(Originally posted on Republibot.com on 4-19-12 – and then immediately posted here, too, for some reason…)
I have an approach to reviewing films that I rarely share called Perfect Film/Perfect Movie. Basically it posits that a Perfect Film is one that I can’t fault any of the choices made in the execution of the film – story, cast, plot, direction, etc. A Perfect Movie is one that I can tune into at any time and something cool or interesting is going on, regardless of the craft involved. Obviously Perfect Films are a much smaller group than Perfect Movies, but still overall, they are elite clubs with few members.
At the top of my Perfect Films list reside Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Sting, Never Cry Wolf, and She’s Having A Baby. At the top of my Perfect Movies list rest Dawn of the Dead (remake), The Replacements (during a certain period of my life it seemed like it played non-stop on TNT/TBS and I would always tune into it when I would see it listed), Big Trouble In Little China, and now Cabin In The Woods.
And having said that, I should also state that Cabin In The Woods also almost makes it into the Perfect Film category, but not quite.
But before I get into that, a quick level set. Cabin In The Woods is a love letter to the horror genre by Joss Whedon (Boss-guy on Buffy, Firefly, The Avengers) and Drew Goddard (Writer-guy on Alias, Buffy and Cloverfield), who also acts as director on this film. It follows a group of college kids as they run off to a clichéd weekend of escape to a spooky cabin in the woods. Fairly straight forward and familiar. But it simultaneously follows a group of scientist/engineers in a locked down corporate/government mission control like place who are manipulating the experience of the college kids for undisclosed, possibly nefarious, reasons. And from there, you just have to see for yourself where the story takes you.
It contains all of the charm and wit and brutal character turns that we have come to expect from the work of Whedon and Goddard, and is alternately funny, gory, scary and brimming with smarts.
There has been a lot of discussion of this movie, mainly labeling it as a deconstruction of horror films in the mold of Scream (directed by Wes Craven), but I would really have to disagree with that sentiment. This is less of a deconstruction than it is a joyous and geeky piling on. Deconstructions are generally self aware, full of cynicial, self-importance and not a little bit winky (the first Scream pulled it off, but the following ones missed the mark). Cabin in the Woods is none of that. You can hear the voices of the creators in every scene getting excited as they add one new idea upon another to a genre they obviously love. You can clearly see the fun they had as they started building explanations on top of the familiar genre tropes and then tackling the new questions that the new explanations raised, until they reached the inevitable conclusion. It is a movie by film geeks to their spiritual family in the audience.
And it is lovingly rendered. (Pun, not intended and totally intended.)
It is exactly the kind of movie that my Perfect Film/Perfect Movie graph was intended to capture. This is the kind of Perfect Movie that effortlessly exists over multiple full and partial viewings and will always deliver a satisfying experience, regardless of the length. Plus, it comes very close to achieving Perfect Film status, there are very few choices that I feel like I would have made differently, and even those are small and easily overlooked. However there is one very big near the end, that you will recognize the moment it happens, that keeps it from moving into the Perfect Film category almost all by itself. Which, is weird in a funny way, because that same choice is the home run of things in the movie that securely locks it into the Perfect Movie category.
If you have ever put on a scary movie when you were sitting at home all alone, or got a group of friends together to go see one on opening day at the theater (probably in October or on a random Friday the 13th) then this movie was made for you. Go see it.