This new film from the writer of Cloverfield and TV's Lost comes up with a way to subvert the slasher/horror genre that mostly overcomes its savvy postmodern machinations (maybe like Paranormal Activity and its series has done with found footage). A highly profiting studio behind The Hunger Games looks for another sizable reaping from the primary moviegoing demographic starting on the day known for Jason Voorhees after grabbing it from a dusty shelf because of bankruptcy issues.
The Cabin in the Woods is tyro helmer Drew Goddard's answer to the disillusionment that has come in recent years through franchise pics like Hostel and Saw; it's time for a devilish, self-reflexive deconstruction of the ilk fashioned nicely in years past by maestros like Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead) and Wes Craven (Scream). The marketing introduces a deceptiveness to attract a wider audience that doesn't coincide with its more arcane standees and posters.
Now, it's Goddard's time to shine with co-writer Joss Whedon (maker of the upcoming much-anticipated Marvel's The Avengers) who also serves as second-unit director with a kind of pliant, witty creativity that goes beyond the usual coed campsite massacre fare like Cabin Fever.
In retrospect, the filmmakers aren't concerned with making much out of the cabin, the woods, and its archetypal, hedonistic inhabitants as doing something mind-bending that is augmented by commentators and reviewers not divulging too much of what is being peeled back.
Suffice to say, another apparently ho-hum getaway at a faraway cabin is complementary by the cousin of alpha-male footballer (Chris Hemsworth before he found success last year in Thor) as well as tart blonde girlfriend (Anna Hutchison), good redheaded gal (Kristen Connolly), preppy type (Jesse Williams) and philosophizing stoner (Fran Kranz).
So, Goddard and Whedon go through the typically bad decisions made by these type of folks looking for a memorable weekend with a certain amount of acerbic flair to give a strong cortozone-like cinematic shot to what is exalted and maligned often at the same time.
Early on, even before the abrupt jolt that is the title card, there are scientist-like business drones - Hadley (Bradley Whitford) and Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) - in an underground shelter - who will mastermind evil on the cabin's unbeknownst inhabitants foreshadowed by what is read in a torn diary by Connolly's Dana at the behest of their shadowy superiors. The filmmakers will slowly unleash a macabre conspiracy which will build to a crazed climax with a cameo by someone indebted to one of them.
It turns out that a formidable character actor like Jenkins and Whitford serve as double surrogates as The Cabin in the Woods often delivers more in the way of comedy than chills of the Grand Guignol variety. Their ambivalence goes a long way, even when the proceedings get gory enough when Hadley watches an attack on a video screen. As for their younger counterparts, Kranz seems to deservedly get the most reaction especially in his character's use of a coffee cup.
Ultimately, the devious detours through the clandestine help make for watchable, edgy entertainment maybe upended by the inexperience in capitalizing on the mindless pummeling of modern horror constantly rearing an ugly, monstrous head.