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Joss Whedon's The Cabin in the Woods review (spoiler-free)

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An experimental review of an experimental film...

'The Cabin in the Woods' (2012) review (spoiler-free)

There are three things you need to know about Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard's The Cabin in the Woods. 1) It’s scary; 2) Unless you just can’t deal with scary movies, watch the movie when it comes out; 3) Know as little as possible before seeing it. (About the movie, that is.)

In light of 3), some readers may wish to stop reading here. That’s fine; just see the movie and then check back at Shadowlocked for lots of juicy in-depth discussion. (Probably including, once the movie comes out, a spoiler-heavy review discussing specifics of the film, which will obviously be very, very clearly spoiler-marked.)

But if you’re seen it already, or you’re undecided, or you’re just curious, then keep reading. The rest of the review will only talk in general terms about The Cabin in the Woods, so hopefully there shouldn’t be any spoilers.

Of course, while what constitutes a spoiler for most films is fairly straightforward, The Cabin in the Woods is one of those films where the less you know, the more you’ll probably get out of the experience of seeing it for the first time. Perhaps one could see it as some kind of ‘spoiler continuum’, where one can choose how much or how little to read or watch concerning the film beforehand, depending on just how sensitive one is to this.

However, there are still many things that would clearly constitute spoilers, and they would be much more damaging for a film like this than for most. Needless to say, this review will contain none of those, because spoilers are bad and evil. In fact, the film’s co-writer and producer, Joss Whedon, has said: “If you give away the plot of this movie to people who haven’t seen it, I will personally come to your house and make fun of you in front of people you respect. I’ll do it, too. Wait, now they’ll probably want to…”

So, having finished the treatise on spoilers, we now move on to the actual review... (#selfdeprecatinghumour)

The film concerns an arboreally situated cabin, visited by five friends, upon which various calamities occur.

That is all we can tell you about the plot of the film. :)

However, there’s still much to say aesthetically, thematically, vaguely…grammatically.

The Cabin in the Woods has a great, tightly-told story, but it suffers from the downside of a film compared to a TV series. A film can tell a great story, but with less time to get to know the characters, you can never (or rarely) have the same level of emotional investment. On the other hand, a TV series means more screentime, which means more character development, which means more character development, which means more awesome. On that note, hopefully it won’t be too long before Joss decides to make another TV series (or TV-style web series). Joss Whedon is a master storyteller in any format, but TV is the one he particularly excels at. Or rather, TV is the one that lends itself most readily to his strengths as a storyteller. Or, in fanboy terms, the one that’s most equipped to keep up with his genius.

The Cabin in the Woods is a really good film, but the scene where [spoilers]…could have done with more [spoilers]. (Feel free to imagine your own possibilities for these. For instance, ‘The scene where Bradley Whitford sings about sharks…could have done with more trampolines.’ Please note: This does not happen in the film. Sadly. (#fakespoilers)

The whole cast is solid, but Fran Kranz in particular is brilliant. (Don’t see that as a character longevity spoiler, or a character significance spoiler, or anything, by the way. Maybe he has a glorious cameo at the beginning and then dies; maybe the entire movie is simply the others watching him rocking back and forth, repeating “Cabin in the woods, cabin in the woods, cabin in the woods” to himself, a bit like his character Topher Brink from the Dollhouse episode ‘Epitaph One’. However, it is an acting spoiler. Sorry about that. Also, The Cabin in the Woods involves a cabin situated in some woods. Literal-accuracy-of-title spoilers! But jesting (mostly) aside, such flippancy is arguably needed to make sense of how terrible a fate it would be to be spoiled for a movie such as The Cabin in the Woods. Which is why you will find no actual spoilers here.)

So, in summary, why should you see The Cabin in the Woods?

It’s scary, it’s gory, it’s funny, it’s…um, thinky. (‘Thought-provoking’, that’s the word.)

It’s an entertaining ride that also raises profound questions about humanity.

And it makes you want to watch it again straight away.

4 stars

The Cabin in the Woods is released on Friday 13 April, 2012.

See also:

Schrodinger's Spoilers: How the Cabin in the Woods trailer redefines spoilers, but spoils nothing

Cabin in the Woods poster taunts us with meta-textuality

The Future of Horror

Some thoughts on the 'no-show' (?) xenomorphs in 'Prometheus'


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