Teens can’t see the wood for the twists in horror tale

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Chris Hemsworth, Jesse Williams, Anna Hutchison, Fran Krantz and Kristen Connolly star as teenage friends who head to a cabin deep in the woods, but find there is more to their retreat than first meets the eye Chris Hemsworth, Jesse Williams, Anna Hutchison, Fran Krantz and Kristen Connolly star as teenage friends who head to a cabin deep in the woods, but find there is more to their retreat than first meets the eye

You have to give writer-director Drew Goddard full marks for effort.

With tongue wedged firmly in cheek, he lampoons hoary cliches and attempts to reinvigorate the horror genre with this slick tale of college kids in peril that is three parts bonkers to one part twisted genius.

Not since poor Drew Barrymore answered a crank call in Scream has a film exploited stereotypes with such lip-smacking glee, and subverted our expectations at every blood-spattered turn.

Joss Whedon, creator of the Buffy The Vampire Slayer television series, co-wrote the script and his droll humour percolates throughout, inviting us to become whooping, cheering voyeurs as characters meet a grisly demise.

For the opening five minutes, making sense of the madness in Goddard and Whedon’s hare-brained method takes up most of our attention, which is no bad thing, given how thinly characters are sketched.

Plot twists are the key selling point of The Cabin In The Woods and the big reveal in the closing minutes is a humdinger, including a cameo from a big name Hollywood star, who clearly relishes their five minutes in the spotlight.

Yet for all of its audacity and deliciously off-kilter humour, the various elements don’t gel seamlessly and once the writers’ grand plan is laid out before us, we feel slightly underwhelmed.

Bookish college student Dana (Connolly) is looking forward to a jaunt into the great outdoors with blonde friend Jules (Hutchison) and her jock boyfriend Curt (Hemsworth), and bong-smoking slacker Marty (Kranz).

Curt invites along his shy and sensitive buddy Holden (Williams), principally as a date for Dana, and the five thrill-seekers head into the mountains to a remote log cabin.

Meanwhile, deep within an underground bunker, scientist Richard Sitterson (Jenkins) and Steve Hadley (Whitford) stare at a bank of CCTV screens, which seems to be following the progress of the students towards the cabin.

They invite the rest of the team to bet on the quintet’s chances of survival, but new guy Truman (White) resists.

“How can you wager on this when you control the outcome?” he asks.

“They don’t transgress, they don’t get punished,” smirks Sitterson.

The Cabin In The Woods provides plenty of big laughs and lashings of gore.

The young cast embrace their genre archetypes, screaming or disrobing on cue, while Kranz plays his stoner with aplomb.

He speaks sense through a mist of inhaled drugs when he gibbers, “I’ve seen what you don’t want to see: puppeteers!”

At certain points, Goddard probably gives us too much information – a throwaway shot of an eagle tracking the students’ van along a winding road should have been cut to make one character’s death more startling – but the crescendo certainly doesn’t skimp on the digital effects or blood letting.

Goddard knows how to end with an almighty bang.

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