The Cabin in the Woods (15)
Co-writer Joss Whedon’s referencing of all manner of influences, faves and retro delights litter this labyrinthine chiller – a hopped-up TV movie equivalent given a big budget and a lot of love.
The kernel of the plot involves five young friends hiring an isolated cabin in the woods for a weekend of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. The fact is that they’re being spied on before they even begin their journey, and that their behaviour is being controlled by unseen agents.
The quintet of victims – because clearly that’s what they are – has hardly settled in before they are drawn to a cellar-ful of creepy artefacts that once belonged to the cabin’s 19th century occupants. Soon, courtesy of their unseen puppeteers, the five are being hunted by freshly risen-from-the-earth zombie cannibal killers.
But that’s not all. The voyeuristic controllers of this scenario – think The Truman Show meets The Evil Dead – have a ritual. Everything has to play out in a specific fashion. If it doesn’t, bad things happen. Very bad things…
Aficionados of Whedon’s TV work will recognise and appreciate his hand in The Cabin in the Woods. A not-too-distant cousin of fare like The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits it crams acres of old-fashioned shocks, mood, monsters and paranoia into a bright and edgy tale in which, from the off, the cast are earmarked for messy deaths.
Fitting into the ‘smart but geeky’ genre, The Cabin in the Woods hints at what might have been possible had the film played out as a TV pilot with a hoped-for series to follow. The film’s final reel – a triumph of multi-level apocalyptic role-playing games gone berserk – is a frenetic, blood-spattered excursion for horror fans to savour.
Familiar faces include Richard Jenkins, Bradley (The West Wing) Whitford, Jesse (Gray’s Anatomy) Williams, Chris (Thor) Hemsworth and Sigourney Weaver. But it’s the inventiveness of the killings that wins votes, making this the most originally derivative horror flick in ages.