You"re not going khổng lồ see this one coming. You might think you do, because the TV ads và shots at the top reveal what looks lượt thích the big surprise — & it certainly comes as a surprise to lớn the characters. But let"s just say there"s a lot more lớn it than that.

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"The Cabin in the Woods" sets off with an ancient và familiar story plan. Five college students pile into a van & drive deep into the woods for a weekend in a borrowed cabin. Their last stop is of course a decrepit gas station populated by a demented creep who giggles at the fate in store for them. (In these days when movies are sliced and diced for YouTube mash-ups, I"d love to lớn see a montage of demented redneck gas station owners drooling & chortling over the latest carloads of victims heading into the woods.)

It will seem that I"m revealing a secret by mentioning that this is no ordinary cabin in the woods, but actually a set for a diabolical scientific experiment. Beneath the cabin is a basement, và beneath that is a vast modern laboratory headed by technology geeks (Richard Jenkins & Bradley Whitford) who turn dials, adjust levers và monitor every second on a bank of TV monitors. Their scheme is to offer the five guinea pigs a series of choices, which will reveal — something, I"m not sure precisely what. There is some possibility that this expensive experiment is involved with national security, and we get scenes showing similar victims in scenarios around the world.

Now in your standard horror film, that would be enough: OMG! The cabin is being controlled by a secret underground laboratory! Believe me, that"s only the beginning. The film has been produced & co-written by Joss Whedon (creator of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Angel" và other iconic TV shows) & directed by his longtime collaborator Drew Goddard (writer of "Cloverfield"). Whedon has described it as a "loving hate letter" to horror movies, và you could interpret it as an experiment on the genre itself: It features five standard-issue characters in your basic cabin in the woods, & we can read the lab scientists as directors and writers who are plugging in various story devices lớn see what the characters will do. In some sense, the Jenkins và Whitford characters represent Whedon and Goddard.

Ah, but they don"t let us off that easily. That"s what I mean when I say you won"t see the kết thúc coming. This is not a perfect movie; it"s so ragged, it"s practically constructed of loose ends. But it"s exciting because it ventures so far off the map. One imagines the filmmakers chortling with glee as they devise first one bizarre development & then another in a free-for-all for their imaginations. They establish rules only lớn violate them.

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That begins with the characters. They"re stock archetypes. We get an action nhân vật (Curt, played by Chris Hemsworth); a good girl (Dana, played by Kristen Connolly); a bad girl (Jules, played by Anna Hutchison); the comic relief (Marty the pothead, played by Fran Kranz), and the mature and thoughtful kid (Holden, played by Jesse Williams). What the scientists apparently intend to bởi vì is see how each archetype plays out after the group is offered various choices. There are even side bets in the lab about who will vì chưng what — as if they"re predicting which lever the lab rats will push.

This is essentially an attempt to codify không tính tiền will. Do horror characters make choices because of the requirements of the genre, or because of their own decisions? & since they"re entirely the instruments of their creators, khổng lồ what degree can the filmmakers exercise không tính phí will? This is fairly bold stuff, & it grows wilder as the film moves along. The opening scenes do a good job of building conventional suspense; the middle scenes allow deeper alarm to creep in, and by the end, we realize we"re playthings of sinister forces.

Horror fans are a particular breed. They analyze films with such detail & expertise that I am reminded of the Canadian literary critic Northrup Frye, who approached literature with similar archetypal analysis. "The Cabin in the Woods" has been constructed almost as a puzzle for horror fans lớn solve. Which conventions are being toyed with? Which authors và films are being referred to? Is the film itself an act of criticism?

With most genre films, we ask, "Does it work?" In other words, does this horror film scare us? "The Cabin in the Woods" does have some genuine scares, but they"re not really the point. This is like a final exam for fanboys.


Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.