(This review includes spoilers for the film, so if you want to walk in fresh, don't read it)
If my whole review of this film consisted of just "WTF?", that would be more than appropriate for this film. Also, an "LOL" could work. Seriously, this film was, for better or worse, unlike anything I've seen before.
|The cabin in the woods... look familiar?|
The film breaks its narrative between two groups of people. The first group? five college students about to take a vacation on a remote cabin. The group is comprised by "athlete" Curt (Chris Hemsworth) and his girlfriend Jules (Anna Hutchison), her best friend, good-girl Dana (Kristen Connolly) and Curt's best friend, mature Holden (Jesse Williams). The group is rounded up by pothead Marty (Fran Kranz), who provides the cynical comments and comic relief. After one last stop at a creepy gas station where a creepy attendant warns them of the road ahead, the group arrives at the cabin where they begin drinking, dancing, and having fun. In the process, they discover a cellar full of strange artifacts, including a diary. When Dana reads some Latin scripture from it, they awaken the Buckners, a family of zombies that terrorizes them.
If at this point, you're thinking "Hey, this is just like every other shitty horror film!", then let's talk about the second group of people. Beneath the cabin, there's a modern, underground laboratory, where a team of scientists led by Hadley (Bradley Whitford) and Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) monitor the first group, and control the environment that they dwell on. The scientists use everything from switches and knobs to turn lights on or off, or open and close doors; to drugs that alter the group's behavior, making them less aware, and even raising their libido. They even make bets around the office trying to guess what "monster" the group will awaken (Maintenance won the bet). So, while the kids are being chased and slaughtered by a family of zombies, we see this group of scientists cavorting in their offices, with the usual banalities of office life.
|Richard Jenkins plays one of the scientists.|
And this is just the beginning. As each kid dies, the scientists pull a lever, which triggers some sort of sacrificial device below them. We discover later that all the show is indeed a sacrifice ritual to appease the "Ancient Ones" that are slumbering beneath them. So, when the two surviving members of the group stumble upon the underground laboratory, security teams are sent to eliminate them. And this is where things get... interesting. As they explore this laboratory, they encounter all sort of monsters and creatures caged, awaiting their release through whatever the designated victims activate (i.e. diary of Patience Buckner = Buckner zombie family). As they find themselves surrounded by security, our survivors use a control room to open all the gates, releasing all the horrific creatures, that end up slaughtering everyone in the facility.
But this is not all, while trying to escape, our survivors enter the underground temple where they are met with the Director (played by none other than Sigourney Weaver), who explains them their purpose, and incites them to finish the ritual in order to save the world.
I have to give points to the writers (Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard) for originality. Their approach to the clichés of horror films was unique and, well, funny. As we see scenes of the kids in the cabin intercalated with the trivial environment on this office/laboratory, I couldn't help but go "WTF?". Their premise serves as a critique of the genre, as the scientists take the place of the director and writer of any horror film, while also serving as some sort of homage to some classic horror films (Evil Dead, Hellraiser, It, The Shining, etc.). Now, it is on the final act that the writers/director go balls out, and throw everything through the window, including the kitchen sink. The scene where all the creatures are released is such a randomly messy and bizarre scene that you have to admire their boldness for going for it. Did it work? well, I can say I was constantly chuckling and shaking my head. As for the ending, well, it doesn't let go either. From the "WTF" of seeing Weaver as the Director, to the exact final scene, the writers/director continue to throw everything they can at us, and I couldn't help but laugh.
I wouldn't know how to rate this, or even if I should recommend it. I don't know if I liked its underlying commentary, or if I just laughed at the silliness of it all. If you are a horror film buff, then chances are you'll be more appreciative than the regular viewer. Other more casual viewers will probably be left going "WTF?". I, for one, couldn't stop chuckling as I went "WTF?".
(All pictures belong to Lionsgate and its affiliates)