OK, so before I go on I gotta tell you there are some spoilers here. I only wish someone at the Belfast Telegraph would print something like that before they launch into an article on the death toll from the latest episode of Game of Thrones… anyway. For those of you who have seen the movie or simply don’t care about spoilers I shall continue.
The premise is the old trope of “a bunch of teenagers head into a cabin in the woods for drink, drugs and debauchery”. So that’s the origin of the title sorted. The thing is, the film is very much aware of that. The story comes from Drew Goddard (Lost) and Joss Whedon (Avengers, Buffy), two writers with a history of misdirection and subterfuge born from self-awareness. The opening scene is an indication of just how much the team plans to keep the audience guessing. From here, more and more conventions are referred to and then dismissed, which is great for the audience as it offers something new and unexpected. When things kick off and the teens come under attack for the first time, we get a glimpse into what might be ahead; just before, the employees of the “ancient ones” take bets on which monstrosity will be sent to scrub out the brats.
The movie is good up until the last quarter, where it becomes great. When all hell lets loose (literally), every creature from every nightmare you ever had or never want to have is there. The creature design is crazy. Imagine being an artist working at AFX Studio the day they found out what the The Cabin in the Woods gig involved! The creatures are a glorious mix of practical FX and CG and demonstrate the way things should be done. One method should not necessarily be preferred over another, nor should there be any “snobbery” over what is “better”. In the excellent “Blood & Guts with Scott Ian” series, Rob Hall said “Fuck lazy CGI!” and he’s right. The best FX will be whatever has the most resonance with an audience, whether that’s just practical FX, CG alone or both of them together. I personally think they’re best when artists from both arenas come together.
It has to be when all the monsters get released from their chambers and the slaughter begins in earnest. There’s something to please every fanboy and fangirl – even a homicidal unicorn! Its a case of allowing the carnage to wash over you, it’s so packed with stuff that it’ll need a second or even third watch.