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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: The Cabin in the Woods

September 17th, 2012

The Cabin in the Woods - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

One of the worst parts of my job is the amount of research I have to do for films before they hit theaters. It is rather rare for me to see a trailer and not already know a lot about the film. Sometimes, this is extremely bad. Very early on, I read stories that it was best to see The Cabin in the Woods without any prior knowledge of the film. In fact, I was told to avoid the trailer. That bit of advice came too late, but that was the last story I read about the film. So was it worth the willpower to avoid any spoilers?

The Movie

First a spoiler-free review: Buy it. Buy it now.

The film begins in a rather nondescript break room with two guys, Sitterson and Hadley discussing nothing in particular. (The latter is trying to have a child with his wife, and his wife just baby-proofed the whole house.) As they are heading back to their office, they are met by Lin, who is freaking out. Stockholm's down, which means it's just down to them and Japan. They've been there long enough to know this isn't the first time it's been down to them and Japan, and with Japan's perfect record and their near perfect track record (they haven't had a problem since '98) she needs to calm down.

After a sudden, and cheap, jump scare involving the title, we look in on a typical small town where Dana Polk is getting ready for a weekend trip in the woods. Her best friend, Jules, shows off her new blonde look, before berating Dana for not getting over a breakup with her professor fast enough, and for bringing textbooks to a weekend party. Also going on this party is Curt, Jules' boyfriend, who not only doesn't mock her for bringing a book, suggests a better book for the class she is taking. There's Holden, a new transfer to the football program at their college, and someone Jules wants Dana to hook up with. And finally Marty, a stoner philosopher.

After a short chat, they depart. ... And right away major spoilers happen.

I'm serious. Before they even get on the road we hit unacceptable spoilers. And after watching the full movie, they really were right when they said avoid all information. This does have the side effect of making this a very short, rather vague review. Sorry about that, but it is for the best.

I really think anyone who has seen a teenage slasher should see this movie. Even if you are not a fan of the genre, this one will make you look at these films in a different way. It is a very smart, very clever take on an old and overused horror trope. The writing and the acting is top notch with all five main leads able to play within the stereotypes of the genre but rising above them. The second layer to the film, which I really can't discuss, is arguably the coolest twist in a horror film I've seen since... well... I'm drawing a blank. Maybe there's one that I've seen that's cooler, but I can't think of it right now. There are some great effects, especially during the finale, and of course plenty of humor that one comes to expect with Joss Whedon involvement.

The Extras

Extras on the DVD start with an audio commentary track with the co-writer / director, Drew Goddard, and the co-writer / producer, Joss Whedon. The pair have worked together many times in the past, so they have excellent chemistry together and that makes for a lively track. We Are Not Who We Are is a 29-minute long making of featurette that starts at the initial idea that Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard had about writing a movie as fast as possible, to the scouting of locations, to the shooting, etc. The Secret Stash is, depending on which section you watch, either Fran Kranz going over all of the pot props, or Joss Whedon giving a tour of the set. The pot props section is longer. An Army of Nightmares takes a 12-minute look at the physical effects in the movie, while Primal Terror is a 12-minute look at the computer generated effects. Finally, there's a 28-minute long Wonder-Con Q&A with Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard. In total, the extras are about as long as the movie.

The Blu-ray has all of that and It's Not What You Think is a Picture-in-Picture track with interviews with the cast and crew. It's only one additional extra, but it does push the technology, which is a major plus.

The video and audio is good, but not stellar. The video starts excellent with a high level of detail, vibrant colors, etc., but as the plot continues, the film's look becomes darker and the focus gets softer. This is partially for aesthetic reasons, but also likely has something to do with the budget. (A $30 million budget isn't a lot when you have this many special effects to deal with.) The audio is better with a 7.1 track that uses all of the speakers when necessary. Granted, for much of the movie, it's not called on to do a lot, but when it is, it shines.

The DVD costs $15 while the Blu-ray costs $20. Given the additional extras and the strong audio and video, it's worth the upgrade.

The Verdict

The Cabin in the Woods would have been worth buying, even if there were no extras. With the amount of extras on the DVD and especially the Blu-ray, it is Pick of the Week material.

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