John Hanlon Reviews

Film Reviews

The Cabin in the Woods

Genre: Horror, Comedy

Director: Drew Goddard

Cast: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford

MPAA-Rating: R

Release Date: April 13th 2012

Audacity isn’t a word typically associated with horror films. Complacency is. In fact, this site stereotypical horror films often follow the same timid formula as their predecessors and are often as inane and banal as their forebears.

It won’t be hard to separate Cabin in the Woods from its antecedent films though. This is a movie that strives for originality and often achieves it

The story concerns a group of five college students planning a relaxing weekend in an isolated cabin in the woods. The crew includes a bookworm named Holden (Jesse Williams), price a druggie named Marty (Fran Kranz), and an innocent named Dana (Kristen Connolly). The gang is rounded out by Curt (Chris Hemsworth) and Jules (Anna Hutchinson), the inevitable couple who plan to use the weekend as a romantic getaway.

This quintet, however, isn’t as simplistic as it seems.

“We are not who we are,” Marty notes late in the story. And that’s true about this whole movie. These characters aren’t who we believe them to be. Nor is the house what we think that it is. And this film isn’t what people perceive it to be either. It’s a far cry from the typical slasher film that audiences are unfortunately accustomed to.

To go into more details about this story would undercut its premise so if you do see this movie, try to keep an open mind about it.

It should be noted that the film– which is fearless at times– sometimes stumbles over its own concept. This is a story that wants to break out of the box of stereotypes but often finds itself wandering in a quicksand of clichés. At its beginning and end, the movie hints at something extraordinary but during the heart of the story, it slips. Yes, the film overcomes the low expectations of horror films preceding it but it doesn’t break their boundaries. It merely states that this isn’t the typical horror film, goes through the requisite horror film plot points and then reminds you again that this isn’t a typical horror film.

The final third is a breakthrough, however, and makes the entire production worth seeing on the big screen. Joss Whedon, the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, wrote the screenplay with director Drew Goddard and its climactic scenes at the end recall some of the most memorable Buffy sequences.

But it’s hard to call Cabin extraordinary. It’s a film that is willing to break the horror genre’s contours but sometimes does it so timidly that audiences may leave the theater disappointed. For instances, scenes noting that the clichéd characters in the cabin aren’t as typical as you think are so underplayed that it’s hard to appreciate their value. If this film wanted to be extraordinary, it needed to try more than it does especially during the middle portion of the story.

“That’s the point. Get off the grid, right?” Marty says early on in the film. And that’s part of what works in this film. The movie attempts to go off the grid and in a few scenes reaches that point.

But too often, the movie settles for what should we call it…complacency?

Update: Also, make sure you also check out Ed Morrissey’s review of the film on He liked the film as well and notes that the movie “assumes that [the audience] is intelligent which is a rather rare feature for horror films.” One hopes that other filmmakers working in the genre will recognize that and follow suit…

Review by: John Hanlon