SXSW 2012 kicked off in a major way with the world premiere of The Cabin in the Woods. Many of us waited over an hour in freezing rain outside the beautiful Paramount Theatre to take advantage of this screening. In these types of conditions, one does start to wonder the worth of braving such awful weather for such an extended period of time just to see a movie, but considering many of us traveled thousands of miles simply because of our love of movies, some awful weather would far from deter us.
Within the first five minutes of The Cabin in the Woods, the weather didn’t matter anymore. Nothing else did, as over a thousand of us eager fans were given an effective, gory and surprisingly hilarious film that is equal parts send up of the genre as much as it is a love letter to the same.
It would be literally impossible for me to properly convey the complete excellence and execution that is The Cabin in the Woods without completely ruining the whole thing, but I’m going to do my best to at least convince you that you need to be in a seat for it come release day, because this film deserves your attention. I definitely won’t be giving spoilers of any kind, but if you want to go in completely clean and unaware, I’d stop reading here.
The Horror genre has, from it’s beginnings, been built upon characters that, no matter the circumstance, will always make the absolute worst decisions. Going down in the dark basement, choosing to split up, reading some dead language that was found in a journal out loud. These are all plot devices that have been used countless times, yet always lead to the same result; young teens meeting their often gruesome end.
Yet we still watch them.
What Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon successfully tackle with The Cabin in the Woods is the idea that what if these dumb decisions aren’t necessarily the victims’ own.
Unlike most films that may have held the truth about what’s going on until a mid-movie twist, The Cabin in the Woods kicks off with two rather engrossing narratives right from the get go. The film begins with Richard (Bradley Whitford) and Steve (Richard Jenkins), two “every day routine” kind of guys getting ready for their work day in what looks like some sort of government or military complex. Nothing seems particularly special about the two, save for their rapport that feels like they’ve been doing their jobs together for quite some time. I personally feel that this is some of Jenkins and Whitford’s best work and I would personally love to see these guys working together more, preferably a TV show so I could see something new every week.
The other story happening side by side involves five friends, Curt (Chris Hemsworth), Dana (Kristen Connolly), Marty (Fran Kranz), Jules (Anna Hutchinson) and Holden (Jesse Williams), all getting away from college for the weekend at a cabin that Curt’s cousin recently bought. The opening scenes with these characters do an excellent job within a short amount of time of giving each member of the group solid character distinctions so that when they eventually act against their type, it’s noticeable and truly benefits the overall story.
The real fun begins when these two narratives somehow find their way of intersecting, but to reveal anything more would be a great disservice to the excellent work Goddard and Whedon put into this film. What I will say is that in a film that I was already greatly enjoying, the story ramps up to the next level and easily became an instant favorite.
I can’t imagine anyone, Horror fan or not, not enjoying the film for what it is. It’s got a top notch story, compelling characters, and it’s just as hilarious (if not more so) as it is gory. Without a doubt, though, The Cabin in the Woods is Horror film fan service at its finest. This film was made by and for Horror fans and it shows. It contains so many winks and nods to the genre’s icons and history in film and in stories that, in the wrong hands, could easily have come off as pandering but here feels organic and genuine. It’s obvious that the film was created by people who hold the genre near and dear to their heart and the final product is something fans will connect with on levels one might not expect, but will welcome all the same.
While waiting in line for the next film of the night, many of us, nearly three hours after The Cabin in the Woods had ended, were still talking about it. We couldn’t get it out of our heads. It’s that kind of film. The kind you want to add to your poster collection. The kind that as soon as it ends, you want to watch it again. The kind you want to share with anyone and everyone you can.
Much of this might come off as hyperbole but I bet you dollars to donuts that when The Cabin in the Woods premieres theatrically on April 13, you’ll feel exactly the same. I can’t wait to see it again.
Horror fans, this one’s for us.
– Matt Hardeman