“THE CABIN IN THE WOODS” is great for all the added dimension it offers up as a horror movie. Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard wrote the script and Goddard directs. These are the talents that brought you “Buffy The Vampire Slayer,” which shares the same enlightened view of horror. And that is what you get from this movie, an enlightened view, with a determinedly droll sense of humor.
For true Whedon fans, there’s the added bonus of having two actors in this movie from perhaps Whedon’s most daring televison show, “Dollhouse.” That is Fran Kranz, as Marty, the stoner, a sort of Shaggy-like character in the movie. And Amy Acker who plays, Lin, a technician back at “headquarters.” And, yes, there is a headquarters! We do indeed have a detached monitoring of events going on. It’s in the trailers and it shouldn’t come as a surprise anyway. “Cabin” not only shares actors but it also shares a high concept style similar to “Dollhouse.”
The idea here is that the movie takes the tropes of horror and looks at them from a different angle. That’s where the “high concept” stuff comes in. Apart from that, any movie that brings life and character to the slasher/horror genre is going in the right direction. “Cabin” sets itself apart by not only taking apart the horror genre but by embracing the slower character-driven moments.
There’s an excellent moment, perhaps the most talked about one, when the Scooby gang stop at a rundown gas station in hopes of filling up their monster RV. It’s an excellent scene, with an edge to it and without an ounce of blood spilled. Everyone is prowling around when, out of the dust and cobwebs, emerges a ghoulish-looking old coot. This is Mordecai, played to perfection by Tim de Zarn. He can’t help himself from, within seconds, completely alienating the happy youth. And then he has to cross the line and call the sexy girl in the group a whore!
That’s it. The gang is really upset. The jock in the group can only offer up a threat. But it’s the stoner of the group that goes about putting the old loon in his place with one conscending remark after another. You want the scene to go on some more but it’s time for the gang to move on and disregard the crazy hater’s dire warnings of impending death that await them if they should choose to continue to their most unlikely “fun” destination, a secluded cabin said to be haunted and in great disrepair, in the middle of nowhere. Hey guys, that awful guy is trying to help you!
Another pretty amazing scene, if only for being such an outrageous non sequitur, is the love scene between the sexy girl, Jules, played by Anna Hutchison, and a stuffed wolf. The gang is playing “Truth or Dare.” On a dare to make out with the stuffed animal on the wall, Jules gives it all she has from acting out her first coy encounter to rolling her tongue up and down and all around inside the dust and fur that is taxidermy. It’s such a strange moment that is supposed to leave you feeling more uneasy than turned on. If you find that hot, it begs the question of whether or not you’ve seen too many horror movies. It also demonstrates that sex can be more threatening and disorienting for some viewers than depictions of murder and bloodshed. A little twisted sexuality never hurt anyone but, in your typical horror movie, it’s the free-spirited and promiscuous youth who must die!
If you’re already a Whedon fan, then “Cabin” will be just what the doctor ordered. And, if you’re new to Whedon, this movie is a fine introduction which you should follow up with the two seasons of “Dollhouse” simply because you’ve probably seen enough “Buffy” for now and you need to see more of Fran Kranz.