I must begin by saying how impressed I am that a movie that languished, fully completed, on the proverbial shelf for three years still managed to make it to the big screen without leaking the plot. I know Joss Whedon has an extremely strong fan base, and they actually listened when he said, “please don’t.” (Unlike the idiot reviewer at New York’s Village Voice, who gave away the ENDING OF THE MOVIE in the very first sentence of his so-called review. No, I’m not kidding. No, I will not provide a link. He’s an idiot.) I am a relative latecomer among Joss’ legion of fans, but I do enjoy his stuff greatly, so I will do the best I can to give a spoiler-free review that still gives you an idea of what my mind went through while watching this movie.
In the beginning of the PR campaign, we were given a few scant words about this film:
Five friends go to a remote cabin in the woods. Bad things happen.
If you think you know this story, think again.
And honestly, to truly enjoy everything this movie has to offer, you really should stop right there. Don’t read any more reviews, do NOT watch any trailers, just stop. If you see a trailer in the theaters, I’m sorry. If you find one online that’s over a minute long, don’t watch it. If you must know why, leave me a comment here with your email address and I’ll tell you. In fact, I could swear I remember seeing a very, VERY short trailer (tv spot, perhaps?) that didn’t spoil a major facet of the story, but as I write this, I can’t find it to share. So maybe just be extra safe and don’t watch ANY trailers. The entire initial setup simply won’t have the same effect, I promise you.
So rather than tell you what this movie IS, I’m going to tell you what it is NOT. It is not:
- a generic horror/slasher film
- a super-serious psychological horror film
- a B-movie-style film
- a comedy
- a drama
In fact, I think I’m safe in asserting that this movie is truly unlike any other movie I’ve seen. But if you like any of the genres I mentioned above, you really will enjoy this movie. It seems to steal elements of all of these other genres and piece them together in an intriguing puzzle, never traveling too far in any prescribed or formulaic direction.
The best way I can think of to prepare for and enjoy this movie is to imagine yourself in line for a roller coaster ride you’ve heard is really good and scary. I’m not even a huge fan of coasters, but that’s how I felt going in, and it worked for me. This movie is a great ride, not too serious–although there are a couple of moments where you could really read some big statements about society in there, if you’re that kind of person–and it would be a blast to watch in a theater chock full of people, especially people who jump at prescribed “gotcha” moments. (Yes, I am one of those people.) And if you can, just sit back and enjoy the ride here. Don’t try to think ahead of the story, don’t try to anticipate what will happen next, just let the story unfold and carry you off.
This movie in particular really underscored for me just why I enjoy movies so much. I really am a sucker for a good story. I willingly allow myself to be led by the nose, to be toyed with, to be manipulated by the writer and director. You can put certain clues right in front of me, and I’ll see them, sure, but they’re just as quickly dismissed or forgotten as the story continues. Some may call that kind of audience “stupid”, but there are so many movies made to pander to “stupid” people, and this is certainly not one of them. I prefer to think of myself as a willing participant in my own suspension of disbelief. I adamantly don’t want to see ahead, don’t want to figure it out, and in this case, I want to be completely surprised at what’s in store for me. Fortunately, with just a couple of exceptions, that’s exactly how I enjoyed Cabin in the Woods. I hope that’s how you’ll enjoy it, too.