‘The Cabin in the Woods’ Review

Published 2 years ago by , Updated May 30th, 2012 at 1:19 pm,

The Cabin in the Woods Kristen Connolly The Cabin in the Woods Review

Screen Rant’s Ben Kendrick reviews The Cabin in the Woods

The ups and downs of The Cabin in the Woods release delay had little to do with co-writer and producer Joss Whedon, or writer-turned-director Drew Goddard’s movie; rather, the horror genre hybrid was simply caught in the middle of the MGM Studios collapse. Despite a few big names being attached to the long-withheld project – Avengers star Chris Hemsworth and director Joss Whedon -  does The Cabin in the Woods actually offer a fresh and enjoyable horror experience? Or is the film little more than a middle-of-the-road effort that could have easily been left on the shelf?

Much like Eli Craig’s tongue-in-cheek effort, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, The Cabin in the Woods is far-from a typical horror film. The trailers for the movie spoil one of the most intriguing elements – which not only differentiates the project from regular slasher films, but also gives the writers and cast an opportunity to poke fun at the cliches of the genre without entirely undermining the scares.

In an effort to prevent spoiling the film for others, I’m not going to directly discuss the “twist” or where the filmmakers take the especially ambitious premise; however, I will say that, for readers who are already interested in checking out the film, it’s unlikely that the experience is going to disappoint. The Cabin in the Woods is hardly the most serious, or smartest, horror film audiences will have seen in a while – there are plenty of eye-roll-inducing dialogue moments and the over-arching setup might be hard for some moviegoers to accept – but, for anyone that’s ready for an entertaining (albeit over-the-top) horror movie, avoid the film’s spoiler-filled trailer and head to your favorite cineplex knowing as little as possible.

The Cabin in the Woods Cast The Cabin in the Woods Review

Curt (Chris Hemsworth), Holden (Jesse Williams), Jules (Anna Hutchison), Marty (Fran Kranz) and Dana (Kristen Connolly) in 'The Cabin in the Woods.'

On the surface level, the story follows five friends Curt (Chris Hemsworth), Holden (Jesse Williams), Jules (Anna Hutchison), Marty (Fran Kranz) and Dana (Kristen Connolly) as they journey up to an isolated cabin for a weekend of drinking, swimming, truth or dare, and other scandalous behavior typically associated with college student getaways. A pre-trip meet up spells out the group dynamics: Dana is the good girl, Curt and Jules play-against stereotype as a hot blond and jock couple that in addition to good looks are also accomplished students, Holden is Curt’s bookish but still charming friend, and Marty is the group’s lovable pot-smoker.

Once on the road, the group encounter an ill-tempered gas pump attendant that, despite his disdain for the college kids, warns the group about their destination – asserting that visitors regularly disappear up in the woods. Dismissing the warnings, the group reach the cabin where, that’s right, things quickly devolve into bloody mayhem.

While many of the proceeding events center around good girl Dana, all of the friends are utilized in interesting ways – especially as the film toys more and more with genre stereotypes. As mentioned, these aren’t the dumb college kids audiences normally see in slasher-type films – and, while the plot can be somewhat convenient at times, there are plenty of interesting twists that arise out of having characters that, despite their basic caricature origins, defy expectation by making different (and, subsequently, more interesting) decisions. Given the difficult task of both embracing and rejecting these horror stereotypes, the cast (which, at the time, included a lot of untested talent) does a surprising job with the more serious moments – coupled with plenty of humorous nods to the audience.

The Cabin in the Woods Movie The Cabin in the Woods Review

The titular cabin in the woods

That said, The Cabin in the Woods isn’t just different because it includes smarter versions of typical horror archetypes, the over-arching premise of the film is a game-changer, splitting open the genre format more and more as the film progresses – resulting in a final act that offers some truly enjoyable reveals. Where other filmmakers might attempt to setup the project as the first in a multi-installment franchise, Whedon and Goddard hold nothing back – peeling layer after layer away until they show audiences all that there is to see in The Cabin in the Woods universe. Nearly every recurring piece of mythology, horror, or comedy eventually comes full circle – offering a solid pay-off for moviegoers who can lock into the film’s wild (or absurd), but still satisfying, setup.

