It’s pretty clear from “The Cabin in the Woods” that co-writers Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard love horror movies almost as much as they are annoyed by them.
It is this point of conflict that spawns one of the most inventive, entertaining, outrageous, and funny horror films ever made.
Horror is not typically a genre known for creativity. Most films follow the path of overly-trod scenarios, and any spark of originality that does show up gets wrung out in a relentless series of carbon-copy sequels (see: “Final Destination,” “Saw” and “Paranormal Activity”).
This is undoubtedly the reason Whedon and Goddard chose perhaps the most-used of horror movie tropes, a group of friends terrorized at an isolated cabin, as the jumping-off point for their deconstructionist masterpiece.
It’s not even the first time a secluded cabin has been used by horror to poke fun at itself, as the “Evil Dead” movies and last year’s “Tucker and Dale vs. Evil” took to the woods to make their good-natured jabs at the genre. However, not even these wry little films can adequately prepare you for what “The Cabin in the Woods” delivers.
The group of college kids consists of Dana (Kristen Connolly), Curt (Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth), Jules (Anna Hutchison), Marty (Fran Kranz), and Holden (Jesse Williams). The movie also stars Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford, but to describe their roles in the film would give away too many juicy surprises; just know that they are both awesome.
In fact, there’s really not much more of the plot I could mention without taking away the pleasure of watching this movie’s surprising and enterprising twists and turns unfold.
And just when you think you’ve got “The Cabin in the Woods” pegged, the film’s third act unleashes a funhouse of nightmarish and gleeful carnage.
Whedon’s bona fides in the world of genre entertainment is impeccable, from his TV series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel” and “Firefly” to his upcoming gig directing one of the biggest superhero films of all time, “The Avengers.”
His reputation of taking clever looks at well-established thematic formulas is only reinforced by “The Cabin in the Woods.” He’s also a pretty funny dude and his ability to mix comedy and horror (the cinematic equivalent of chocolate and peanut butter) is second to none.
The scene involving a speakerphone made me laugh harder than I have at most straightforward comedies.
Goddard co-wrote the script and worked with Whedon on “Buffy” however, it is his work on the TV show “Lost” that shows up the most here, especially as the rules of reality begin to shift in all directions.
“The Cabin in the Woods” is Goddard’s first directorial effort and he shows impressive balance as he walks the thin line between horror and comedy. He also paces the film beautifully, showing just the right amount of restraint when unspooling the intricate plot.
What is a little unclear is how Whedon and Goddard feel about the modern state of horror. Obviously, they have a bone to pick as they eviscerate most of the genre’s most beloved convictions.
But at the same time, this movie is a celebration of splatter and gore that makes a crystalline and compelling argument for the cultural role of horror movies in general.
What is clear, though, is that horror fans will absolutely love “The Cabin in the Woods” and I’m willing to bet quite a few people who wouldn’t be caught dead at your typical splatterfest will love this movie as well.
Go see for yourself and don’t let anyone ruin the movie’s surprises for you, the less you know going in, the more fun you’ll have coming out.
“The Cabin in the Woods” is rated R for strong bloody horror violence and gore, language, drug use, and some sexuality/nudity