Another film from the grindhouse school, “The Cabin in the Woods” is a fun horror/sci-fi hybrid. The long delayed pet project from director Drew Goddard and producer/co-writer Joss Whedon works because it is self-aware and funny early and knows how to finish outlandish big. And any movie in which Sigourney Weaver gets to wear black leather gloves and kick butt is worth checking out.
The story starts with a bit of funny dialogue by two long-time government workers (played well by Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford) beginning their work day in some top-secret facility. They wear the obligatory “Office Space” garb, making them at home behind the Geek Squad counter at your local Best Buy. But their banter, which ranges from complaints about their wives to wise cracks about their job, gets ever more mysterious. Just who are these technicians and what are they up to?
The action moves to a college town and a voyeuristic crane shot of Dana (Kristen Connolly) packing for a weekend getaway. She’s wearing a form fitting sleeveless t-shirt and equally snug undergarment as she parades in front of the open window of her bedroom. Put this sequence in the “only in the movies” file. Needless to say, we know what we’re in for early. The characters are introduced: (1) Curt (Chris Hemsworth, prior to taking on the role of Thor), the jock and here’s the twist, he’s got brains; (2) Jules (Anna Hutchison) is the flirtatious roommate who’s dating Curt and has just bleached her hair blonde; (3) Jesse Williams is Curt’s sensitive friend who also plays football and might be a good match for the ingenue Dana; and (4) the shaggy stoner Marty (Fran Krantz), who arrives to ship off for the weekend armed with a clever collapsible bong with his clothes (nay, stash) secured in an oily paper grocery sack.
The gang piles into an RV and sets off for, you guessed it, the cabin in the woods. Think of the RV as the Mystery Machine and you’ll have fun following the raunchy and blood-soaked story that follows. Writers Goddard and Whedon borrow from all over and Scooby-Doo had to provide some nuanced source material. As you can imagine, the RV reaches the title destination and after some sophomoric playtime, the killing begins.
We get equal parts “Hatchet” and “Hunger Games” here as the bodies stack up like cordwood and the bloody fun is tracked and monitored by ravenous fans safely tucked into some underground bunker. But where “Hunger Games” managed a PG-13 rating based on sanitizing the violence, “Cabin” joyfully goes the other way, becoming much less important and ultimately more forgettable than the current box office juggernaut. And ironically, the success of the somewhat family friendly dystopian epic might give “Cabin” a lift, meaning the long delay for the film, made in 2009, could positively enhance its box office return.
Without getting too deep and while maintaining a firm handle on the comic goofiness of the goings on, “The Cabin in the Woods” is a successful mix of horror and science fiction that plays well as extreme counter programming to the “Hunger” faithful.