Clever satire? Pointed critique? Loving tribute?
I suppose the film has it all.
With a few exceptions. Like interesting characters. A scenario that, clever as Mr. Whedon and company made it, also expected the audience to accept our villains were also incredibly, mind-numbingly stupid.
But let’s back up for a moment. The film starts with two seemingly divergent sets of characters. On the one hand we have a bunch of office drones in some strange, undefined worker setting complaining about your typical office drone problems with management or the job itself. Then, you have a group of five rather old looking “teens” (I suppose the satire element has begun!) who are about to embark on a vacation. Their destination? A…cabin in the woods…
Strange stuff subsequently happens and our two seemingly divergent sets of characters are slowly brought together into a single gory (but not too gory) story.
As a fan of horror films and the horror genre, Cabin In the Woods sounded like something in my wheelhouse. Early word was that this was a clever deconstruction of the modern “slasher” genre, and I was certainly game for a clever horror film.
As the film played out, it was hard to miss the references to other famous (and infamous!) horror films like Evil Dead, Friday The 13th, Hellraiser, Psycho, etc. And that’s not even mentioning the very obvious shout out to Scooby Doo via the group of teens themselves.
But, but, but…
As clever as all these little tips of the hat were, as the movie went on, I found myself less and less engaged in what was going on. Yes, there were moments I chuckled. But there were very few moments I actually felt any horror. After a while, I realized that part of the problem was that as clever as the script was in riffing off other films, the characters we were suppose to sympathize with were simply…flat.
In many ways, Cabin in the Woods seems to be trying, more than anything else, to be this generation’s version of the 1981 film An American Werewolf In London. Both films featured clever (and plentiful) riffs on other films, but An American Werewolf In London worked better, to my mind, because the characters were far more genuine and interesting. Thus, the shocks, the gore, and the laughs were that much bigger when they came at you versus Cabin In The Woods.
In the end, Cabin In The Woods winds up being a disappointment. It’s not a bad film, mind you. It is perfectly watchable to any horror fan out there. But by the same token it never quite reaches the heights of what I felt it was trying for.