A personal favourite horror classic of mine, Drew Goddard (Bad Times at the El Royale) directs his first feature film with this creepy yet hilarious original story. The plot alone is enough to watch this film, as without spoiling anything, it near enough becomes impossible to predict where this film is going. The more the film unravels, the more interested you become, and by twenty minutes in I found myself incredibly entertained.
We begin the story with the usual horror set-up, a bunch of teens all fitting the stereotypes of the slasher genre head up to an old cabin in the woods for a weekend of partying. Yet things soon turn out to not quite be what they seem, as it appears someone (or something) is manipulating events.
The film overall is basically a dissection of horror films and the clichés that come with them, whilst also being a horror film at the same-time. However, although the film does build-up a decent atmosphere throughout, the horror aspect of the film is easily its weakest element. As I always found myself laughing far more at its comedic scenes, rather than finding myself on edge over during the tension-filled ones.
Being a typical horror story like this however, always comes the risk of using young unknown actors for the teens, with the exception of maybe Chris Hemsworth of course (who was mostly unknown at this point). Yet I think the entire cast did a phenomenal job, especially Fran Kranz as ‘Marty’, who got many laughs out of me and completely nailed the ‘Stoner’ type attitude, mostly as a result of the extensive prop and behaviour training he went through before filming in order fo further fit his character. Richard Jenkins from: ‘Step Brothers’ and ‘The Shape of Water’ is also great within the film as ‘Sitterson’, as for his role in the story, I’ll leave that a mystery for now.
Many of the visuals in the film come off as your usual standard horror flick, alongside the cinematography by Peter Deming, which of course is nothing special. But there is the occasional pleasing shot, or even a throwback shot to classic horror film every so often, with ‘Friday the 13th’ being the most noticeable. However, the actual design of the cabin set itself, as well as many of the creatures throughout the film, is easily one of my favourite elements. As the costumes are nothing short of incredibly detailed, and really help give each creature it’s own distinct look and feel.
The original score by David Julyan is your standard horror film soundtrack, further playing into the idea of a dissection of the genre, and despite being very bland it does back-up many of the eerie scenes regardless. The editing is also nothing phenomenal, but with a narrative this original and the writing being as hilarious as it is. I’m willing to give them a thumbs-up. Especially when you consider the last twenty minutes of the film, which is probably some of the most fun I’ve had watching a horror flick.
Another weaker aspect of the film is also related to the visuals, as the film was made on a smaller budget the CGI in many of the scenes is very noticeable, and although it doesn’t completely ruin a scene, it can take you out of the film for a second or two. Thankfully, CGI isn’t used very heavily throughout the film. I also feel this smaller-budget might have had an impact of the runtime, as the film feels a little short to me and could’ve done with being slightly longer to further flush elements out.
In conclusion, I love ‘The Cabin in the Woods’, from the wonderfully crafted creatures to the way the story unfolds, to the various nods to previous entries in the horror genre. I think Goddard has made a flawless dissection of why we love horror films and the traits within them. Although not prefect, I’m still eagerly anticipating his next film and I really hope he keeps this trend of interesting filmmaking going. An 8/10 from me, a definite watch for any horror fan.