I went into the viewing of The Cabin in the Woods with fairly low expectations from the start. I had seen the trailers. The gloomy, abandoned looking cabin in the middle of nowhere. The five stereotypical college students: the slutty blonde, the jock, the new guy, the stoner and the ‘good’ girl. I knew there would be a few good jumps, some high pitched screams, and unnecessary nudity all paired with the party hard mentality that all college students certainly must possess (if your experience with college is limited to such flicks).
At first, the film catered to the general preconceptions of what could only be described as the “slash porn” subcategory of the horror genre. The sudden, loud noises along with the inappropriate and just-plain-dumb humor make for an essentially predictable ride.
“Don’t do that! Don’t go down there! Don’t read that!” Of course, they do and therefore they are predictably killed off one by one. The only surprising thing is that the story is not exactly what I expected; it’s worse. The usually dynamic writing and directing team of Joss Whedan and Drew Goddard painted an overcomplicated picture this time around. The complex layers are too much for what originally looked to be another teen slasher. Yet, despite all the extra thought thrown in there, the special effects were far from special, and the acting was no better.
The film opens on two technicians employed in some sort of sophisticated facility, preparing for an unknown operation. However, the two are easily disregarded, as the focus shifts to a group of college students getting ready for a vacation weekend - one of them already pants-less and another high as a kite. They all pile into an RV, and head into the woods toward a remote cabin. Once at the cabin and separated into their rooms, while the ominous technicians are placing their bets, the students find and explore a trap door in the floor. Dana (Kristen Connolly) finds a diary, and decides it would be a good idea to read the creepy Latin incantation out loud—which triggers the awakening of a family of zombies, unbeknown to the slightly intoxicated group.
Curt (Chris Hemsworth) and Jules (Anna Hutchinson) wander outside for some well-behaved frolicking (okay, not really) but before things can get too heated, zombies attack the couple and kill Jules. So begins the horror. An attempted barricading of the house leads to another death, so the remaining few flee in the RV, only to find the road conveniently blocked with a little behind-the-scenes help from the technicians.
The large, invisible, electric fence style grid that separates the students from the rest of the world slays a third member of the group in the midst of another escape plan. The remaining two realize that something has gone terribly awry. They jump back into the RV to flee, again, in the opposite direction, which then leads to another death.
As the technicians celebrate the fourth death, a call from “upstairs” puts a damper on the party, as it informs them that one of the students still lives, has rescued someone else, and found his way into the facility through a trap door in the forest floor. This is when all hell really breaks loose, and by “all hell”, I mean every horror movie character or creature you could possibly think of.
To be fair, the basic underlying story that our lives are all at the mercy of evil gods could have been developed into a really interesting and potentially brilliant apocalyptic thriller. Instead, we are left with The Cabin in the Woods. Maybe there truly are some evil gods among us and, if so, they’ve clearly started to obliterate the world by poisoning the film industry.