I made it to a 12:01 a.m. showing of The Cabin in the Woods late Thursday night – well, technically, very early on the morning of Friday the 13th.
Poster detail © 2012 Lions Gate Entertainment.
I loved it. But I can't really talk about it.
Honestly, I can't. You may have read that audiences have been urged by the filmmakers at advance screenings not to divulge any of Cabin's twists, and that's with good reason. If you have read that, you're probably enough of a movie (or media) buff to know whether or not you want to see the film; I'm guessing, furthermore, that you do.
I just thought I'd write this non-review to confirm your suspicions, to whatever extent you trust my taste, that Cabin is a can't-miss experience — and to give a general idea to those of you more removed from the "geek" world why it's been so anticipated.
The Cabin in the Woods was cooked up some time ago by screenwriters Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard. It was completed in 2009 but due to MGM's bankruptcy has been withheld from release a number of times; Lions Gate acquired its distribution rights in 2011. It's a familiar horror tale of five friends venturing out to a remote cabin in the woods... in part, more than which I dare not say.
I will say that it's a great kickoff to 2012 as the unofficial Year of Whedon. Joss directed the Avengers film hitting theaters next month, the culmination of five related flicks in Marvel's movie universe to date; later comes his micro-budget adaptation of Shakespeare's Much Ado about Nothing starring some of Whedon's most enjoyable recurring players.
Whedon is, my regular readers should know, the man behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer, its spinoff Angel, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, and more. He's a master of dialogue whose (mostly) television projects have brought to the fore many other such folks — from Jane Espenson (Torchwood, Once Upon a Time) to Cabin co-writer/director Goddard (Alias, Lost). So Cabin's pedigree was enough to sell many of us in the pop-culture ideosphere on it, especially given the tantalizing tidbits leaked out over the past few years as Whedon, also the film's producer and a second-unit director, talked about how it was both a return to the classic conventions of the horror genre in the wake of the disturbing "torture-porn" trend and a deconstruction of those conventions.
Folks who are familiar with those conventions, who can handle a certain amount of blood and shock and yuck, and who don't mind nearly insane levels of creativity will likely enjoy the ride. I'd say that you roughly have to be of my generation or younger to possess the requisite accreted lore (stuff like Friday the 13th and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, if not The Evil Dead), although I certainly know film fiends my parents' age who are up on the horror-movie tropes of recent decades and plenty more older fans of smart storytelling who would appreciate Cabin's sharp turns.
I was reminded all over again by The Cabin in the Woods how genius can be so maddening in doing so little with a great idea before throwing it away in favor of moving on to the next one. Alan Moore does that; so did Jorge Luis Borges. It's sometimes waved off, even by the authors themselves, as smoke and mirrors, paying a clever bit some lip service and getting of the stage before the reader realizes that (to pile on the metaphors) the emperor has no clothes. As a proponent of minimalism, however, and more broadly as someone who admires artists of all disciplines who've learned to apply just the right amount of detail for any given piece of work, I'm not convinced that such hand-waving is appropriate modesty. I won't tell you here exactly what in Cabin led me down this train of thought, but I wouldn't mind discussing with those who've seen it how it so satisfyingly engages in both restraint and excess — as well as the one big mistake I felt the movie made.
I hadn't planned on writing another piece that delved into the movie's plot, but in the couple of hours since I finished what I thought was the final draft of this post I've been mulling over some things I might want to say "out loud" after all. Since I'm not sure if or when that will happen, I'll allow spoilers in comments here; those of you planning to see the film should probably avoid them unless you're the first to reply or you're great at ignoring your peripheral vision.
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