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Cabin in the Woods
Reviewed by Chris McCaleb, © 2012

Format: Movie
By:   Drew Goddard (director), Joss Whedon
Genre:   Horror
Review Date:   April 24, 2012
RevSF Rating:   9/10 (What Is This?)

I don't know if Cabin in the Woods has done to cabin-based horror flicks what Scream did to slasher flicks, but it's close.

I'm sure movie college kids will still spend ill-advised weekends in remote, ramshackle cabins, ignoring that crazy-scary redneck's vague warnings muttered between spits of tobacco-juice at the gas station on the way in. Once they're at the cabin I'm sure they'll still split up to investigate those strange noises, and yes, someone will have the bright idea to read that strange Latin inscription in the diary they found down in the cellar out loud.

And thankfully the slutty one will still manage to go topless at some point, unaware she'll be punished for her free and easy sexuality later, in the only appropriate method for such things: knives or chainsaws.

You know college kids, and you know crazy scary rednecks. They never learn.

But for at least a good long while, I'll be thinking about Joss Whedon's Cabin in the Woods when they do these things. I don't know whether to thank Whedon and director Drew Goddard for their hilarious, imaginative movie, or curse them for killing (or at least knocking senseless for a while) a favorite horror sub-genre.

I won't recount the plot because you already know too much of it from the trailer.

(Note to the movie's P.R. department: I'm not really sure how to do a preview of this movie either, but for the first whole hour I knew exactly what was going to happen. Thanks a lot.

Spoilers lie ahead. Yes! Spoilers!

If you're going in expecting a horror movie, or even part of one -- well, I can't say it ever truly scared me, despite a high body count and gore level. Of course, I don't think it was meant to. I think it set out to be about the genre more than of it. But it's still a welcome respite from killer rednecks and tourist torture and creepy Japanese knock-offs.

What it gets right is being just as much of an expert in the rules of the Demons and/or Restless Undead Attack the Cabin experience as we are, and turning that all around on us -- while being very smart and very funny.

Cabin is a little light in the set-up. One of the main conceits of the film is that these kids are being manipulated through drugs into portraying the standard horror film cliches. I don''t mind the tongue-in-cheekeery of these plot devices, but I could have used more preamble showing our victims in their non-stereotype natural selves.

I also could have used a little more zombie attack. I'm not saying I needed a full half hour of hands-coming-through-the windows, crashing-against-the-door, but it seemed that no sooner than the horror threat was released by the kids (reading the inscription in the diary instead of unlocking the Hellraiser sphere, instead of wearing the amulet, instead of . . . blowing the Merman's conch?), then we get a few appearances, a killing, and then on to the next phase.

It's a minor quibble but also a compliment to say I wanted it to be longer.

The movie comes alive when our surviving teens (one of whom is the stoner, and that's waaay against the norm) get a glimpse at the myriad selection of terrors that they could have faced had they chosen different artifacts. I look forward to the fan page that tries to catalog them all. Get busy on that, Internets.

Richard Jenkins provides the biggest laugh of the movie when he reacts to a schoolroom of young Japanese schoolgirls who have bested their demon with less than enthusiastic response.

I'm giving Cabin an A, withholding the plus only for the aforementioned quibbles.

Seriously. You need to see this film. If you're a Joss Whedon fan, what are you waiting for?

And if you're not, (removes white glove with slow deliberation, slaps you with it smartly on both cheeks) IN THE NAME OF THE OLD ONES WHY NOT?

RevSF's Cabin in the Woods Saturation Coverage

Our exclusive interview with Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard!

This review by Gary Mitchel has zero spoilers.

This review by Tammie Snowden has a couple of spoilers.

Chris McCaleb is an ancient co-conspirator of RevolutionSF.com. He creates the giant robot based comic Mazinga vs. Congress and is the voice of Shatner in our super-fun Sim Shatner.

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