Reviewing The Cabin In The Woods at this point seems a little moot: In short it’s a fantastic slice of mainstream American cinema. Go and see it. It’s as deliciously subversive and brilliant as you’ve no doubt heard. It’s the best thing that Joss Whedon’s inexplicably overrated name has ever been attached to, and genuinely fresh and exciting, which is an especially impressive feat when one considers that the film has languished in post-production Hell for several years now thanks to the fallout from the MGM debacle.
The long version of the critical approach to the film is a little more complex though, and in order to really sink our teeth in to the film heading in to the dreaded spoiler territory is a necessity. So, from this point on, please be aware that there will be spoilers. Don’t read it until after you have seen the film.
So, The Cabin In The Woods is a subversive deconstruction of the archetypical American horror flick. Disguising itself as some kind of Evil Dead-esque literal cabin-in-the-woods teen slasher throughout much of it’s promotional tour of duty, only for it to reveal its true intentions in its opening scenario, Drew Goddard’s film is a quirky meditation on everything from audience expectations through to reality television, fanboy culture and Hollywood postmodernity.
Fanboy culture is an odd thing. What flies at Comic-Con nary translates well to the real world. One need only look at a film like Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World for evidence – while Edgar Wright’s work was the film that launched a thousand tweets, and the inspiration behind uncountable forum posts, its impressing on the masses was minimal at best. Premiering in a similar fashion at the influential SXSW earlier this year, the initial response to The Cabin In The Woods left us wondering whether or not the rapturous response from the hipsters of Austin was setting Goddard’s film up for a similar fate, alas we couldn’t have been more wrong. Bringing to mind everything from David Cronenberg’s eXistenZ through to Peter Weir’s The Truman Show, via Goddard’s old stomping ground, the television show Lost, means that The Cabin In The Woods has the substance necessary to see it break out of the niche and in to the mainstream.
It’s by no means perfect. As we’ve said above, while much of the joy is to be had in watching the puzzle unfold as the tale rolls out (ala Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island) but one can’t help but feel that Goddard isn’t quite as adept at handling such a spiralling and unwieldy tale as a more seasoned filmmaker might have been. It does occasionally feel a little too loose, uncouth even, in terms of its construction, and one can’t help but feel that perhaps a latent reveal might have worked in it’s favour. Obviously to suggest such a thing flies in the face of much of the joy of The Cabin In The Woods, and, that minor non-complaint aside, there’s very little to find fault with here. Alas, as with the likes of other genre punctuation points (Scream, The Blair Witch Project, Saw etc) we await a glut of terrible rip-offs and low-rent knock-offs.
At least we can rest easy in the knowledge that there won’t be a sequel (although we wouldn’t bet against there being some kind of prequel).