On the one hand I applaud the attempt by both co-writers Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon to reinvigorate the horror genre by mocking certain conventions and creating all new ones. But in its wry attempt to be a step ahead of typical slice and dice fare, "The Cabin In The Woods" at times comes off as too clever and as a result never feels like its letting the audience in on the joke.
The set up is pure "Evil Dead" cabin retro, with four young and naïve kids heading out to an isolated log hut to do a little partying. The initial addition is in the form of a gang of suit and tie desk jockeys who seem to be controlling all things in the familiar environment – everything from sex drive to basic survival decisions. Who are these guys? What is it all about? And what is their desired outcome with the unsuspecting foursome?
There are other twists and turns throughout "The Cabin In The Woods" with effects of varying degrees, but "The Cabin In The Woods" is more a dissection of the genre than a notable example of it. With a plethora of inside jokes, humorous asides and a tongue-in-cheek tone, there’s a distinctive ‘watch me’ vibe that breaks the movie illusion wall and thus never lets the viewer fully enjoy the experience of watching it. Plus while all the actors are decent enough (both Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford can play these guys in their sleep!), nobody stands out here enough to root for and it makes for an equally ho-hum flick. Director Drew Goddard and his loose style don’t help the film in the scares department either and make his reveals and stunt surprise castings feel like more useless gimmicks then smart choices.
I think a lot of why the film is receiving so many accolades lies in how it does deviates from the recent horror status quo. There’s been a bit of a dry spell in the genre in terms of real creativity and there are some certainly pieces of real genius in the midst of the cinematic chaos here. (What's in the box - you don't want to know!) But just being different does not a brilliant film make and while it gets an A for effort, in the category of morose movie mediocrity "The Cabin In The Woods" feels all too familiar.