The Cabin in the Woods DVD Review
Written by Daniel Benson
DVD released by Lionsgate
Directed by Drew Goddard
Written by Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon
2011, Region 2 (PAL), 95 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
DVD released on 24th September 2012
Kristen Connolly as Dana Polk
Chris Hemsworth as Curt
Anna Hutchison as Jules Louden
Fran Kranz as Marty Mikalski
Jesse Williams as Holden McCrea
Richard Jenkins as Richard Sitterson
Bradley Whitford as Steve Hadley
Thank you, Lionsgate. Without your foresight, the unique Cabin in the Woods might have languished in distribution limbo for many more years and been denied to fans across the globe. Part of me thinks that the decision to release the film was because of its refreshing approach to the genre, but the realist in me has a sneaking suspicion that it was more to do with Chris Hemsworth rising to fame as Thor, and Cabin being the ideal vehicle to cash in on that fame. Still, let’s be thankful for small mercies, without Thor and/or a desire to re-ignite the genre it’d still be sitting on a shelf somewhere or have been put out by an indie label with much less in the way of marketing.
For horror fans this is an uncomplicated and familiar tale; five friends go to a cabin in the woods and bad things happen. It’s a simple concept we’ve seen time and time again, but writers Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard (who also directs) have put an altogether more interesting spin on this genre standard. As with my review of the press screening, I don’t want to give anything away with regard to the plot. If you haven’t yet seen it (and if not, why the hell not?), I implore you to stop reading about it and go and check it out. It’s better seen with zero idea of what it’s about, and if you’ve made it this far in blissful ignorance then congratulations – you justly deserve the reward that the film will deliver.
Much has been written about The Cabin in the Woods, especially the instant cliché “game-changer” which was trotted out time and time again with regard to its ingenious plot and story arc. To an extent it’s true, it’s certainly one of those rare horror milestones that shakes up the genre and proves that there are new ideas out there and not everything has to be based on found footage or the Saw franchise. And it’s a film that works on many different levels. For those casual movie fans that like a nice glossy production with plenty of action, it delivers laughs, gore and shocks aplenty. For the more astute fan that’s honed his (or her) taste on a lifetime devoted to horror, the film is on a completely different level, twisting and playing with the genre conventions we’ve come to know and love.
Even as the film opens we start to second guess what cookie-cutter each character will conform to. Chris Hemsworth is throwing a football, so he must be sporty, he’s the jock. But no, he’s a sociology major with a brain that ripples like his abs. His girlfriend is blonde, slim and struts about in her pants, she must be dumb. Nope, she’s pretty damn bright too. Marty is a colossal weed monster... actually Marty is the stoner of the piece, but even his character adds another level to the proceedings rather than just being stoned and annoying like most characters of his archetype. The tropes are there for all to see; the lack of mobile phone coverage, the sinister gas station attendant who warns the group away from their destination, the skinny-dipping and the inevitable drunken antics that lead to the action getting underway...
While Goddard and Whedon’s script works wonders, Goddard’s assured direction ensures the film is appealing to the viewer. There’s a deep love and respect for the genre shown throughout and it delivers a payoff that you won’t see coming. Creators of horror need to sit up and take notice, the feedback from the theatrical release of the film has been overwhelmingly positive, with a 90% critic rating at Rotten Tomatoes. It can be done; ideas don’t have to be recycled. I hate to use the insta-cliché, but damn if it isn’t a game-changer.
Video and Audio:
The DVD opens with an impressive control panel animated menu, so impressive that I sat watching it, waiting for something to happen before I realised I could actually select 'Play Movie'. Video is solid throughout and shows the action clearly, whether it be in the dark and murky corners of the woods or the brightly lit confines of... that other place. Audio is 5.1 surround and is a fitting bedfellow to the picture.
There are a good handful of extra features, ranging from standard behind the scenes documentaries (We are not who we are - 28 minutes) that will whip fanboys into a frenzy because they feature a lot of Whedon footage, to actual interesting ones about the creature and visual FX (11 minutes a piece and the real stand-out features). There was surprisingly little CGI used in the film if you check out these featurettes. Elsewhere we have Marty's Secret Stash, where Fran Kranz runs through Marty's pot paraphernalia from the film. It will no doubt be fascinating if you're a stoner, but if not, more likely tedious. Completing the set of extras is a tour of the cabin, with Whedon as the guide (5 minutes) and 25 minute Q&A session which was filmed post-screening at Wonder Con. I guess it's one of those times you had to be there, because watching it is a real pain.