I never watch a trailer until after I’ve seen the movie, and I also attempt to avoid as much news as possible. Then I compare what I knew, to what you knew. Let’s find out if what we see in the trailer is what we get, and if there is any advantage to going in fresh. (There will be spoilers.)
What I Knew Before: Barely anything. I was able to see this film Friday, March 9 at SXSW. It was the opening night movie at the film festival and people were excited. There was enough twitter buzz that I knew Joss Whedon was involved, but I had no clue who was in the cast. I didn't know The Cabin in the Woods had actually been completed in 2009. That would have lowered my expectations. In most cases, if a film doesn't get released in a timely fashion it means the studio doesn't believe in it, know what to make of it, or know how to sell it.
What I Knew After: There will be no plot spoilers in this section. I promise. I've seen this film twice now, and it's fair to say this is the most fun I have ever had watching a horror film. It's actually a movie that deconstructs horror and plays within the genre. It's also filled with laughs. If you have ever sat through a scary film and survived, I honestly feel you owe it to yourself to see this one. Yourself with be so happy. I was surprised to see Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford start the film off. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is also part of the gang at the cabin in the woods. That's it. That's all I'm giving you. Actually, here's a little something more. Once the final credits begin, you can leave (unless your daughter was the key grip, then you should stay and see her name). There is no more movie once the credits roll. If you do choose to read the remainder of this article before you see the film, I will be dissecting the trailer, not the entirety of the film. So, if the trailer gives something away, it's not my fault. Do you understand me? It's. Not. My. Fault.
What You Knew: Five young adults pack up the Winnebago and head off the grid (which should remind you of approximately one billion other horror films). A creepy gas station attendant gives the kids a cause for concern. On screen: YOU THINK YOU KNOW THE STORY. I absolutely agree. So far, nothing original has happened. A transparent mirror gives us the hint of a little something else going on. On screen: YOU THINK YOU KNOW THE PLACE. Yes, at this point you could convince me this is Camp Crystal Lake. Then a hawk flies into a force field. On screen: THINK AGAIN. Yup, that's a game changer. Everything is being monitored and manipulated, with hidden cameras throughout the cabin. On screen: FROM PRODUCER JOSS WHEDON, AND DREW GODDARD THE WRITER OF CLOVERFIELD. There's more observation and tinkering, like causing a tunnel to cave in, then the line, "You're missing the point, they want to see us punished." Quick cuts finish us off (don't they always in trailers) with images of machine guns, white-masked individuals, and an elevator that two of the kids consider going down. A scream ends the trailer, as it should.
Trailer Truth: I've only been writing this column for four weeks, so it's not an exaggeration to say this is the most important Trailer Truth I've ever written in my entire life. I always go in fresh (avoid trailers). Many critics have joined that cry for The Cabin in the Woods. Ideally, you shouldn't bother with the trailer, you should trust us and just see the film. I know many critics who have written (or tried to write) spoiler-free reviews. I know of one film critic who actually gives away the ending in his first sentence. He doesn't want you to have fun. Heck, I actually feel bad for telling you Jenkins and Whitford are in the film since they didn't make the cut in this trailer.
It's hard to be angry with the trailer, but there are some things that really should be omitted. A hawk flying into a force field is shocking, but so is the fact that the kids are being monitored with security cams. You only need one to prove your point. There are plenty of third act moments near the end of the film, but luckily none of them give too much away. The big misstep is the ending of the trailer. Two characters discover an elevator, and with that an underground world. If I had seen the trailer before the film, that's the moment that would have been stuck in my head. I would have been waiting, knowing that eventually some of the characters would be moving on from the cabin.
Ideally, the trailer would give you a little humor that plays with the horror genre, such as the idea that the gang should separate instead of stick together. They should tease you with the idea that Whedon and Goddard know what they are doing, and then only show moments of the young adults being scared at a cabin in the woods. This is the type of film that could and should make more money in the second weekend than the first. Word of mouth could be that strong. Then again, critics told you to trust them and go see Warrior and Drive, neither of which made a sizable dent at the box office.
With all of that said, there are still plenty of surprises left for you with The Cabin in the Woods. Even those who have watched every trailer and TV spot will be shocked. The twists in Cabin start as soon as the theater goes black. Luckily they don't stop until the very end.