I wasn’t going to see The Cabin in the Woods. Its marketing efforts somehow managed to totally fail with respect to garnering any of my interest. I saw a preview a while back and it looked like another campy, quirky horror/slasher film that would be quickly forgotten.
Then a friend of mine from Penn Gamers, who never sees mainstream films, noted he went out of his way to see this one because of the people behind it. Hmm? Oh, hey, this film is from Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard who are very well known in the sci-fi world. Joss is the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Drew was one of its most respected writers. I loved Buffy, much to my own surprise.
Then I saw the reviews. It got a 91 on Rotten Tomatoes and almost that many viewers liked it as well. All that combined drove me to give it a try.
Oh, if only I stuck to my original plan.
This film was a mess and I cannot begin to fathom how anyone can say they really liked it let alone all those stellar reviews. It’s about five young friends who head out to a remote cabin for a fun-filled trip and end up dealing with something entirely beyond their comprehension—and frankly, beyond the viewers capacity for belief. Yes, I understand that it’s supposed to be somewhat of a parody of the horror genre but it just didn’t work. Plus the reviews didn’t prepare me for what to expect and coming into this blind really doesn’t work.
In the old days you had simple things that annoyed you with bad horror films. “He’s not dead. Stop standing next to his body!” Here, almost nothing is believable. Everything is explained in a short sentence as if it’s the most natural thing in the world. For example (spoiler alert—but you shouldn’t care), they claim to have drugged one of the friends by providing her with blonde hair dye that has a chemical makeup that literally turns her into a dumb blonde as it slowly (but with perfect timing) works its way into her scalp. Really? Seriously? In the scene where we find out she dyed her hair she makes it clear it was done on a whim. How’d they know know this was going to happen or what brand of hair dye she was going to use or when she’d actually do it so that the timing would be “right”? I know. I know. Now I’m asking ridiculously complex questions…. Come on.
I like horror films—even bad ones—as some friends and family won’t let me forget but this was something else. The entire first half of the film is just flat-out disturbing and not in a good way. There’s clearly something unique about the story and its approach, but contrary to what others clearly seem to believe, that doesn’t make it a good effort on its own.
The viewer is teased with so little explanation of what the hell is going on that you just get frustrated and wish the movie would pick a side and stick with it. Instead we’re left to just be played on and on. When the pay-off finally comes it’s so bizarre that it can’t possibly make up for the rest of the journey.
If it’s supposed to be funny, it wasn’t. If it was supposed to be scary, it wasn’t. If it was supposed to be a parody, it wasn’t. It is creepy. It is haunting. It’s funny once in a while. It is, for a time, compelling. However, in the end it’s just not very entertaining. Roger Ebert said, in his review (he gave it 3 stars), “This is not a perfect movie; it’s so ragged, it’s practically constructed of loose ends. But it’s exciting because it ventures so far off the map.” I agree with all but the last part. For me it simply ventured too far off the map right from the opening scenes.