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'The Cabin in the Woods' is over-the-top, but has an intriguing twist

'The Cabin in the Woods' has twists that moviegoers should avoid knowing beforehand in order to get the best experience possible.

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Once on the road, the group encounter an ill-tempered gas pump attendant that, despite his disdain for the college kids, warns the group about their destination – asserting that visitors regularly disappear up in the woods. Dismissing the warnings, the group reach the cabin where, that’s right, things quickly devolve into bloody mayhem.

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While many of the proceeding events center around good girl Dana, all of the friends are utilized in interesting ways – especially as the film toys more and more with genre stereotypes. As mentioned, these aren’t the dumb college kids audiences normally see in slasher-type films – and, while the plot can be somewhat convenient at times, there are plenty of interesting twists that arise out of having characters that, despite their basic caricature origins, defy expectation by making different (and, subsequently, more interesting) decisions. Given the difficult task of both embracing and rejecting these horror stereotypes, the cast (which, at the time, included a lot of untested talent) does a surprising job with the more serious moments – coupled with plenty of humorous nods to the audience.

That said, The Cabin in the Woods isn’t just different because it includes smarter versions of typical horror archetypes, the over-arching premise of the film is a game-changer, splitting open the genre format more and more as the film progresses – resulting in a final act that offers some truly enjoyable reveals. Where other filmmakers might attempt to setup the project as the first in a multi-installment franchise, Whedon and Goddard hold nothing back – peeling layer after layer away until they show audiences all that there is to see in The Cabin in the Woods universe. Nearly every recurring piece of mythology, horror, or comedy eventually comes full circle – offering a solid pay-off for moviegoers who can lock into the film’s wild (or absurd), but still satisfying, setup.

While the movie has a lot going for it in the way of an intriguing twist, the “horror” in The Cabin in the Woods might be underwhelming for some die-hards in the genre. There are plenty of tense moments, but many of the surface-level scares will be familiar (and easily anticipated) by a good portion of the audience. This might initially come across as lazy set-piece planning, but as the story plays-out, it’s clear these were intentional choices by Goddard and Whedon – which works to the success (and logic) of the overarching plot.

Ultimately, The Cabin in the Woods is a surprisingly entertaining effort that works because it strikes a smart balance – embracing, as well as rejecting, the viewer’s expectations and knowledge of the horror genre. The set-up is executed with a tongue-in-cheek attitude but presented with a straight face that could be off-putting for viewers who are expecting a straightforward slasher film or a “gritty” and serious scare-fest (such as The Descent or Hostel). However, the final product succeeds in paying homage to the movies that inspired it, poking fun at the often static state of the horror genre, all while simultaneously delivering a few fresh surprises. Anyone willing to suspend a bit of disbelief and not get too bogged down in the film’s logic will likely be ready for an entertaining and worthwhile experience. For many, this trip to The Cabin in the Woods will have definitely been worth the wait.

Ben Kendrick blogs at Screen Rant.

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