Art of the Real 728x90 Film Comment Film Society of Lincoln Center

Short Takes: The Cabin in the Woods

By Laura Kern

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(Drew Goddard, U.S., 2012)

The Cabin in the Woods

A group of generic twentysomethings (slut, virgin, jock, brain, and stoner all present) hit the road for a weekend getaway of frolicking and fun. Destination: why, a creepy backwoods cabin where things rapidly go awry, of course. Heard this one before? Well, so have the writer-producer Joss Whedon and the director and co-writer Drew Goddard, the masterminds behind The Cabin in the Woods. So many times, in fact, that they’ve decided to turn the dead-tired concept on its ear (then rip it off and feed it to us).

The duo’s clever playfulness results in a horror movie that’s perhaps not entirely groundbreaking (genre fans will detect traces of Cube and Saw) but is so revisionist it makes Scream look almost earnest. Yet by the same token its wink-wink sensibility diminishes its ability to terrify, exacerbated by the fact that we know right from the start that much more is at stake than the mere fates of the five pretty young puppets, played by an assortment of up-and-comers, a few of them Whedon television alumni. (The film itself thankfully overcame the threat of its own doom by outliving years of delays.)

Taking its cue from Michael Haneke’s deeper, crueler Funny Games, The Cabin in the Woods explores why we—sicko viewers—take pleasure in the suffering of others. Give the audience what they want—and then some. And as much as we think we may be in on it, the joke is always still on us.