Wednesday, October 17, 2018
The Cabin in the Woods
Directed by Drew Goddard and written by Goddard and Joss Whedon, The Cabin in the Woods is the story of five college students who go into a cabin where horrible things are happening unaware that a couple of technicians are controlling things from the outside. The film is a satire on the horror genre in some respects as it play into the many tropes of the slasher film genre as well as what people expect in these films. Starring Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchinson, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Richard Jenkins, Amy Acker, Brian White, and Bradley Whitford. The Cabin in the Woods is a witty yet thrilling film from Drew Goddard.
Five college kids go to a cabin in the middle of the woods as they believe nothing goes wrong yet they find something in a basement and all hell breaks loose usually leaving one person to survive to tell the tale or that person just ends up dead. That is a premise that is so typical of what to expect in a horror film as it’s been done so many times but what happens if that premise is told all over again but there’s people behind the scenes that are controlling the fate of these five college kids with one person to possibly survive? The film’s screenplay by Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon play into these situations that is controlled by these two technicians in Gary Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) and Bradley Whitford (Steve Hadley). They would set up the scenario with small cameras and drones along with a few people that these students would encounter along the way.
Yet, the college students are the ones who unknowingly decide what they will face as they each bear every kind of stereotype expected in a slasher film such as the whore in Jules (Anna Hutchinson), the athlete in Curt (Chris Hemsworth), the scholar in Holden (Jesse Williams), the fool in Mary (Fran Kranz) and the virgin in Dana (Kristen Connolly) as she is the final girl in terms of what is expected in a slasher film. As the story goes on with these technicians and others watching with some making bets on what they will choose. However, a couple of these clichéd characters would break from what is expected in the genre as they would know that something is off as they encounter a far darker reality in the film’s third act.
Goddard’s direction does bear the many visual traits expected in a slasher film set in a cabin but he also would find ways to deviate from these ideas as well as play with the visual tropes. Shot largely on location near and around Vancouver in Canada, the film does play into the many ideas of what is expected on a trip to the woods though that narrative starts off at a small town where Dana is packing up as she is to meet her friends. While there are wide shots of the locations, Goddard’s direction mainly emphasizes on close-ups and medium shots to play into the intimacy inside the cabin as well as some of the things expected in and out of the cabin but also with some weird things. Particularly the scene at the cellar where there are these objects and whoever chooses an object and say something that is inscribed is the choice that these characters would unknowingly make as it is the fate they chose. Even as they would try to escape the cabin from what is attacking them would be even more complicated as it does play into a world where they are the puppets for something that is bigger than themselves.
Goddard’s direction for the scenes at this secret compound where a lot of people are observing and controlling the fate of these five students would have to embark on. It’s largely straightforward with some dark humor as well as some mysterious elements as it relates to what happens when someone gets killed as it’s a world bigger than anything as they’re trying to oversee everything in other parts of the world. The film’s third act is about the motivations of these technicians and who they work for as it adds to the intrigue of what these students are facing. Even as it would culminate into something extremely violent as well as play into the stakes of why these students are being killed as they wonder why they’re being puppets for this thing they’re in. Overall, Goddard crafts a chilling yet provocative film about five college students who go to a cabin in the woods where their fate is controlled by mysterious outsiders.
Cinematographer Peter Deming does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography from the usage of low-key colors and lighting for the scenes set in the woods including the cabin interiors and exteriors at night as well as the look of the control room. Editor Lisa Lassek does amazing work with the editing as it help play into the suspense and dark humor as well as playing with the conventional style of what is often expected in gory horror films. Production designer Martin Whist, with set decorator Hamish Purdy and supervising art director Tom Reta, does excellent work with the look of the cabin interiors as well as the scenes at the control room including a secret room that relates to something mysterious. Costume designer Shawna Trpcic does nice work with the costumes as it help play into the personality and expectation of what the college kids would wear as well as the more business-like look of the technicians.
Special makeup effects designer David LeRoy Anderson does incredible work with the look of the zombies as well as some of the gory effects used in the film that includes additional work from his wife in famed horror actress Heather Langekamp. Visual effects supervisor Todd Shifflett does terrific work with the visual effects such as a secret force field used for technicians to monitor as well as other things that lurk inside the compound. Sound designer Dane A. Davis does superb work with the sound as it help play into the atmosphere of the woods as well as the sound effects of what the students are facing including some of the noises that are made at the secret compound. The film’s music by David Julyan is wonderful for its low-key score that has some orchestral flourishes that play into the suspense and horror while music supervisor Dana Sano provide a soundtrack that mixes element of pop, indie, hip-hop, electronic music, and rock from acts like OK Go, REO Speedwagon, Ladyhawke, Asher Roth, Switchfoot, Eagles of Death Metal, Iggy Pop, the High Decibels, Motocade, Vassy, Soul River, and Nine Inch Nails.
The casting by Anya Colloff and Amy McIntyre Britt is marvelous as it include some notable small roles from Tom Lenk as Ronald the Intern who worships the technicians and wants to win money, Tim de Zarn as a creepy gas station manager, Brian J. White as the security officer Daniel Truman who watch over the technicians making sure nothing happens to them, and Amy Acker as a compound official in Wendy Lin who also watch over the technicians as well as realize things are going bad elsewhere. Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford are fantastic in their respective roles as Gary Sitterson and Steve Hadley as the two leading technicians who are the best at what they do as they’re watching over these five students and make sure things go well but also realize that there’s a few who are becoming suspicious as they try to figure out how to out-smart them.
Anna Hutchinson is excellent as Jules as the typical whore who always wear skimpy and sexy clothes while being all about fun yet she would do things that are wild stuff as she’s fun to watch. Jesse Williams is brilliant as the kind scholar Holden whom Dana is falling for as he’s a good looking guy that is trying to be a nice guy and help out for whatever situation is happening. Fran Kranz is hilarious as the stoner Marty who is the comic relief of the film as he smokes a lot of weed and does dumb shit yet he is one of the few characters in the film that breaks from that stereotype where he is aware that something isn’t right. Chris Hemsworth is amazing as Curt as the athlete who does play into many of the usual traits expected as someone strong and courageous but is actually a nice guy. Finally, there’s Kristen Connolly in an incredible performance as Dana who is the virgin that is sort of reluctant to go to the cabin as she does play into what is expected with the final girl stereotype but she would also notice something is off and would deviate from what is expected.
The Cabin in the Woods is a tremendous film from Drew Goddard. Featuring a great ensemble cast, eerie visuals, a killer soundtrack, and an inventive yet provocative premise. The film is definitely a top-tier horror film that plays with the conventions as well as deviate from what usually happens in horror films. In the end, The Cabin in the Woods is an outstanding film from Drew Goddard.
Related: Bad Times at the El Royale
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