Five good friends decide to kick back and take a weekend at a mountain cabin. While on their way, they are warned by an old man that the cabin may not be what they are expecting, but they push forth toward their weekend getaway. Once they arrive and settle in, they each realize that there is something odd about the run-down but choose the loosen up and ignore the strange signals. When a cellar hatch mysteriously opens, the groups travels into the basement and discovers an assortment of strange items. Dana picks up a book that turns out to be a journal and reads a random entry, including the latin. Unaware of what they have unleashed, the group continues to explore the area in their own separate ways but suddenly find themselves face-to-face with a family of zombies that are out to maim and kill the innocent college students. Behind the magic of the zombie curse, a secret organization appears to be engineering the slaughterfest and hoping for all of the students to meet their demise.
Starring: Kristen Connolly (Dana), Chris Hemsworth (Curt), Anna Hutchinson (Jules), Fran Kranz (Marty), Jesse Williams (Holden), Richard Jenkins (Sitterson), Bradley Whitford (Hadley), Brian White (Truman), Amy Acker (Lin), Tim De Zarn (Mordecai), Sigourney Weaver (The Director)
In regards of the five stars playing the college students, their roles meet the needs of the film and play into the stereotypes that are seen in a number of horror films as a way to draw humor to the pattern. The best casting decision was definitely in the pairing of Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford. Their banter makes the comedic side of the story and brings levity to the concept of the traditional horror/slasher genre. Amy Acker also adds an extra connection to writer Joss Whedon and is somewhat reminiscent of her role as Fred in the TV series Angel.
In this revitalization of the slasher film, Drew Goddard both takes the classic formula in its stereotypical form but takes a turn toward the odd when he adds some modern twists and influences from Whedon. The five college students have no idea that they are part of something much larger, but the secret facility running the chaos has their eyes set on something both twisted and somewhat beneficial. While not understood until later in the film, sacrifices are needed to keep the evil gods at bay and the other divisions of their organization had failed in their attempts. The five college students represented the symbolic sacrifices needed complete the ritual. When the latin was read and the Buckner zombie family was released, it seemed like everything was on track for a complete ritual. When Marty emerged after having survived his attack, the rules had been broken and chaos was released on the survivors and the entire organizing facility.
Unlike the slasher movies of the past two decades, this one seemed to have a much better sense of dialogue and tasteful humor. There were some stereotypical elements, such as the existence of the virgin for the sacrifice, the sexual experience right before the attack and the reemergence of one of the perceived murdered targets, the facility made for a completely different experience. Sitterson and Whitford were quite confident with their arrangement to appease the gods, enough so that they periodically lack focus to ensure a smooth ritual and take bets on the method of death the sacrifices will choose. During the betting process, the viewer learns of all of the different options the group could encounter but only one surfaces as the initial method. To make sure to leave no questions unanswered, Goddard and Whedon allow the viewers a chance to encounter all of the options and see them in action (including that elusive merfolk).
While there is generally only so much one can expect from a slasher picture, this one breaks some conventions to increase the entertainment value and capture people’s worst nightmares coming to life all at the same time (without breaking any copyright issues).
Dan’s Rating: 4.0/5