It's a hit, shock horror! The Cabin In The Woods will be surprise smash hit of the year
09:39 GMT, 13 April 2012
THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (15)
Verdict: Tale of the unexpected
Adverts make this look like a cliched exploitation film, with good-looking young people murdered one-by-one in a spooky forest cabin by, as one of the characters says with understandable resentment, ‘zombified, pain-worshipping, backwoods, redneck idiots’.
But don’t worry — it’s anything but conventional in where it goes from there.
Those directions are hinted at by the opening titles. They depict ancient scenes of ritual sacrifice.
Scroll down for the trailer
The Cabin In The Woods: Fran Kranz looks like a youthful and even more frazzled Owen Wilson in the movie that is sure to be a big hit
Then there’s the first scene, which shows two middle-aged technicians (well played by Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford) swapping banalities as they prepare for a day at the office or wherever it is they work.
Their cheery badinage, jokily reminiscent of Ricky Gervais’s The Office, is interrupted by more menacing titles which drip blood in a way that clashes with the tone of the opening.
The endearingly playful, dazzlingly unpredictable movie that follows — and I’m not going to spoil it by telling you too much — shows Hollywood at its best.
This is a hugely entertaining, brilliantly crafted entertainment that’s witty, ground-breaking and — most important of all — fun.
We’re still only in April, but by the end of 2012, millions are going to be talking about this as the outstanding film of the year.
The actors, inspired by a screenplay that miraculously bothers to give them funny things to say, hang around long enough to suggest they are capable of more than the necessarily stereotypical characters they have to play here.
Making an impression: The film's heroine Kristen Connolly is engaging
Two make a particular impression. The more-or-less virginal heroine — in the Neve Campbell (Scream)/Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween) role — is engagingly played by Kristen Connolly, a redhead who’s the spitting image of the young Shirley Anne Field.
And Fran Kranz, looking like a youthful, even more frazzled Owen Wilson, is a hoot as a young man whose cannabis intake has unexpectedly revelatory side-effects.
The first picture to be written and directed by the co-writer of Cloverfield, Drew Goddard, The Cabin In The Woods is a personal triumph for him, but also recognisably the work of his co-writer Joss Whedon, who helped give us Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Lost and (a credit less well known) Toy Story.
Both men deserve credit for artistic integrity. The Cabin In The Woods was shot three years ago.
The delay in releasing it came about because Whedon and Goddard objected to the studio Lionsgate’s plans (later shelved, thank goodness) to convert it to 3D.
The creative influences upon Goddard and Whedon are clear. The scarily effective mixture of black comedy and horror is reminiscent of Sam Raimi’s first two Evil Dead movies, and of Wes Craven, who gave us three of the other most memorably innovative achievements in the genre, Scream, Scream 2 and Wes Craven’s New Nightmare.
The plot is also indebted to Welsh director Marc Evans’s intelligent horror movie of 2002 My Little Eye, sadly underestimated by most critics at the time.
The spooky corridors, chilly vision of the future and skilful blending of horror with social comment recall Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Dr Strangelove.
Less obvious influences are two British authors, Clive Barker and Douglas Adams, both of them always keen to deconstruct the appeal of horror and science fiction and reveal why they’re important to so many of us. Their ideas underpin the entire movie.
Add to these ingredients five charming performances by the doomed college kids (you’re actually sorry to see them die) and an unexpectedly lavish special-effects extravaganza for a finale, and you have an innovative mixture of at least three genres: horror, science fiction and black comedy.
It’s much cleverer and more mature than The Hunger Games, but it’s about very similar things.
The Cabin In The Woods ends up as the more biting satire on the entertainment industry, man’s appetite for violence and older people’s love-hate relationship with youth.
And don’t worry, I’m not spoiling anything by saying that. It’s clear from very early on that our two boffins are desensitised workers in an entertainment machine that regards human life as something that can be cavalierly ended in order to appease the audience.
Who and what that audience is, the movie leaves teasingly uncertain until a big guest star cameo reveals all — but it may not be the answer you’re expecting.
If you wanted to be hyper-critical, you could argue Cabin is guilty of the sins that it condemns.
It values narrative ingenuity over genuine horror and treats with flippant callousness the characters it slaughters for our gruesome scary-movie delectation.
But I’m happy to swallow a small amount of hypocrisy in exchange for the pleasures this movie gave me.
I haven’t enjoyed a film as much since The Artist, and this is easily the most fun I’ve ever had watching a slasher movie.
I’ve only five stars to award, but it deserves an extra one for being about 30 IQ points brighter than it needed to be. Of how many Hollywood movies can you say that
Now watch the trailer