While the movie has a lot going for it in the way of an intriguing twist, the “horror” in The Cabin in the Woods might be underwhelming for some die-hards in the genre. There are plenty of tense moments, but many of the surface-level scares will be familiar (and easily anticipated) by a good portion of the audience. This might initially come across as lazy set-piece planning, but as the story plays-out, it’s clear these were intentional choices by Goddard and Whedon – which works to the success (and logic) of the overarching plot.

Ultimately, The Cabin in the Woods is a surprisingly entertaining effort that works because it strikes a smart balance – embracing, as well as rejecting, the viewer’s expectations and knowledge of the horror genre. The set-up is executed with a tongue-in-cheek attitude but presented with a straight face that could be off-putting for viewers who are expecting a straightforward slasher film or a “gritty” and serious scare-fest (such as The Descent or Hostel). However, the final product succeeds in paying homage to the movies that inspired it, poking fun at the often static state of the horror genre, all while simultaneously delivering a few fresh surprises. Anyone willing to suspend a bit of disbelief and not get too bogged down in the film’s logic will likely be ready for an entertaining and worthwhile experience. For many, this trip to The Cabin in the Woods will have definitely been worth the wait.

If you’ve seen the movie and want to discuss details about the film without worrying about spoiling it for those who haven’t seen it, please head over to our The Cabin in the Woods Spoilers Discussion!

If you’re still on the fence about The Cabin in the Woods, check out the trailer below:

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For an in-depth discussion of the film by the Screen Rant team check out our Cabin in the Woods episode of the SR Underground podcast.

Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick - and let us know what you thought of the film below.

The Cabin in the Woods is Rated R for strong bloody horror violence and gore, language, drug use and some sexuality/nudity.

Our Rating:

3.5 out of 5
(Very Good)

TAGS: the cabin in the woods

132 Comments

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  1. Great review ben. I can see why you gave it a 3.5 I didn’t find the story all that ambitious and the twist all that suprising. I laughed more than I jumped during the movie. It was one of the most fun experiences I had watching. A movie cause it was absolutely rediculous.

    • Cheers Trey!

  2. Good review, although I was expecting it to be a bit better (the movie, not the review).
    I just found out the release date has been delayed here in SA :( so at this point, I’m not sure when I’ll be able to go see this.

    • I wouldn’t be too discouraged. In spite of a few elements that might hold some moviegoers back, the movie experience is immensely entertaining – even if the movie itself isn’t a flawless 5 star effort.

      Trey hit the nail on the head in the comments below: “So much fun tho I wouldn’t call it a great movie just a fun one.”

  3. you kinda contradicted yourself when you said ‘for anyone that’s ready for an entertaining horror movie, avoid the film’s spoiler-filled trailer’ by saying ‘If you’re still on the fence about The Cabin in the Woods, check out the trailer below’

    what about the blood/gore, some people say the movie is pretty hardcore on par with the friday the 13th and texas chainsaw remakes/reboots is that true ?

    • Yeah its extremely gorey

    • Not sure it was a contradiction: If you’re ready to see the film – avoid the trailer. If you’re on the fence, watch the trailer. ;)

      By the end, it is pretty gory but I wouldn’t say that it’s hardcore – it’s bloody for the sake of having a lot of blood on-screen. Not realistic gore like the Texas Chainsaw reboots. I’d say the actual violence is more on-par with the Scream movies (and other less-”gritty” slasher films) – but with a lot more blood (not gore).

      • So Ben, would you say its better then the original Scream movie?

        • The original Scream is pretty smart and probably a “better” and more “memorable” movie but this one is still pretty entertaining.

  4. Went to the midnight showing and I loved it! This was The most memorable experience that I have had at an American horror film outing since “Drag Me to Hell” had me leaving the theater thinking the movie was tied to the “Evil Dead” universe. Extremely funny and with great veteran TV actors you will recognize (West Wing, 6 Feet Under). The last cameo was awesome and the last 20 minutes was nuts! If you love horror go see this and talk it up to friends!

