Fans of the horror genre aren't easy to please, but critics say fanboys are absolutely going to adore Cabin in the Woods, the latest film to attempt the a-group-of-friends-visit-a-cabin-in-the-woods-and-bad-things-happen formula. While the setup may be predictable, movie reviewers across the country say fans will be shocked -- in a good way -- at how this film pans out. (Don't worry, you won't read any spoilers here.)
This isn't your average R-rated horror movie: The Cabin In The Woods is directed by Drew Goddard, who is famous for writing several J.J. Abrams sci-fi projects like Lost, Cloverfield and Alias, and was written by Goddard and Joss Whedon, the mind behind Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Dollhouse, Firefly, and the blockbuster movie set for release later this summer, The Avengers.
The combination of Goddard and Whedon attracted a strong cast to play the five young doomed friends. The friends, Dana, Curt, Jules, Marty and Holden, are played by Kristen Connolly (Revolutionary Road), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz (Dollhouse) and Jesse Williams (Grey's Anatomy). The film also attracted award-winning actors like Richard Jenkins (The Rum Diary) and Bradley Whitford (The West Wing), who both have minor roles in the movie.
Without giving any spoilers away, here's what critics are already saying about Cabin In The Woods, which currently has an incredible 93 percent freshness rating on movie critic aggregator site, Rotten Tomatoes.
Roger Ebert, The Chicago Sun-Times:
You're not going to see this one coming. You might think you do, because the TV ads and shots at the top reveal what looks like the big surprise - and it certainly comes as a surprise to the characters. But let's just say there's a lot more to it than that. ... Horror fans are a particular breed. They analyze films with such detail and expertise that I am reminded of the Canadian literary critic Northrup Frye, who approached literature with similar archetypal analysis. 'The Cabin in the Woods' has been constructed almost as a puzzle for horror fans to solve. Which conventions are being toyed with? Which authors and films are being referred to? Is the film itself an act of criticism? With most genre films, we ask, Does it work? In other words, does this horror film scare us? The Cabin in the Woods does have some genuine scares, but they're not really the point. This is like a final exam for fanboys.
Ian Buckwalter, NPR:
Goddard and Whedon have created a wonderful puzzle of a film that is loving in its appreciation of good horror, even as takes the genre (and its blood-lusty audience) to task for the unimaginative banality that has been too typical of recent scary movies. There's a serious and smart critique here, and life-or-death stakes that only come from characters one genuinely cares about - a neat trick, given that they're set up to be so generic. But Whedon, the creator of a vampire slayer named Buffy, has always excelled at clever one-liners set against backdrops of unspeakable and ancient evil. Goddard, in his first turn as director, matches the verbal wit with memorable visual set-pieces that are as hilarious as they are horrific.
Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post:
A fiendishly clever brand of meta-level genius propels The Cabin in the Woods, a pulpy, deceivingly insightful send-up of horror movies that elicits just as many knowing chuckles as horrified gasps. ... As a playful departure from the torture porn that it obliquely lampoons, The Cabin in the Woods marks a welcome return of cheap thrills and simple bump-in-the-night frights, with some stinging self-critical commentary on the side. Rarely have quotation marks been so on-point, or diabolically entertaining.
Rafer Guzman, Newsday:
The less said about The Cabin in the Woods, the better, but don't cross it off your moviegoing list. By all means, put it right at the top. The best way to enjoy this unpredictable jack-in-the-box of a movie, though, is to go in unprepared.
Kyle Smith, New York Post:
Movies that mean to deconstruct movies seem to be made solely by and for cinema vampires, those ghost-faced geeks whose pallor is rarely challenged by exposure to the sun. This audience is meant to be sent chattering into the street exclaiming, 'Did you spot that reference to . . .?' I require more, and couldn't help noticing that the total of genuine wit in the movie is roughly equal to that contained in any six minutes of any 'Treehouse of Horror' episode of 'The Simpsons.'
Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times:
All the actors do a decent job with whatever is thrown at them - usually sharp objects. There are some clever cameos to watch for and someone will no doubt eventually compile a list of the many horror movie references thrown into the grizzle and guts. Goddard, who directs from a script co-written with Whedon, sets the tone from the beginning with a lot of quirky camera angles - you may be tempted to try to adjust the screen like a crooked picture. But there's no time really because that ever-diminishing group of friends is quickly forced to face off endless evil, including - but not limited to - zombies, aliens, fearsome monsters, graves, ghosts, grim clowns, grim reapers, dead-eyed dolls, SWAT teams, janitors, more zombies.
Robert Levin, Film School Rejects:
The movie offers a compelling journey through demented territory, smartly dredging up and then subverting the most common horror movie conventions. Our notions of villainy and heroism are jumbled and called into question, as the filmmakers thwart deeply-held perceptions of the genre's basic moral structure. At the same time, in a move that would make any number of film theorists proud, the movie directly engages with the questions of how and why we watch horror flicks.
Tom Charity, CNN:
If you go down to the Woods today, you're sure of a big surprise -- and if anyone tries to spoil it, my advice would be to shut them up quick. ... There's no question that this is one of the most entertaining and invigorating shockers in recent years. It's also one of the best movies of 2012 so far, in any genre.
Are you planning to go see Cabin in the Woods? If you have, let us know your impressions below, but please, no spoilers!