Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Cabin in the Woods challenges horror movie genre, critic says

By Reno Sorensen, Copy Editor

Acclaimed director of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Serenity Joss Whedon’s newest piece of cinematic gold, The Cabin in the Woods, tears through the horror movie genre with a rusty trowel, then keeps on hacking.

Long-time partners Whedon and producer and co-writer Drew Goddard pull off their usual dance of character development, genre bending and witty dialogue in a bloody romp through the woods that pokes fun at most of the well-known horror clichés. And, of course, there’s a twist.

The movie opens, not with camera panning through a spooky graveyard accompanied by off-kilter music, but with two smart-mouthing lab techs shooting the breeze over the water cooler.

Cut to five not-quite-stereotypical college students preparing to leave for some faceless relative’s cabin for the weekend, and let the show begin. I’m calling it a show, because as the five arrive at the cabin, the aforementioned squints keep tabs on the kids using cameras set up throughout the getaway and surrounding woods.

I don’t want to give anything else away. I can say Whedon and Goddard had the audience members in my theater laughing hysterically at lines delivered by the group’s stoner in the movie’s equivalent of the Scooby Doo gang, then watching from between their fingers as the tension built and viscera flew.

The film’s five protagonists are shameless caricatures of traditional horror movie victims with a twist: The dumb blond is actually highly intelligent, the jock a sociology major, the nerd a little more built than typical cinematic mouth breathers, the innocent girl less than innocent and the stoner more heroic than one would expect.

Horror fans will notice references to creepy classics such as The Evil Dead and Friday the Thirteenth.

Whedon has said in interviews that one of his goals with Cabin in the Woods was to produce a quality thriller that criticizes what he thinks is a huge decline in the quality of the genre.

Whedon and Goddard meet this goal, providing a glimpse of the deeper, Lovecraftian monsters that lie beneath the clichés in a film that is simultaneously terrifying, hilarious and insightful.

Diehard horror fans owe it to the genre to give the piece a watch. Everyone else will just have to settle for a quality scare.