  5. im not a big horror fan but this has got me interested.

  6. Half of this movie is extremely innovative and creative the other half is just pure ridiculousness. So much fun tho I wouldn’t call it a great movie just a fun one.

  7. I really hate that I stupidly checked this one out on the IMDB discussion boards a few weeks back and got hugely spoiled by thread titles (apparently people had the leaked script?). That combined with the trailer spoilers has me questioning whether I want to dish out the cash to see this today. Hmmm…..

  8. I’m going to see this Sunday.
    I’m pretty much a horror junkie. Except for the “torture porn” that became popular earlier in the 2000′s. IMO that’s not horror.
    But I can get into pretty much anything else. Even the films that are so bad that it becomes funny. It’s great fun just to laugh at how ridiculous it can get.
    And let’s not forget that if Joss Whedon’s name is attached I’m in :)

  9. Going to the Matinee tomarrow in the AM.

  10. I’m going Sunday, my wife and son are going to a birthday party so I get to do something fun : )

  11. Yes, it was a fun movie, but there were times when I was shaking my head because of the dialog and some pretty outlandish scenes. I would agree with the 3.5/5.

    • 3.5??? More like a -12 on a scale of 1-5

  12. They also had the trailers for Looper and Expendables 2.

  13. I thought the ending could have been better. (the big hand swipe). Come on

    • So true daps

  14. This movie was great. The best part about it being that it doesn’t take itself seriously; allowing the audience to sit back, have fun, and not worry about the specifics. It’s a wonderful clash of genres as well as something new and refreshing to cinema. Don’t miss it.

  15. Commented edited for Spoilers.

    If you want to talk about spoilers head to the spoiler discussion post – http://screenrant.com/cabin-in-the-woods-spoilers-benk-164763/#comments

    • It’s a horror movie?

    • Why is his comment not removed, it’s a spoiler!!!!!!!

      • Thanks guys. I’ve taken care of it. We try to stay up on spoiler comments but… we can’t be on all the time ;)

    • Sorry about that…I meant to put it in the spoilers section.

  16. SPOILER
    Hi – as your review was very striking, I very much didnt enjoy the film
    I felt that the beginning was very good, with a steady horror plotline; with them being iscolated in the woods and being attacked by zombies with murderous and grizzly weapons (I especially liked the one with the ‘teeth’ that hooked on to peoples backs) and I liked the idea of the sick movie makers challenging how they die, who dies and managing to set up cameras everywhere for a realistic horror for when they “realease it”. However, the plotline suddenly veered off to a tangent, and it suddenly wavered to something completely different- I know people quite enjoyed the horror/hybrid effect, but I felt it lacked sanity. How did these mythical creatures coming out of the elevators and killing the armoured men have anything to do with the horror plotline. I did pay to see another classic slasher/horror film that I would enjoy as I am a very huge fan of the ‘Scream’ franchise – I expected it to be like that when I walked in, expecting them to be terrorized by something sinister in the woods, especially after we see the painting in Holden’s (original) room, the painting picturizing a man being torn apart by humans and dogs alike, with a sinister figure in the background, and I liked the idea of these humans rising again as zombies to terrorize them, however, managing to squeeze irrelevent horror creatures in at the end wasnt a good idea fo me, in fact I was trying to figure out how “Gods who ruled the planet before us” came into, that was the icing on the cake for a movie that made Zero sense at the end, and the ending was awful, it was not a cliff hanger with a thought provoking twist, it was a lazy ending that could have promised more.

    • You’re taking it a bit too literally, you don’t have to understand how everything happened, you only have to take away some meaning from it. It’s a comment on society, not an airtight parallel universe.

  17. Saw this last night, IT WAS GREAT!!! I also dig how the cabin looks just like the Evil Dead cabin!!

    • I don’t dig it because it’s a lack of originality. They wanted to draw people in by making it look like “Evil Dead,” without it being “Evil Dead.” It’s just like the Shark Attack movies(Jaws ripoff), or The Day The Earth Stopped(The Day The Earth Stood Still remake ripoff), or Battle of Los Angeles(Battle: Los Angeles ripoff). Hollywood’s so afraid of coming up with anything original these days. It’s pathetic.

