Originally, I had not wanted to see this movie at all. Normally, the only movies I bother to see in the movie theatre are horror movies because they’re my favorite and because I’m poor, but most horror movies have been a ridiculous flop lately.
The last one I saw in theatres and truly enjoyed was Fright Night, and since then I have been to a number to no avail. I saw Apollo 18, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, Paranormal Activity 3, The Devil Inside, and The Woman in Black all to little avail. The Woman in Black offered some legitimate scares, and was in no way laughable. Even Daniel Radcliffe’s acting was worthwhile, however it followed so common a horror movie formula, rather closely creating a sort of old-timey version of The Ring, to the point that it was a bit of a yawn. Not to mention, that this trailer for The Cabin in the Woods combined with their main advertising image was leaving me uninterested to say the least.
I’m sorry, this trailer looks like someone tried to make a movie that would be a twist on the boring generic slasher movie, but like not only will it not work well, but that you’re giving away all of the interesting twisty-ness in the trailer. I frankly felt like, oh, so it’s the same old story but there’s a force field keeping them in. So what? And I get the movie poster from a design standpoint, it’s like a crazy road sign pointing you multiple directions, but it doesn’t tell me anything about this movie I didn’t already know. And their tagline “You think you know the story” honestly tells me that yes, yes I do. You’ve just given me a setup where it’s a combination of generic teen slasher, but orchestrated with some sci-fi tech. I repeat, so what?
But then the movie started to get really good reviews, I read a few articles and interviews with the cast, and I decided that if others liked it this much, I would at least enjoy it enough to be alright with the ticket price. I mean, everyone seemed to think Insidious was a good scary movie, and while I think it is a ridiculous horror movie, I think it is a wonderful comedy and own it and paid to see it twice. It’s that funny.
So a girlfriend who is my horror movie partner (once you watch Human Centipede together you never go back,) and I found the Logan theatre in Logan Square which was still playing the movie. This theatre was really cool and reminded me of the Virginia Theatre in Champaign. They have independent or unique movies or new ones later than other places, but are significantly cheaper with fewer theatres and a cooler vibe. They had a bar and a concession stand with everything we could want, and the old theatre decor was awesome. They also had a really old Young Frankenstein movie poster I was tempted to steal. Not to mention that it was renovated somewhat recently, so they also have the really nice seats. (Am I the only one that prefers this to the giant 5-level movie complexes in Chicago where I pay $18 dollars for a ticket and $20 for some popcorn and a Coke?)
Then, to top off what was so far a great experience, the movie was hands-down the best movie I have seen all year, of all genres. Not only was it the best horror movie, it was just the best all-around movie. I could not have been happier. I wouldn’t necessarily categorize it as a horror movie, but more of a comedy with horror; like Shaun of the Dead is a comedy, but characters actually die somewhat gruesome deaths in it. This was like that.
Josh Whedon of course wrote it and helped make this happen, the man who just finished The Avengers and directed Thor, not to mention has written on what seems like most sci-fi/horror TV shows, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. This movie was filled with laughs from start to finish, and most of them were at the expense of the horror genre.
I will try not to give away anything major or the sort-of twist, but if you really don’t want it ruined at all, I would stop reading now.
So of course, we’re thinking that the big twist is going to be that this is all orchestrated, but it’s not. The movie literally starts off with men who appear to be two government workers, the guys running the horror scenario for the teenagers; this is Joshua Lyman (or Bradley Whitford for you non-West Wing-ers,) who is my favorite fake-government-politician-agent ever on TV, so why not in a movie?! and Richard Jenkins, who is a character actor who has been in everything, two of the most memorable of late being his role as Channing Tatum’s Autistic father in Dear John and his role as Justin Timberlake’s father with Alzheimer’s in Friends With Benefits. Then, in a strange moment of their somewhat mundane conversation it freezes and flashes the big red Cabin in the Woods title, which frankly felt like an Insidious mock all over, especially since they did it again at the end.
From there, the movie is filled with jokes about the genre, the coolest bong I think anyone has ever seen, and a good number of surprises. The only major thing I’m going to give away is what I thought was the coolest aspect of the movie: at one point they all go down into the cellar of the cabin, and start looking around at all this different cool stuff that are all horror movie triggers, and they choose what comes to kill them. They’re all looking at all these different things, there’s a big conch shell, there’s a Hellraiser puzzle-box (which made me soooo happy,) film strips, a music box, a locket, and a diary that one of the girls starts to read out loud, sealing their fate. It is about a crazy killing family back in the day, and then she reads some Latin out loud (of course..) and raises a family of zombies.
Their part of the movie is then rather Evil Dead until the real twist kicks in, which I would hate to ruin for anyone. But it was perfect because it was good if you don’t follow horror too, but if you do, you could see all the direct references to other monsters and villains and possibilities.
All in all this movie was beyond enjoyable and fun, and we left wishing that we could see it again (alas, we’d hit the last showing,) and that there were 800 alternate versions so we could see all the other horror paths they could’ve chosen. I need to own this movie ASAP because I would watch it everyday; it’s that much of an amazing horror romp. If it is still in theatres near you, and you hesitated before, I promise you, it will be worth it. Even if you don’t like horror, this is the horror movie for you! If I had to give it a grade, this movie would get an A+.
Now who is waiting to see this movie with me? Because while it can’t surpass The Cabin in the Woods, it looks like it will be fun: