The slasher franchise of Horror has been around for a long time, and with a few exceptions here and there, there has never been anything that makes the movies in this genre any bit engaging or exciting. You know what’s going to happen after the first minute. Basically you’re just counting down to the next scene where some hapless teen’s life ends horribly. If anything there is nothing worth while about the slasher film that makes someone watching say, “Well, that was different.” The Cabin in The Woods is refreshing take on a trope that frankly needed it as it was getting incredibly tired and old. The buzz going around is that it’s a “game changer” that the first Scream movie was over a decade ago. While the movie is different in the way it approach the slasher genre, I won’t go as far as saying that it has changed that genre the way Scream did.
Without going too much into detail the basic premise behind the story is the same one we’ve seen over and over again in almost every film of this type. There’s a group of college kids, every one the archetype character you’d expect to see. There’s the jock, slut, clown, scholar, and of course, the virgin. And anyone whose ever seen a slasher film knows where this is headed. The thing that makes The Cabin in The Woods so good and stand out from its predecessors is that the film takes this formula and totally turns it on its ear. What you think you know is going to happen does happen, but unlike the usual fare, there’s more to the death, gore and maiming than you think. There’s nothing more I can say about the film without completely spoiling it. The real strength of the film is its self awareness and its willingness to invite the viewer to laugh, even at parts where one might not think its appropriate to do so. The film is inventive and funny, but in a way that doesn’t make it try to seem cool or overly smart.
Now that being said, I do have some gripes. Not so much with the film as with all the people saying how original, different and unique it is. First off, people talk about all the twists and turns this movie has, which it does, but the biggest twist the film has to offer happens at the beginning of the movie. And when I say the beginning I mean the very first scene. So the audience understands from the get go what is happening. I don’t have a problem with the so-called big reveal actually kicking the movie off, if anything there are some great payoffs, comedic wise, because of this, but perhaps it would have served the film better if the twist could have happened halfway through.
The film was written by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, the creative forces behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. Anyone whose ever seen either of those shows will be completely familiar with their style of writing, and it’s just as smart and funny here as it’s ever been. Fans of the shows, especially Angel, will see some similarities between this movie and that series. While watching the film involving the people introduced at the beginning of the movie, I couldn’t help but be reminded of that evil power in the guise of something else that plagued Angel, named after a trinity of animals. (Angel Fans will understand) As a matter of fact, I couldn’t help but think Whedon and Goddard were recycling ideas from the later seasons of Angel.
As far as it being a game changer, I think in its willingness to take everything we’ve ever known about the slasher film and add an entirely new dimension to it, while ingenious, doesn’t make me see it as the revolutionary horror film that everyone else seems to view it as. Scream changed the horror genre by taking the old premise of the slasher film and staying true to its rules while creating new ones in the process. The characters in those movies were smart enough to understand the situation they found themselves in because they had actually watched scary movies, something characters from other slasher films apparently had never done. That’s what made Scream stand out, that’s what made it the game changer of its time. The Cabin In The Woods and its multilayered story certainly make it different and easily one of the best films, horror or otherwise, this year, and the last quarter of the film will certainly make horror fans scream (in a good way), but I can’t give it the credit for changing genre the way that Scream did. That being said, anyone who wants to have a good time and genuinely be surprised at a slasher film (something that doesn’t happen very much) should go and see this movie, because films of this sort, especially in this genre, don’t come along that often.