  18. The trailer made it appear to be a blatant rip-off of “Evil Dead,” minus demonic possession. All the major elements are there: A bunch of college twenty-somethings go to a cabin in the middle of nowhere, the cabin looks nearly identical to the one in “Evil Dead,” the basement door flies open by itself, monsters attack, etc. The only non-Evil Dead elements are the monsters not being Deadites and a secret (government?) organization being in control of the cabin, but let’s face it, if it’s not the supernatural, it’s ALWAYS a secret organization. I won’t be seeing this film for its lack of a ounce of originality.

    • So you’ve judged an entire movie on a less than three minute trailer? Way to go, you’ve just missed out on one 2012′s BEST films. Trailers are designed to tease the audience, nothing more and seldom reveal the full plot of a movie.

      The Cabin in the Woods is a very clever (although the opening credits do hint towards the big reveal that happens later on) slice of film-making that really examines the horror/slasher genres and the motivations of us, the audience. If all you want is mindless slasher nonsense, don’t bother, because this is a film with brains as well as blood.

      I don’t normally enjoy horror/slasher movies (I find them dull and boring – and they’re all the same. Generic monster ABC slaughters teenage stereotypes XYZ in unoriginal location 123) but I loved this. Yes, it uses stereotypes from the horror/slasher genres but then *explains* why they are used. It’s very clever and a cut above the usual horror nonsense. Mind you, it’s from Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, so that’s not really a surprise.

      • Agreed. And it’s not a “rip off” of movies like Evil Dead, it’s paying homage to them. Big difference.

    • the idea is that it’s referencing all these movies, kinda of paying homage to the horror tropes of the past,
      and i think it’s come up that really this is closer to a horror/comedy like ED2

  19. Saw it last night. Let me first start off by saying that the commercials and trailers showed too much. They should have just shown a group of young college students going to a creepy cabin with killers and mentioned something about a crazy twist…and allowed us to experience all that extra weirdness on our own. BUT because they showed the bird crashing into the invisible wall, the computer lab, the men with guns, etc….I already they were being watched and it wasn’t a regular cabin. So with that already in mind, it was no surprise once all of the weirdness unfolded. The whole idea of why the cabin was there and why the college students were brought there was just lame. I could have gone with the idea of a satanic cult….but ancient gods???? Come on. So lame.

    • Ok I’ve been reading a lot of viewer reviews and I guess this whole movie was about Symbolism. You weren’t supposed to see the movie for what is was, it wasn’t supposed to be scary, you weren’t supposed to take it literally….it was all Symbolism. So yeah…totally felt like I wasted my money because I wasn’t in the mood to see a movie about Symbolism, I wanted horror >;/ No wonder I wasn’t impressed.

      • SPOILERS…I think that was the point. You wanted lots of blood? True horror? Good scares? Well so did the Gods, which is why they were angry at the end cause they didn’t get what they wanted. Just as others on here have said, I think we are the audience. The agency is the writers. The symbolism is that the movie was a rip off of tons of horror movies just like horror movies always do to their predesecers. They always follow a formula with cliche characters and plots. But then at the end this movie turns upside down. It challenges the formula which frustrates what we, the audience (Gods), are used to. Also, the “agency” is like the writers of the script because they are predictable always writing the same s***, not letting characters deviate. Example; Jock says,”We should stay together.” Agency worker says, (paraphrasing) “s***, we need to fix that.” So he makes the Jock say, “We should split up.” I think I will enjoy this movie so much more now that I know what I am suppose to be experiencing.

    • At least put spoiler before you give your thoughts. If you want to discuss the movie go to the spoilers discussion page.
      Remove his comment, when you get a chance.

