Nowadays, there’s a certain stigma of unoriginality attached to horror films. Every film follows the same formulaic storyline: At least five teenagers or college students travel somewhere for a nice weekend getaway that soon takes a turn for the worse. Filled to the brim with nudity and excessive gore, these films, fittingly dubbed “torture porn,” are made almost exclusively for shock value. Horror films stopped trying to scare viewers both physically and psychologically — that is, until “The Cabin in the Woods.”

The Cabin in the Woods

At Quality 16 and Rave
Lionsgate


Just as the formula goes, five college students set out for a vacation to, you guessed it, a cabin in the woods. They’re expecting a weekend full of beer, tanning and fun, but their expectations soon unravel when some terrible, horror-film villains attack. Meanwhile, some men in suits in a high-security facility are eerily linked to these college kids. To give any more away would be to betray the film’s entire plot.

The acting is what you’d expect from a horror film, which is, of course, exactly the point. Some surprisingly humorous and memorable performances stem from the stereotypical stoner (Fran Kanz, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules”) and one of the men in suits (Bradley Whitford, TV’s “The West Wing”).

Everything, from the title to the creepy guy at the gas station who alludes to the cabin’s ominous reputation, so aptly represents all the stereotypes expected of modern-day horror films. Joss Whedon (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) and Drew Goddard (“Cloverfield”), who co-wrote the film, cleverly call out every horror film that has come before it just for such stereotypes. They make the film breathtakingly original precisely because they use every unoriginal scary device in the book, taking clichés from zombie films to Japanese ghost tales and turning them on their heads. Their inspired writing also makes “The Cabin in the Woods” perhaps one of the funniest horror films ever.

Not only does the film brilliantly satirize the horror genre, but it also calls out audiences for taking pleasure in the sadistic images of torture and violence that play out before us. It makes the viewer acutely aware that the reason “torture porn” keeps coming out is because we keep going to see it. This reason alone is what will make the film memorable, as everyone who goes to see it is sure to leave the theater wondering why they are so drawn to visual sadism.

The film’s strongest attribute is also its only downfall. The wit and brilliance of the film detract, only slightly, from the actual horror. Naturally, there are plenty of blood-soaked scenes, but you will likely find yourself chuckling during about half of them — not because these scenes are outright funny, but because they so skillfully balance the line between satire and subject.

“The Cabin in the Woods” is not your typical horror film, except that it is. It is, unmistakably, every scary movie ever rolled into one strikingly exceptional film, which is why anyone who’s a fan of horror will be a fan of this.

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