TWL Instant Message Movie Review: The Cabin in the Woods

Makes us want to run out and go camping. Not.
Photo: Lionsgate.
Fan favorite Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly and Dollhouse) partners with Drew Goddard (Angel, Lost) to bring us The Cabin in the Woods. Here's the 15 minute instant message session where CaliforniaKara and SDMattchew hash out their thoughts on the horror film...and only one of them's seen it. 

SPOILER ALERT: If you haven't seen the movie, and don't want to know any details about plot or casting, stop reading now.

californiakara: Just saw The Cabin in the Woods.

sdmattchew: Cabin in the woods? Is that the one with "chick from Hunger Games"?

californiakara: It's Joss Whedon's new one. Directed by Drew Goddard (Buffy, Cloverfield, Lost).

sdmattchew: Too bad I still don't know much about this movie. But I'll bet it's about a cabin in the woods? And doesn't have that chick from Hunger Games...

californiakara: It doesn't have that chick from Hunger Games, or Buffy, but it does have a red headed chick who looks like Felicia Day. Actually, I think they'dve been better off casting Felicia, though this girl held her own for all accounts and purposes.

sdmattchew: What about casting "guy from Thor"?

californiakara: Not quite Himbo Nation, but close.

californiakara: So here's the thing: it rocked. I've never laughed so hard at a horror movie.

sdmattchew: So was it trying to be humorous (Scream)? Or humorous because it couldn't get any campier if it tried (Nightmare on Elm Street reboot)?

californiakara: It was classic Joss in that it blended the horror with the pathos, the terrifying with the funny. There'd be this terrible thing happening on screen, then someone would say something hysterical.

From bit player on Dollhouse to kicking redneck Zombie butt.
Sounds like an upgrade to us. Photo: Lionsgate.
californiakara: It made it so it was the first horror film in a long time I wasn't scared at.

sdmattchew: Well, it was co-written by Drew Goddard of Cloverfield fame, so that was kind of a no-brainer that you wouldn't ever actually be scared while watching this film.

californiakara: I'll touch on that in a sec, actually. As for not being scared... maybe it's because most of the dreck that passes as "horror" films these days relies heavily on torture porn and/or cheap moments (having someone jump in from just offscreen to surprise the victim).

sdmattchew: The masters (and by masters I mean John Carpenter) know it's about what they DON'T show you.

californiakara: ExACTly.

sdmattchew: Ridley Scott rocked that idea in Alien.

californiakara: Speaking of, your girl makes a surprise appearance at the end.

sdmattchew: Uh... that doesn't narrow the list. Who might that be?

californiakara: Sigourney Weaver.

Six Feet Under meets Angel meets West Wing.
Must've been a fun set. Photo: Lionsgate.
sdmattchew: Really? Awesome! She probably dwarfed the shorter actors, if there were any still playing characters who hadn't been killed off yet.

californiakara: No, they were all dead at that point.

californiakara: Well, sorta. But the baddies had all been let loose at that point. Which brings me back to your earlier comment about Drew. Remember, he wrote for Lost, which didn't show the deus ex machina right away. The difference with this film is they show you there's a set-up right from the git go. You don't think this is just a "kids in the cabin" movie then get a big reveal. You know from the opening frame there are puppetmasters.

sdmattchew: Which brings me to my rather strange complaint about this movie...

sdmattchew: I'm really happy that this movie isn't the typically slasher flick, but I only know it isn't because they barfed it all over their trailer. So I guess thanks for letting me know the movie isn't the typical slasher film, which probably would have turned me off to it. But thanks for giving it away that it isn't, which is also a turn off.

californiakara: Wait, knowing ahead of time it wasn't a slasher flick would've turned you off to the film?

sdmattchew: Only the typical slasher flick. On the other hand, if John Carpenter ever tried his hand at it again... (Hint, hint!)

californiakara: Oh, okay. Knowing ahead of time about it all being set-up kind of felt like cheating.

sdmattchew: So... can I ask you if it featured my biggest horror movie pet peeve?

californiakara: Sure.

sdmattchew: That would be embarrassingly bad CGI. (ex. The Thing - 2011).
I see red things. Photo: Lionsgate.

sdmattchew: I'm just not going to be scared if the monster looks like something from a cut scene in a Resident Evil Playstation 1 game.

californiakara: Well, the premise is that the kids have to get to the basement first, and the game guys at corporate (play masterfully by Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford) have all these tools to get them there: scents, smells, control of the doors and windows.

sdmattchew: Sort of leading the rug rats through a cabin maze?

californiakara: So they get the kids there, then there's all sorts of creepy things to look at down there: dolls, books, pendants, etc. Whoever picks up one first and invokes it, THAT'S what comes alive and tries to kill them.

californiakara: In this instance, it's the Zombie Redneck Slasher Family that's activated.

sdmattchew: I hope Rick was there to provide guns and ammo and lead them to some worthless farm to hide out in... er, wait... sorry, wrong show.

californiakara: He was, but then Shane killed him.

sdmattchew: Hopefully they found weapons, though.

californiakara: They didn't find weapons, but they found cameras and figured out they were being watched.

sdmattchew:And that, of course, is the key to stopping the people who want to kill you.

californiakara: In the end, 2 of the 5 escaped. (Thor and the doc from Grey's Anatomy bit it, sadly, as they were the best looking.)

sdmattchew: So they're thinking sequel then. If one star becomes too big for a Cabin 2 (Thor) then the other one (guy from Grey's Anatomy) will continue the series.

All horror movie stereotypes present and accounted for. Photo: Lionsgate.
californiakara: If they can pull off a sequel, it'd have to be a prequel, because the world was overtaken by ancients at the end.

californiakara: Here's the gist: you have to make a sacrifice to the Ancients, or they get all pissy and take over the world. There are teams of this corporation doing this all over the world, and everyone's failed except the US and Japan. (Meaning, all the folks in captivity have beaten the challenge.) So they really need the US team to pull through and kill these kids in sacrifice.

sdmattchew: Holy crap! Are you kidding? No wonder you were laughing during the movie. I'm laughing at this plot. It certainly is not what I would have expected out of a movie that involves a bunch of kids going to a cabin.

californiakara: No no no! But that's the thing. It was done pretty tongue firmly in cheek, sending up the usual horror camp (a nerd, a virgin, a jock, a hussy, etc.). Basically saying, "You see this crap in every horror film...but what if they do dumb sh!t in all these films because it's part of some grander plan?"

sdmattchew: Oh!!! I FINALLY get it now. And I like it.

sdmattchew: I hereby give this movie that I've never even seen a thumbs-up.

californiakara: Ha!

Final thoughts

sdmattchew: Being a horror movie buff, I've gotta respect a movie that takes a fresh look at the genre. Kind of wish they hadn't TOLD us they were doing that. But kudos for putting Sigourney Weaver in the film. Except for Alien 3, I trust her taste in projects. I'm sold.

californiakara: Not sure I would've played the big reveal at the beginning, but The Cabin in the Woods (did we really need the first "The" Joss?) takes the piss out of horror films with an ingenious twist and goes all-out, balls out bananas at the end. Well played, Whedon, well played.


ProTip: If you happen to read Rex Reed's review, know that much of what's in there regarding plot points is vastly incorrect. (Seriously, actually wrong.)

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