I wasn't hugely interested in this, and admire but am not a huge fan of the original. But the reviews said it wasn't bad, is respectful of its origins, and is quite gory, and on a certain day where I wanted to get out of the house I reasoned that I probably wouldn't feel as degraded by this than if I had seen GI Joe: Retaliation. And I didn't... I had a good time!
We open with a brand-new sequence in which we see a young lass tied to a post in a basement, weeping and asking Dad why he's doing this. Dad reminds her that she killed her mom, and before long they've doused her in gasoline and lit her up, at which point she becomes all demony. Personally, I find it best not to burn supporting pillars in basements of highly-flammable dried-out old wooden remote cabins, but what do I know? The place doesn't burn, so they must have done something right. Maybe it's a flame-retardant dried-out old wooden cabin. Then: TITLE! And you must have noticed that in our 24/7, always-on society, we simply don't have time for the word "the" anymore. I mean--WHO has the time?
Now, meet our new cru of college-age victims. This time, they're gathered to help this young woman Mia dry out from her drug habit(s), which will provide a decent amount of motivation and reason to stay in the cabin when shit is hitting fans. She has a brother in David, who wasn't there when their mother was dying, thus having to make a promise not to abandon her this time. This is a simple and effective motivator for horror movies, as it works to encourage characters to STAY in horrible situations, as was demonstrated by the surprisingly excellent Chernobyl Diaries. There's also Lou Taylor Pucci as a bearded hipster, his girlfriend who we'll call The Blonde (I didn't bother taking notes during this movie) and Olivia, bossy-pants, always-in-a-snit nurse, who becomes the "medical expert" by default.
They arrive at the cabin, which is pretty much an exact duplicate of the cabin from the original (and none of this can be seen as without quotation marks after Cabin in the Woods), but I really missed the detail of the porch swing banging as they drive up. The interior of the cabin is downright disgusting, and I found it hard to believe that these prissy college girls are going to be just fine with bedding down in a place with moist moss adorning the interior floors and mattresses likely to be stuffed entirely with brown recluse spiders. Which is even before they find the basement full of hung, decomposing cats. But hey man, they're CHILL. Also in the basement they find the book, which is wrapped in plastic and barbed wire.
So there's some action as the movie has Mia give up on rehab and want to go home, which fills up the first third of the film without entirely making you feel like we're just spinning wheels until the horror starts. She escapes in one of the cars and crashes it out in the woods during ye olde driving rainstorm. Meanwhile, Pucci is opening the book, perusing the illustrations (one of which is a clever woodcut of the original film's poster, nice touch), and finding the scrawled instructions to stay away from the book and get rid of it and don't read it and stop looking at it, to which he pays about as much attention as Microsoft pays to negative feedback. He reads the demonic invocation, we have the original-homaggin' POV shots of something coming through the woods, and Mia, who happens to be returning to the cabin on foot, is getting set up for some root-lovin'.
SPOILERS > > >
The way this movie handles it, which is what it is, Mia meets the woman we saw burned at the stake, who spits out a long trail of twisting vines, which crawl up Mia's legs and right (implied) into her hootchie. When she comes home, she's in a rather foul mood, but everyone attributes his to her going through withdrawal. Then she thinks it might be keen to sit under scalding water in the shower, which gives her face the all-over blistered look so popular with the kids today. Soon she is puking about four gallons of whatnot all over Olivia, which I was glad of, because I was getting tired of Olivia's superior, condescending attitude. We have cause to note that Mia has obviously been drinking orange juice with SOME PULP. Well, soon Olivia is flipping through that book to get ideas for fresh new looks, and decides that just a few moments of self-administered surgery can give her the wider, toothier smile she's always dreamed of.
Soon things go from bad, to worse, to worse, to worse, to worse. In a way that's not all that scary, but quite fun. You may have heard that this film made the decision to not use any digital effects, and it pays off in that we don't have to suffer through fake-looking blood spurts of black-looking blood (it's not violent if the blood is black, see), and what we do get is a fuckton of vile red blood, and the sense that bad things really are happening. You also have blood spurts ACTUALLY hit people, and if someone saws off their own arm, at least you are watching two real, physical objects interact. Pretty much everyone loses at least one limb, and in the end there's an unforeseen reversal, and then a really nice touch: a rain of blood. I like it when things suddenly take a turn for the biblical. And soon we're done.
< < < SPOILERS END
So while it's missing the gleeful spirit and low-budget charm of the original, which they were smart not to try to replicate, it is fun in its own right and milks amusement just from how very, very bad things get for these characters. And the characters are not repulsive, and the framework of having Mia be in withdrawal works well enough for what it needs to accomplish. It'll never replace the original, and that's good, but it's amusing enough, and loving enough of its source, to show you a good, gory time.
If you're so inclined, you're unlikely to be sorry.