Five teenagers go for a weekend trip to a remote cabin. It doesn't end
I generally despise Joss Whedon's writing and plotting. I didn't
get on with _Buffy_, and I'm one of the few people who liked _Firefly_
but was glad it ended before it got too self-indulgent. Drew Goddard,
co-writer as well as director here, wrote the tedious _Cloverfield_
before this and the more tedious _World War Z_ afterwards. And yet,
this is one of the best horror films I have ever seen, to the point
that I think there is now basically no justification for anyone making
another generic "expendable meat" horror film. (This didn't stop them,
of course.) The tropes have been skewered so effectively that there's
no need ever to use them again.
Also unusually for me, I'd say it's worth not knowing what's going on
until you watch it. I normally don't care about "spoilers", and this
is worth re-watching too, but in this case I think my experience was
enhanced by picking up the clues spread out through the narrative
rather than knowing in advance what would happen.
The film has more or less the resolution I'd expected from the
beginning, but it is well-implemented; Whedon and his team had the
sense to set up a situation where their usual writing style was a plus
point (one set of people can be snarky because they're filling the
roles of expendable fodder; the other set, well, once you find out why
they're doing what they're doing their snark makes a certain amount of
Most of the actors were relative unknowns in film at the time, with
previous role credits like "Makeout Girl" and "The Kid"; by the time
this was released, Chris Hemsworth was known for _Thor_, but this had
been made a year before that, then delayed because of financial
problems at MGM. It was one of the last pair of films made by the old management, the other being the dire _Red Dawn_ remake, and was sold
off to Lionsgate (given how many dreary expendable-meat films they've
released it seems only fair). I favour cheap new actors, in general:
some of them will turn out to be really good, and _all_ of them will
be giving it their best because it's their one chance at the big time.
I particularly liked the way many film cliches were inverted - to pick
just one example, the desperate effort to join two wires together in
the nick of time. And even the overall plot made quite a bit of sense.
Like the first _Pirates of the Caribbean_, the film hits dead-on that
difficult point between under-parodying, and becoming disrespectful
to, the source material.
If you're fed up with the same old reliable "scare" moments and want
something with a bit more cleverness, or if you've met the Expendable
Meat mostly through its influence on popular culture and don't find
the basic story terribly interesting, this is a film I can recommend