The Cabin in the Woods Review
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Once a year or so, critics will screen a movie that’s supposed to be a big secret. These screenings generally come complete with grave warnings. Before the film screens, we’ll get an email—or a short speech—begging us not to reveal the film’s plot twists.

Now, I’ll admit that, every time I get that speech, I groan inwardly. Oh great, I think, another movie that thinks it’s clever. And, in the end, few of these super-secret movies manage to live up to the hype. But that’s not the case for director Drew Goddard’s wickedly clever horror flick, The Cabin in the Woods.

The film is set up like just about any other horror movie: five college kids pack their bags and head to a run-down cabin in the middle of nowhere for a boozy weekend getaway. Of course, they’re the usual horror movie stereotypes: slutty blonde Jules (Anna Hutchinson), handsome jock Curt (Chris Hemsworth), stoner Marty (Fran Kranz), and the sweet, brainy kids, Holden and Dana (Jesse Williams and Kristen Connolly).

As you might expect, it isn’t long before all kinds of unspeakable horrors close in on the clueless revelers. But, right from the beginning, it’s made quite clear that these aren’t just the same old supernatural horrors—or the same old demented serial killer. There’s something else—something strange…yet strangely hilarious—going on.

Since I’ve always been one to play by the rules—especially when it comes to spoilers—I’m not going to reveal too much more (despite the fact that some of the biggest twists come in the early minutes of the film). After all, I wouldn’t want to ruin all the fun. I will say, however, that The Cabin in the Woods takes the horror genre and turns it on its head, playing with the usual horror movie clichés and conventions and turning them into something new and ridiculously entertaining.

The film is still bloody and gruesome—though, to be perfectly honest, it’s not really all that scary. For the most part, anyone who’s watched their share of clichéd horror flicks will know what’s going to happen (and when), which makes it more amusing than horrifying. But it’s the why and the how that make it unique.

To top it all off, Goddard and co-writer Joss Whedon give the whole thing the perfect touches of humor. It’s not silly enough to be considered a true horror-comedy—and the core characters aren’t really comic characters (apart from surprisingly perceptive stoner Marty, that is). But there’s an underlying dark humor to it that serves as a constant reminder that there’s absolutely no point in taking any of it seriously. The filmmakers are in on the joke; you’re laughing with them, not at them. So feel free to sit back and enjoy the show.

In the end, The Cabin in the Woods is a whole lot of witty horror movie fun. So if you secretly (or maybe even not-so-secretly) love those campy, clichéd horror flicks, you won’t want to miss this clever new take on the same old murder and mayhem. You’ll be in for a bloody good time.

Blu-ray Review:
It doesn’t matter if it’s a massive superhero movie or a Shakespearean play that’s secretly filmed in just a few days; when Joss Whedon does something, people take notice. So the beloved filmmaker’s loyal followers won’t want to skip over the special features menu on the Blu-ray release of The Cabin in the Woods.

Since he co-wrote the film with director Drew Goddard (he also produced it), Whedon plays a pretty big part in the film’s extras, joining in the Wonder-Con Q&A, contributing to the audio commentary, hosting a tour of the set in The Secret Secret Stash, and popping up in pretty much every other special feature along the way. And fans won’t be disappointed. He and Goddard have great chemistry as long-time collaborators, and they make the extras both interesting and entertaining.

If you’re interesting in the behind-the-scenes stuff, you’ll want to check out features like An Army of Nightmares (on the makeup and animatronic effects) and Primal Terror (on the visual effects), but all of that is also incorporated into We Are Not Who We Are. This half-hour making-of feature takes a look at everything from the duo’s unusual screenwriting process to the location and even the effects and makeup. So if you’re looking for an overview of the process, it’s a great pick. For more on the process, though (and for more silliness from Whedon and Goddard), you can also check out the commentary track.

The Blu-ray release of The Cabin in the Woods comes loaded with extras—each of which offers some interesting insights and information. But if you want it all in just one feature—from the behind-the-scenes details to the filmmakers’ quirky personalities—start with the making-of feature. It’s long, but it’s definitely worthwhile.

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