case is of a very different nature to any they may have seen before.
Unsurprisingly, considering both Whedon and Goddard’s prior affiliation with the show (Goddard wrote several episodes for the final season), there is something very Buffy about The Cabin in the Woods. On a general level, both cleverly contrast old world horror stories with new world comedy cynicism and manage to find the perfect balance between the two. More specifically, Buffy aficionados will notice a parallel between this film and the ‘Homecoming’ episode, which explored the idea of a horrific hunt for the modern technological age.
Though the film is sufficiently creepy, jumpy and bloody, it is most notable for its wit and humour. The film takes the darkly comic to new heights by reflecting on modern day issues of desensitisation and sterilisation of the horrific. Featuring hilarious turns from both Whitford and Jenkins, The Cabin in the Woods is guaranteed to produce more laughs from its audience than the average out-and-out comedy.
As well as providing shocks and laughs aplenty, The Cabin in the Woods is unexpectedly self-reflexive for a film of this kind. The film also takes horror character stereotypes and explicitly involves these staples in the narrative, cleverly subverting whilst critiquing the current state of the genre. Though the film’s ending may initially leave viewers a little disappointed, it marks a wholehearted commitment to a manifesto which refuses to accept more of the same lacklustre genre pieces..
With a combination of his trademark wit and comedy gore, Whedon has once again reinvigorated a stale genre. Mixing the comic with the horrific, The Cabin in the Woods is as hilarious as it is subversive. A must-see for fans of Whedon, comedy and horror.