I am pleased to say that this is my first five star film review for Movie Muser, which is perhaps surprising as Cabin In The Woods was filmed in 2009 but has sat on a shelf since then due to MGM’s bankruptcy. When screened at comic book conventions, it received excellent buzz and has a decent score on IMDB, but besides the title I knew little about the film.
Except it is co-written by Josh Whedon. Enough said.
WARNING It is best to see this film unspoilt by trailers and it’s probably best to give the spoiler part of my review a miss too. Save that part for after you have seen the film.
So a title like Cabin in the Woods makes you think this is another half baked horror film with a bunch of teenagers getting picked off one by one by some ghoulish creature in a repeat of every clichéd horror film you’ve seen before. Well, kinda.
SPOILER FREE REVIEW: The plot has a bunch of young adults heading to a cabin in the woods for a getaway, but what appears to be a rather standard horror lark is not what you think at all, and most of the fun is trying to figure out what’s really going on and why. I won’t spoil the awesomeness to come but this is one of the funniest films I’ve watched and is genuinely scary in some parts! It’s the best horror comedy since Shaun of the Dead (2004) and one of the most entertaining films I’ve seen, full stop!
Go and watch it, you’ll have a blast as this film is an awesome rollercoaster and very clever, going to unexpected places and becoming as much about horror movies as it is a horror movie itself! It rocks!
SPOILER REVIEW: Seriously, please don’t read this until you have seen the film!
My God does this film rock! Ok, the title sequence shows images of human sacrifice to god/gods, so imagine a modern day global department of defence setting up elaborate scenarios to ritually sacrifice humans in order to keep an evil god from rising again and effectively ending the world. The kids in the movie are unwittingly playing their game in the titular cabin! The drops and payoffs are fantastic.
The ending is one of the best and most imaginative massacres I’ve ever seen! The characters are stereotypes based around horror conventions (and indeed Scooby Doo), with the film jumping between the kids trying to survive as they work out what’s going on, and the control room of the defence centre, where the operators are believable, show humility and remorse that they have to sacrifice people, but also like to have fun at their jobs (the harbinger on speakerphone, for example).
The pace is great, the tension builds, the actors can act and the dialogue is excellent, especially when talking about gardening tools. From the moment you see the bong coffee cup, you know this will be one silly film, and it rocks!
What I really liked is how it tries to explain what’s really been happening in every single supernatural horror film. But (here’s the real spoiler) just when you think it’s about to end, the two survivors make their way to the control centre and let loose every conceivable type of monster you know, and the results are gory and hilarious!
SPOILERS END: The extras included are excellent, informative and entertaining. I put these up there with the extras included on Terminator 2: Judgement Day and the Lord of the Rings Extended Editions.
The main title menu is cool and shows the control room with a montage of scene based in the cabin, and I’m pleased to say isn’t spoilery.
There’s also a filmmakers’ commentary, along with a Making of ’ featurette. It’s a great look at how much fun the creative process can be! Whedon gives video diaries and director Drew Goddard says the film is a love letter to horror cinema: but it’s not all about the references (which this film is full of). They even give Fran Kranz (who plays the group’s token stoner Marty) his own camera and he records some hilarious behind-the-scenes moments. This making of is segmented by the locations and I’m pleased to say that the cellar is explored and it shows you more creatures. More on that later.
In The Secret Stash’, Fran Kranz shows us Marty’s stash and the lengths the prop department went to create a tulip, fake weed, their own brand smoking papers (Smiling Buddha) and the almighty Thermos Bong (remember kids, drugs are bad, unless you’re in Amsterdam). There’s also, Hi, My Name Is Joss And I’ll Be Your Guide’, which pretty does what it says on the tin, as Joss Whedon shows us around the stage built cabin, and does a German impression. He also discloses that the wolf mouth was covered in sugar so Anna Hutchison would enjoy kissing it.
We also get an informative 26 minute Q&A with Joss and Drew after one of the world’s first screenings of the film, filmed at Wonder-Con: so two geeks being asked questions by a room full of geeks. They enforce Sigourney Weaver’s love for werewolves and the fact it was a troubled production from day one as it snowed when they were trying to film the harbinger scene. They talk about horror influences and the fact the studio (Lionsgate) originally wanted the film to be in 3D, as Avatar (2009) made so much money. Drew and Joss experimented with the idea but decided against it, and thankfully the studio agreed.
In An Army Of Nightmares: Make Up and Animatronic Effects’, Drew and the team designed and created all the pretty monsters and I love this extra. Thankfully they used a lot of practice effects, which is something I appreciate as CGI just isn’t scary! But there is of course some CGI used as we see in
Finally there’s Primal Terror: Visual Effects’, where Drew says they had a rule on effects: “If you can do it practically, then we’re gonna do it that way, which is a naive decision you make only if you’re a first time filmmaker. Because there hard. So this documentary focuses on CGI enhanced shots but the treat for me was how they created the elevator shot, featuring monsters I missed like a kid gnome with an axe and the KKK (well, they’re evil).
Overall Verdict: This film is excellent and one of the most refreshing and entertaining films I have seen in a long time. Buy it, rent it, just watch it!
We Are Not What We Are: Making The Cabin in the Woods’ Featurette
Primal Terror: Visual Effects’ Featurette
An Army of Nightmares: Make-Up & Animatronic Effects’ Featurette
The Secret Secret Stash’ Featurette
Feature Audio Commentary’ Featurette
Reviewer: George Elcombe