‘Cabin in the Woods’ Fever Is Contagious

Eric Bourse, El Vaquero Staff Writer

Longtime collaborators Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon have taken the exhausted horror premise of five college students going out to party in a cabin in the woods and turned it on its head many times over.

Goddard, known for producing and writing popular shows such as “Lost” and “Alias,” makes his directorial debut with a film that plays with the good and bad aspects of horror films with great success. Whedon, who co-wrote the film with Goddard, has crafted a story with so many unexpected turns and gruesome surprises that its 95 minutes fly by.

Richard Jenkins (“The Rum Diary,” 2011) and Bradley Whitford (“The West Wing,” 1999-2006) play technicians in charge of deciding the grisly fates of five college students who are vacationing in a rigged cabin under surveillance.

Goddard and Whedon’s writing is filled with satirical jabs at the horror movie genre. The best example of this are the college students as they each represent a character archetype that has been seen many times.

Chris Hemsworth (“Thor,” 2011) plays the athlete, Curt. Anna Hutchison is the blonde floozy and Curt’s girlfriend. Jesse Williams (“Brooklyn’s Finest,” 2009) is the level-headed nerd who falls for the virgin good girl, Dana, played by Kristen Connolly. Last but certainly not least is Marty, played by Fran Kranz (“Dollhouse,” 2009), the stoner whose altered state actually allows him to realize that something suspicious is going on in the cabin.

With a push of a few buttons and a pull of a lever, redneck zombies descend upon the cabin and begin spilling blood in brutal and often times amusing ways. As if the deck wasn’t stacked against the vacationers enough, the technicians also have the surrounding area booby trapped with a force-field.

The acting in the film is solid and nearly every character has their moment to shine. The most accomplished actors in the movie, Jenkins and Whitford, share several hilarious moments in the lab including a scene in which they are collecting bets from all the other lab rats on which monster is going to be unleashed on the students.

Goddard’s career as a film director is off to a good start with “The Cabin in the Woods.” The film never becomes dull and its humor and dialogue are sharp from start to finish. The contrast in both pacing and humor in the scenes with the lab technicians and college students have smooth transitions and never seem out of place.

“The Cabin in the Woods” also makes good use of its special effects and doesn’t go overboard with CGI. Although the film’s violence often has a humorous and exaggerated hint to it, some of the deaths are very bloody and brutal.

Despite the appearance of dozens of monsters and ghouls taken from seemingly every horror film, “The Cabin in the Woods” delivers a surprising lack of scares.

However, where it lacks on chills and thrills, “The Cabin” makes it up with many hilarious scenes and gags from beginning to end. Scenes such as the banter going on in the laboratory

among the technicians and lab geeks are comical and are a welcome change of pace from the scenes of carnage.

Another key element Goddard and Whedon strike a home run on happens to be the bane of many horror films: the ending. Many horror films suffer from the unnecessarily abrupt and pessimistic ending, such as the monster coming back to life and eating the protagonist when it was clearly killed off.

Other horror movies have off-putting cheerful endings, where it seems like the whole situation was solved too easily and everything gets back to normal despite a trail of bloody limbs.

However, “The Cabin” gets it right, setting itself as a perfectly fine stand alone film but open enough to kick the audience’ imagination in high gear as to what happens after the credits roll.

“The Cabin in the Woods” is the best horror satire since “Scream” deconstructed and poked fun at the slasher subgenre back in 1996.

“The Cabin in the Woods” is rated R for strong bloody horror violence and gore, language, drug use and some sexuality/nudity and runs 95 minutes.

4 out of 5 stars