Noah Taylor’s review published on Letterboxd:
Halloween 2019 Review #3 - The Cabin in the Woods
In 2002, Eli Roth released his iconic horror film "Cabin Fever", which while most consider to be mindless torture porn, which is a fair assessment, brought back a long dead genre of film, which is the cabin horror movie. And while films like The Evil Dead and Friday the 13th absolutely pioneered it, it's pretty obvious that the current form that films like this have taken was very much popularized by what many cult fans consider Roth's magnum opus.
I bring this up because so many movies from 2002 onwards used that same trope of a bunch of horny teenagers stuck in a cabin together facing some kind of spooky thing, in which the torture porn element became a lot less torture and a lot more... erm… porn... Some movies make it subtle, but some movies like the remake of Friday the 13th have sex scenes that are only one step above something you'd see on Brazzers. Cabin movies are definitely a point of contempt for many horror fans, with their gratuitous nudity, lack of coherent plot and worst of all, endless jumpscares. It's a nightmare trying to watch movies like this.
Enter directors Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon. One of them is a relatively new filmmaker with a lot of big ideas, and the other is a very interesting figure. Joss Whedon has had a bizarre career, writing masterpieces like Toy Story and Buffy, but also directing Justice League, Age of Ultron and Alien: Resurrection. However, these two minds had a vision. To create a cabin horror that shakes up the genre. And the best way to shake up a genre, is to become aware.
The reason all this build up is important to the discussion of The Cabin in the Woods is that the film is a satire and parody of the worst elements of films like Cabin Fever and the Friday the 13th remake. It explains every monster, every stupid decision, every single horrible thing that happens, and it does it with comedic intent. The film itself is gorgeously shot, brilliantly edited, paced flawlessly and is endlessly funny, but the script is the best part. Every bit of dialogue is hilarious and makes perfect sense given the scenarios the film throws our characters into, the horror is effective and the characters react accordingly to it, the science geeks who run the show are genuinely so fucking funny, every line out of their mouths is golden.
Where the film shines is comedy, obviously, but a lot of people like to overlook that it's a genuinely frightening film with very little in the way of jumpscares. The tense scenes are built up perfectly, we actually like the characters so seeing harm befall them is incredibly intense, the monster designs are genuinely chilling and fantastic, especially the merman which is a great payoff to a pretty solid running gag. Every actor gives a great and convincing performance, especially Sigourney Weaver who hams it the fuck up as The Director, being every bit as menacing as she is campy. And good fucking lord that woman is 70 but is still killing it in every aspect of her life.
The ending as well, while comedic and a good time, also feels so dour and hopeless. Desolate. A lot of horror movies are afraid to leave the audience feeling helpless and depressed, but the idea of seeing our characters surviving dooming the planet is very disturbing in the grand scheme of things. Reminds me of Paul Tremblay's Cabin at the End of the World. Which is ANOTHER cabin horror story.
The Cabin in the Woods takes the best elements of it's genre and improves on them, and takes the worst elements of it's genre and turns them into jokes. It's a triumph in horror AND comedy and resurrected a long dead genre back to being entertaining again. Its a good movie 10/10