In the view of Variety‘s Peter Debruge, The Cabin in the Woods, which screened earlier today at South by Southwest, is a genre-buster and a game-changer.
“Not since Scream has a horror movie subverted the expectations that accompany the genre to such wicked effect as [this], a sly, self-conscious twist on one of slasher films’ ugliest stepchildren — the coed campsite massacre,” Debruge writes. “The less auds know going in, the more satisfying the payoff will be for this long-delayed, much-anticipated shocker, which was caught in limbo for more than two years during MGM’s bankruptcy.
“Given the provenance of the project, which was co-written by Joss Whedon and Buffy the Vampire Slayer collaborator Drew Goddard, it’s no wonder the film has assumed near-mythic status in the imaginations of fear-friendly fanboys. Designed as a response to the recent torture-porn strain of horror cinema, Cabin feels less like the final nail in that trend’s coffin than the start of something new: a smarter, more self-aware kind of chiller that still delivers the scares.”
“With plot holes aplenty, fanatics can pick the film apart if they please. For starters, the setting only makes sense for a couple of the scenarios at hand. But the idea is so ambitious and fresh, most will gladly play along.
“If the execution brings any regrets, it’s that first-time director Goddard (who co-wrote Cloverfield) seems somewhat outmatched by the considerable demands of his own high concept. Given all the film gets right, there’s no question this is one of the most exciting feature debuts of the last few years, but it’s a shame Whedon (who directed the second unit) or someone more polished wasn’t there to make the cabin, the woods and the cardboard characters as entertaining as the mind-warping secret that lies beneath.”
A little voice inside is wondering if Debruge might be a little hopped up by that Austin fanboy atmosphere. Dispassionate observers who have no investment whatsoever in fanboy horror or susceptibility to Austin mania need to see this thing straight and cold. We’ll take it from there.