Shot in 2009 but later shelved for three years due to MGM's bankruptcy, THE CABIN IN THE WOODS is finally here after being picked up by Lionsgate. And I must say, not since Wes Craven's SCREAM has a horror genre so wickedly subversive and so twisted as this long-delayed shocker. This is the kind of movie where the less you know about the detail, the better. Written and produced by none others than TV's Buffy the Vampire Slayer Joss Whedon and directed by first-timer Drew Goddard (writer of TV's Lost), THE CABIN IN THE WOODS is no doubt one of the most original horror movies ever seen in years. But as original as this movie is so playfully displayed here, it's a shame that it's also a heavily uneven effort frequently ruined by preposterous outcome. More on that later.
As for the plot, here's all the outline you should know: Five college kids -- a shy bookworm Dana (Kristen Connolly), jock Curt (Chris Hemsworth), Curt's horny girlfriend Jules (Anna Hutchison), intellectual Holden (Jesse Williams), and stoner Marty (Fran Kranz) -- set out for a weekend getaway to Curt's cousin's secluded cabin deep in the countryside driving a RV. Once there, they can't wait to have fun time together but there's something seriously wrong with the cabin -- violent old paintings are found hanging on the wall, a one-way mirror separating two bedrooms, a mysterious cellar filled with strange artifacts and a particular scenario where Dana reads a line from an old diary that somehow unleashes a deadly force of evil.
But wait, there's more -- what's with the corporate office scene shown at the beginning of the movie and features two office employees (Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford), who both somehow controlling what happens in the woods in a mysterious control center?
It's especially rare these days to see innovative filmmakers like Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon dare to go the distance by turning the oft-familiar horror genre inside out and comes up something uniquely different. No doubt their collaborated screenplay is chock full of surprises that I bet a lot of horror fans, even the die-hard ones, never seen it coming as the movie progresses further. The result is a fun cinematic experience where you'll get to guess what's happen next. The final twenty minutes is particularly an extraordinary blast for (every) horror fans' wet dream-comes-true moments of wicked fun. I don't want to spoil it for you here, but let's just say it's something so gory yet outrageously imaginative.
However the same cannot be said with the way how Goddard and Whedon's imaginative screenplay is told here. Most of the time the movie is meant to be confusing because ultimately, it relies on the twist finale for viewers to understand what is really going on behind all the mumbo-jumbo madness. Too bad the explanatory finale is shockingly preposterous that will you leave you hanging with more questions than answers and a particular WTF-moment. Even some of the so-called subversive and self-conscious fun a lot of critics have been praising all over this movie is largely overrated.
Acting-wise, the cast are as typical as they get since the filmmakers intended them to be stereotypical. Still, Kristen Connolly is particularly engaging as Dana while Fran Kranz steals the show as a paranoid stoner who is blessed all the best lines in the movie.
THE CABIN IN THE WOODS could have been a game changer in term of recreating the familiar horror-movie convention, but it remains a flawed effort that doesn't reaches the feverish peak Wes Craven has set the standard in SCREAM.