Late to the Party Reviews: Cabin in the Woods or How Joss Whedon created the best live action Scooby Doo to date
Originally published on Frags and Beer on March 11, 2013
Let me first start by saying I really enjoyed this movie. It was a unique concept and story, tied to a very classic sort of horror movie format we are all used to. Despite the familiar format this movie is chock-full of ‘what the hell’ moments. My wife and I found ourselves, more than once, looking at each other and just saying “What?!” It was suspenseful and startling without being over-the-top. There was plenty of ‘gotcha’ moments without being so many you get tired of them. It wasn’t overly gory, which is nice for us because neither of us like the overly-bloody slasher movies. Don’t misunderstand though, the movie does have some great slasher film moments so I don’t think fans of that style will be disappointed. We also see Whedon’s excellent writing, bringing us his typical light hearted, but intelligent dialogue. Overall this is one of the better horror movies I’ve seen in a long time.
Now to the fun part. Early on in this movie I looked at my wife and said, “Scooby Doo?” Sure enough she saw it too, and so did others. When you watch it, or if you’ve seen it already, you’ll see exactly what I mean. In case it’s not as obvious, here is what I was thinking. You’ve got five kids, (I know, one is supposed to be a dog, but bear with me), that pile into a ‘van’, and roll off to a mystery at a scary cabin in the woods. I almost expected Sigourney Weaver to say, at the end, “And I would have gotten away with it if not for you meddling kids!”
First we have Fred, called Curt in this movie, played by Chris Hemsworth (Julie just sighed a little). A large, alpha-male jock who leads the group of kids. He’s not the smartest in the group, but like the mystery solving kids he is still smarter than the average bear. I know the other live action movies made him out to be a moron, but not in the cartoon. He goes out in a fashion we would expect from Fred, should he be in the same place, protecting his friends and trying to save them.
Next is Fred’s girl Daphne, Jules in the movie played by Anna Hutchison. She’s the typical ditzy bombshell that isn’t really all that ditzy. She’s smart enough to ride shotgun in the Mystery Machine, and to play second to Fred. Granted she goes out early, but she gives us a much needed dose of sex appeal that is required for any good horror story.
Easiest to pick out is Shaggy, Marty in the movie played by Fran Kranz (We love Topher!). He’s a stoner, long-laired, creative, smart, and even wears a green shirt. He provides much of the comedic value, and like Shaggy he inadvertently comes across all the answers and saves the day (sort of). It was his entrance on scene that cemented the image of the classic cartoon from my childhood.
Scooby? You probably thought what I did right off the bat…did they really stick the black kid as Scooby? You had three guys and two girls, one of the guys has to be Scooby right? Fred and Shaggy were too obvious so it’s down to Jesse Williams that plays Holden right? Well this is where ol’ Whedon throws us a curve ball in our little comparison. I thought about it today, and I realized, the moment Holden puts on his glasses and reveals he knows Latin it hits me. He’s Velma! Curt even calls him, “Egg head”, in one scene. That’s right ladies and gents, they threw us for a loop and gave us a male Velma.
That leaves Kristen Connolly, who plays Dana, to be our Scooby Doo, and it all makes sense. She’s set up to be just as smart and the majority of the others, ‘Velma’ aside, but in all honesty she’s a bit flighty. She’s also the one that gets them into trouble by reading the book that causes the monsters to come out and play. She’s also the ‘innocent’ in the classic dynamic of the story. She manages to blunder her way through surviving, as all her friends are taken out around her, and with Shaggy she saves the day (sort of).
In the end the ‘kids’ solve the mystery, defeat the ‘villains’, unmask the monsters, and Shag and Scoob sit down to a celebratory doobie snack before the End.