SXSW Review: The Cabin in the Woods

The long-awaited horror comedy from Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard is well worth the wait.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel


We’ve been waiting two years to see Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard’s horror film, The Cabin in the Woods. First it got delayed a year for a 3D conversion. Then MGM went broke so it took another year. Luckily, Lionsgate is screening the old 2D version and it is every bit the awesome genre bending horror movie you’d expect from Whedon.

Three lab techs (Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford and Amy Acker) are monitoring five college students on a camping trip. You can tell by the way they talk that they are orchestrating all the clichés of horror movies, so when the kids start encountering slashers and monsters, you know it’s not going to be the typical cliché.

The script sets up the adults first, with some banter about child proofing a house that’s typical of establishing dialogue, but clever in Whedonspeak. Then they introduce the college kids, with some short panties and a little camel toe. (Alas, the lovely Kristen Connolly never gets all the way naked. She’s the pure one.) It’s all done with a sincere wink, but the characters fill their types. Curt (Chris Hemsworth) is the jock, Jules (Anna Hutchison) the, ahem, wild girl, Marty (Fran Kranz) the pothead, Dana (Connolly) we discussed and Holden (Jesse Williams), the token.

Obviously we’re piecing together the iconography of all kinds of movies and Whedon and Goddard know that. There must be a mindf*** coming, but we trust them either way. A traditional Joss Whedon horror movie would be fun too. Don’t worry about that though, they didn’t make a cabin in the woods horror movie just to make another cabin in the woods horror movie.

All the dialogue sounds like Whedonspeak. Maybe it feels a tad less familiar in some of the newcomers to his fold, but it always flows no matter who’s speaking. Of course there are laughs. They wouldn’t just do a straight cliché. The way the film addresses stereotypes is uniquely Whedon, able to comment without breaking the fourth wall. They even allow us some gratuitous boobies, in the most respectful female empowering way.

So the film starts with the base of genre bending. I don’t want to spoil it but I love the way it covers every type of horror, whether thinly veiled non-copyright versions or classic monsters. International genres too. The payoff is awesome. It’s just awesome.  

I wish I had seen this movie two years ago when it was supposed to come out. It would have totally rocked my world then. Now I’ve seen Detention,which will come out this year, which goes to the next level on meta movies. But Cabin isn’t trying to be meta; it’s focused on genre. Those are different types of satire so I can appreciate Cabin taking genre further than ever before. And if you’re in the mood for meta, there’s something coming out soon that you’re gonna love.