From left, college students Marty (Fran Kranz), Curt (Chris Hemsworth) and Jules (Anna Hutchison) cautiously walk into the darkness of the creepy cellar of their vacation retreat in “The Cabin in the Woods.” The movie is about five young people who find themselves involved in a deadly ritual when they travel to a remote nature location.

Lionsgate Entertainment/Courtesy

From left, college students Marty (Fran Kranz), Curt (Chris Hemsworth) and Jules (Anna Hutchison) cautiously walk into the darkness of the creepy cellar of their vacation retreat in “The Cabin in the Woods.” The movie is about five young people who find themselves involved in a deadly ritual when they travel to a remote nature location.

At the Movies: ‘Cabin’ not your average weekend getaway

Advertisement

photo

Andy Bockelman is a member of the Denver Film Critics Society, and his movie reviews appear in Explore Steamboat and the Craig Daily Press.

“The Cabin in the Woods”

3 out of 4 stars

95 minutes

Starring: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Fran Kranz and Richard Jenkins.

Now playing at the West Theatre and at Steamboat Springs’ Metropolitan Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.

When it comes to horror audiences, everyone enjoys a good decapitation or disemboweling, no matter how you slice it.

But most may argue is that the details leading up to graphic onscreen violence are what make or break any feature, whether it’s something quick and easy with a hint of the supernatural or painfully intricate and down to earth.

Whatever your preferences, “The Cabin in the Woods” will leave you smiling. Or possibly vomiting.

It’s vacation time for college students Curt (Chris Hemsworth), Jules (Anna Hutchison), Dana (Kristen Connolly), Holden (Jesse Williams) and Marty (Fran Kranz). With an isolated mountain cabin reserved for their use, their plans for the next few days are to do nothing but have fun, fun, fun.

When they reach the destination everything is so far so good for a delightful time, but once night falls a game of Truth or Dare takes an odd turn and the group finds a treasure trove of weird items in the basement. Reading aloud from a centuries-old diary among the bric-a-brac seems innocent enough — until a cluster of murderous zombies begins attacking them.

As their numbers begin to dwindle as a result of one gruesome death after another, the remaining youngsters come to an even more frightening truth about their fate — someone has planned their deaths well ahead of time.

Connolly functions nicely as the most disciplined and sensible member of the quintet, filling the need in horror flicks for the girl who, as a general rule, generally makes it all the way to the end even with all kinds of forces against her. Dana isn’t quite “that girl,” but she isn’t the only character to be pigeonholed.

Hemsworth and Hutchison play up their parts as the beefcake leader of the pack and his ditzy blonde girlfriend, as all the while their peers comment on how different their behavior has become in their new surroundings. But their sudden desire to have sex in the middle of the forest is no accident…

All Williams has to do is slip on a pair of glasses to fill his role as the brain of the group, but Kranz dives in as stoner Marty, who’s unsure if all the voices he’s hearing are real or a side effect from his “herbal enhancements.”

Is it really paranoia if there really are people out to get you? Specifically, two jaded monitor-jockeys (Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford) who have every square inch of the area — closed off by a force field — on camera and a limitless supply of control panel tricks to make sure these kids’ weekend plays out just the way they want it to.

How do you plan for reanimated corpses to suddenly pop out of the ground and go around killing everything in sight? That’s a whole other story entirely, but once you go down the rabbit hole there’s no coming back up.

Writers Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon play around with the conventions in the slasher elements of “Friday the 13th” and the dark magic gone awry of “The Evil Dead,” adding in the precise, psychotic torture desired by today’s “Saw” devotees. The distinct stereotypes we know all too well — jock, slut, nerd, pothead, virgin — actually serve a purpose here as the pair dissect and skewer the horror genre again and again.

Other horror icons may have carried a machete or a “boom stick,” but you should never underestimate the handiness of a collapsible coffee mug that can be converted into a bong.

The story actually becomes funnier the further along it goes, and director Goddard jumps from laughs to gasps and back with a refreshing lack of polish as a first-timer behind the camera. There’s also the added benefit of not having the surveillance angle of the story not used as a last minute twist, rather a full-bodied subplot.

Though it was filmed in 2009, releasing it now couldn’t have been better timing, right on the heels of thematically similar movies like “The Hunger Games” and “Wrath of the Titans” and made available for people who want an R-rated night out.

“The Cabin in the Woods” takes an old campfire-type tale and twists and stretches it to the breaking point with everything you could want in a scary story. The hodgepodge plot adheres strictly to some stylistic standards while blatantly ignoring others, but if there’s one kind of film that can chop up the rules and dissolve them in acid, it’s horror.

Now playing at the West Theatre and at Steamboat Springs’ Metropolitan Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.

Click here to have the print version of the Craig Daily Press delivered to your home.

Comments

Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.