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A Film Review: The Cabin in the Woods

Not since the original Scream has American horror been this good.  Take whatever preconceived notions you may have and leave them at the door.  The Cabin in the Woods takes every horror stereotype and delivers one of the most surprising and delightful movies in a long time.  An instant cult classic.

Playing to the usual 80s horror scenario, the film opens with a group of college students getting ready for a carefree weekend getaway.  The whore, the athlete, the scholar, the fool, and the virgin, the usual archetypes in horror movies, are present and every bit as stereotypical as you would expect.  The five friends make it to their cabin alright with only the usual stop at an abandoned gas station to ask for directions from a spooky older man.  Once at their cabin, all bets are off and for the next hour and a half you are treated to one of the most innovative horror scenarios of all time.  Unfortunately, I cannot give too much of the plot away without spoiling the surprises, which is even more reason for you to check it out.  Do not read any spoilers also!  It is best to go into this movie with a blind eye.

When I first read up on this film I was not expecting much.  It was shot in 2009, but when its studio went under, the film sat on the shelves collecting dust until Lionsgate (a studio that continues to build momentum) picked it up and set it for a 2012 release.  Typically I am skeptical of films whose release date gets bumped around, yet after viewing the trailer I knew there was something different about this one.  Then one look at the minds behind the project told me that my speculations were correct.  Drew Goddard, screenwriter of Cloverfield and Lost, steps behind the camera in his directorial debut.  Also, Goddard cowrote the script with screenwriter legend, Joss Whedon, who has blessed us with Toy Story, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Firefly.

The faces in front of the camera have just as much legitimacy, despite their lack of notoriety.  Yet their lack of celebrity status is made up for in acting chops and great horror screams.  Chris Hemsworth is the only cast member with star power, and even his fame is rising.  The rest of the main cast is made up of unknowns.  Kristen Connolly and Fran Kranz get their moment in the spotlight after a number of bit parts in forgettable movies.  Anna Hutchison makes her transition from kids programming, Power Rangers and Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior, to the adult realm, and boy does she make quite the impression.  Then there is Jesse Williams, a Grey’s Anatomy regular who finally gets his chance to sink his teeth into a memorable silver screen character.

Little side-note: We do get a look at a pre-Thor Hemsworth since the film was shot in 2009, an interesting fact for fans.

As campy as Evil Dead, as witty as Scream, and as surprising as The ExorcistThe Cabin in the Woods delivers in every way.  In a world of “found footage” horror, exorcisms movies, and bland ghost stories, this movie could not have come at a more perfect time.  What is most noteworthy about this film is its dedication to its original concept.  Never does it trail off or give us cheap tricks, this innovator stays the course and gives us the most satisfying horror film in more than a decade.

Right now, this film is neck and neck with The Hunger Games for the best film of 2012 so far.  It is a close call, but this one could snag the title.  Check this one out, even if you think you already know the story.  You may think you know what will happen next, but you have no idea.

Happy movie-going!

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