Producer Joss Whedon (Buffy, Firefly, The Avengers) teams back up with pal and director Drew Goddard (Buffy, Cloverfield) to create their skewed re-imagining of a teen horror movie. The film stars Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz (a Whedon-alum from Dollhouse), Kristin Connolly and Jesse Williams.
The Cabin In The Woods starts to show its hand with its title, which is about as generic as they come for teen horror movies. And that's by design, as is most every detail of the movie. Things open up in predictable fashion with five good-looking college students getting ready for a weekend out in the woods. One of their cousins had a cabin, of course, so let's go check it out, right? They hop in a van, go out in the country, meet a creepy guy along the way and finally get to a run-down shack of a cabin in the darkest, farthest corner of the woods. Sound familiar?
What's less familiar is when the scenes cut to what appears to be an underground research facility. Lab-coated specialists are getting ready for something, and it seems to involve these teens in the woods. People report in on the teens movements, their every turn captured on video monitors, and lingo thrown out about how everything needs to go to plan. But who are these people? Are they monitoring them, controlling them, or experimenting with them?
And a reviewer's code of conduct dictates that I say no more. Since the entire rest of the movie hinges on the mystery of everything that happens next, you'll have to experience it for yourself. But what we can talk about is both the tone of the film and what it is about this picture that is different from other pictures that litter the teen horror genre.
In many ways, The Cabin In The Woods is a love letter from Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard to this whole genre of predictable horror. It's as if they reluctantly admit that while 95% of films that start out this way are cookie-cutter and eye-rollingly generic at best, they still can't get enough of them. And because of this affection they set out to "fix it" and make a good version using these tired cliches as starting points and then transforming them into something much more creative.
It's these constant allusions to predictable structure that inject the film with humor. Sometimes the characters take the obvious, pre-ordained route, sometimes they veer off in a completely different direction, and then sometimes the characters themselves become self-aware long enough to realize they're following a cliched path and seem to say "Wait... really?" It's a movie that completely relies on these cliches to work, but than almost always does something different and unique with them.