  20. I went to see it today. I had a good time trying to catch all the older horror films references, And there were a ton. They hint at so many. While not an Acadamy Award winner. It was a fun flick

  21. Omfg…… shocking….. s***……. Awful…… Absolute crap!!

  22. to me it was more comedy than horror

  23. I just got back from seeing the movie and even though on the vote here I gave it 4 stars if there was an option I would have gone with 3 1/2.
    I don’t want to spoil anything but I’ll just say it’s been a tad over hyped but at the same time it was enjoyable and I’d say it’s pretty close to a must see for horror fans. But not something you HAVE to see at the theater. I think it would be just as enjoyable at home on a Friday or Saturday night.

  24. I have to say I wasn’t a big fan of this film. It’s been a long time since I have seen a legitimately cerebral horror film, and so my expectations were high. Unfortunately, this movie falls into the all-too-common trap of adhering to an “ironic” commentary without actually having anything to say. Yes, it is mildly amusing to riff on all of the horror cliches (though that isn’t a novel approach itself), but when you get past the fan service you realize that they haven’t done anything innovative. They have presented a movie that says “aren’t you tired of all these cliches?” and then offers no solution. The “twists” are deus ex machina nonsense, contrived and fabricated out of nothingness for the sole purpose of being unpredictable. A good twist requires a Chekov’s Gun, something to hint at what might come so that the viewer might feel foolish for missing it or perceptive for catching it. This film’s twists are so far outside the realm of rationality or logic that they fall flat on their face. Ultimately this film does nothing to subvert the tropes it mocks – it piles them all into one film and expects you to think the artifice is clever because it acknowledges itself. Personally, that doesn’t cut it. Nothing about this film is revolutionary; this film only takes it all and builds a flimsy non-sequitur-riddled plot around it. Some say that is the point, but if so, it is a very poor point. The end result is that there are no legitimately frightening moments in the film. Suspense? Sure. Comedy? Yes. Horror? No. When you bill yourself as a horror film, that is probably an issue.

  25. Sadly, this movie was an inane waste of time. The movie cannot be compared fairly to The [brilliant] Evil Dead, which had great comedic redemption. This movie has to rely on gratuitous T&A shots (delivered stellarly by Anna Hutchison) to keep viewers’ interest. I won’t spoil the movie for those masochists unwilling to heed advice and stay away, but I can say this much: it’s NOT the brilliant edge-of-your-seat mind-melter it’s cracked up to be, and the trailer throws a . We were expecting to be really thrown, blown away, by something we never saw coming. True, the storyline develops in an unexpected, reverse-engineered direction for horror, but it’s no jaw-dropper. It’s plagiarized, formulaic Hollywood cross-breading. I found myself unavoidably drawing analogies to The Truman Show.

    Gore is this film’s distracting pace vehicle, as the characters slip and slide in blood spatter and piles of guts and severed appendages. Yet the movie can’t capitalize on the richly laughable potential as The Evil Dead did. The filmmakers try to stay true to the genre, but the ludicrous ending fails them miserably.

    There were a few cheap laughs, that was the extent of the enjoyment. There is no point in seeking redemption for this movie by grasping for hidden meaning (i.e., symbolism) to compensate for its categorical failure to deliver as an innovative horror film.

  26. I, on the other hand, was absolutely, 100% disappointed in this movie. I felt there was too much of a twist for it to even be enjoyed. It seemed to me that this was a quickly put together idea that should’ve been kept in notebook, not made into a movie. It didn’t seem fresh or new, just completely ridiculous.

  27. …Go See This Movie…

  28. Saw it today and left seriously confused. Much like everyone else I won’t spoil it, but have to leave my 2 cents. I thought the plot was ok and the movie was enjoyable until the final moments and then it goes into left field. I like plot twists like anyone else, however this one missed so badly. The ending was one of the top 5 worst o have ever seen. The horror part however predictable it was, was fairly enjoyable. Endings can make or break a movie and unfortunately this ending blew so bad the rest of the story doesn’t even matter.

  29. Vic,

    I pulled back here be emailed stuff….i am concerned Vic. I wanted to see this movie and get away as fast as possible but….your site allows for discrepancies.

    Please Vic. I just want to watch them die, not live their deaths like you Hollywood Boy. vic…Vic?….Vic…are you there?

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