I know The Cabin in the Woods isn’t really a “scary movie” in the strictest sense, but it is definitely worthwhile and entertaining for any fan of horror films. I was hoping it might be worthwhile and entertaining for any fan of Joss Whedon who might not be a fan of horror films, so I could start the slow, subtle process of turning my “not a horror fan” boyfriend into…well, at least into my “not not a horror fan” boyfriend.
Did it work? You’re damn right it did. The movie is well paced, the cast has incredible chemistry (and some big names!), and the dialogue is on-point and Whedon witty. Sure, there’s lots of blood and gore, but because the movie isn’t trying to scare you, it’s well-placed and fits in without being too disturbing.
If you’re new to the world of horror and are not a Joss Whedon fan, this is probably not the place to start. It plays like a 90-minute episode from the Whedonverse littered with inside jokes about and playful nods to horror film tropes, so those unfamiliar with the genre might feel lost and a bit confused. Even if you aren’t new to horror, you should know that this is a movie about the standard horror universe that lands just adjacent to it, rather than a standard horror movie.
I’ll admit that I liked this movie mostly because I like Whedon’s writing and his uncanny ability to hire a cast of actors with believable group chemistry. It seems to me that it’s not difficult to cast talented actors, but it is difficult to cast multiple talented actors who function together as a believable ensemble, and Whedon’s track record here is almost impeccable. (Warning: small spoiler alert ahead!) My only casting question here is more about why SO MANY MOVIES around this time — including this one — featured a weird, generally important to the plot, generally brief cameo from Sigourney Weaver.
I do also appreciate a good pat on the back, and every recognizable nod to some standard horror trope felt like exactly that. From the opening title screen to the “Really?” when someone suggests splitting up is the best idea to the metal song leading the outro, the references were cleverly made and landed well. The nod to Japanese horror movies (and the amazing end to that side story) was my favorite, and as my boyfriend said, “the funniest scene in the movie.”
If you’re looking for a movie that tells a standard scary story, this may not satisfy you. But if you want to be entertained and feel clever for catching references to the world of horror, you won’t be let down.
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