Friday, April 13, 2012

Movie Review: “The Cabin in the Woods”

If you say you like horror movies and don't like “The Cabin in the Woods,” you don't like horror movies.

***** out of 5
95 minutes
Rated R for strong bloody horror violence and gore, language, drug use and some sexuality/nudity

Article first published as Movie Review: The Cabin in the Woods on Blogcritics.

“The Cabin in the Woods” has been suffering in release date purgatory, getting bumped from one date to the next over the last three years, setting expectations pretty high. I have a huge split between friends who either absolutely cannot wait to finally see it this weekend, while the other half have no idea that the movie even exists. Originally put into production at MGM, threatened to be converted into 3D, and ultimately shelved when the studio went belly up, Lionsgate has finally stepped up to the plate to bring us the long overdue “The Cabin in the Woods.”

Co-written and directed by Drew Goddard (“Cloverfield”), with Joss Whedon in the co-writer/producer role, they are finally proving that sometimes the less you know about a movie, the better. Whedon and Goddard have delivered one of the best horror movies in years, one of the best films of the year thus far, and it could just wind up working as an endgame to the monotonous genre. We all know things have gotten rather stale lately, and the horror genre is beginning to smell about as bad as most of the dead teens left in its wake.

In “The Cabin in the Woods,” a group of college students are hopping into an RV to spend the weekend at the titular locale. We have the jock, Curt (Chris Hemsworth, “Thor”); the dumb blonde, Jules (Anna Hutchison); virginal bookworm, Dana (Kristen Connolly); abs of steel egghead, Holden (Jesse Williams); and paranoid pothead Marty, (Fran Kranz). They’re all on their way to a weekend off the grid at Curt’s cousin’s cabin. Things look pretty creepy and only get worse as they find their way amongst paintings of human sacrifice, two way mirrors, and a diary from 1903. Soon enough, all hell breaks loose for our five friends and things only keep getting worse as they try to fight for survival.

“The Cabin in the Woods” is a delirious masterpiece that’s been on the shelf far too long. With Lionsgate footing the bill, they can finally show the world that the film is far more than just “Sam Raimi’s ‘Lost.’” Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But Whedon and Goddard both seem to have a bone to pick with the genre, and sometimes the only way to express yourself is with a huge love letter. While the film may have been lensed way back in 2009 when Hemsworth was still mainly known as James Kirk’s heroic father in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek, even then Hemsworth had the chops to carry a film of his own, even if he’s not quite as beefed up as he is now, wielding his almighty hammer.

If the look of the film seems reminiscent of Raimi’s own “Evil Dead 2,” it’s no coincidence as Peter Deming was director of photography on that one too. Deming knows how to stage a shot and never relies on the much maligned shaky cam so we always know what’s going on, which is essential for a film that takes place almost exclusively at night. And composer David Julyan also knows a thing or two about keeping the score good and creepy while ratcheting up the tension. Editor Lisa Lassek (another Whedon cronie) keeps every scene in tip top order, but the real star of the show here is Drew Goddard. Most of his offerings have been in the Abrams camp (“Alias” and “Lost”), but he certainly knows what makes a great genre flick tick. With “Cloverfield,” and now “The Cabin in the Woods” under his belt, I can’t wait to see what greatness Goddard delivers for us next, and I can’t wait to see this one again.

Photos courtesy Lionsgate

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