Breaking convention can be great fun. And the new horror flick The Cabin in the Woods does that, taking gleeful delight in puncturing those tired and formulas of the genre.
This Cabin could rightfully be called a horror satire, but one like the Scream movies in which an actual tale of horror plays out while all the proscribed rules are examined and, in this case, set into play by an unseen hand.
Joss Whedon, creator of TV's Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, co-wrote Cabin, bringing along his knack for transporting the supernatural to the everyday normal. Co-writer and first-time feature director Drew Goddard complements Whedon's vision by keeping the film grounded until, in the end, it looks like he simply cannot control himself any longer as he finally unleashes a comically overstocked closet full of monsters.
Whedon and Goddard begin with a keen eye towards an established horror recipe: five handsome young people arrive at an isolated cabin in the woods for a weekend. Along the way, they meet the requisite creepy freak at the gas station. Then, they arrive at a dilapidated old structure in the middle of nowhere.
With all the cliches in place, the script follows a standard path, setting up a scenario in which some malignant force will then appear to wipe out the group. The writers show their familiarity not only with this standard American trope, but they also pause long enough to show their ghoulish erudition by tossing in references to popular Asian schoolgirl phantoms, Swedish vampires and several other international favorites.
But they throw a curve by setting up a control central, a main location in which everything has been planned down to which method will be used for the coming carnage. The command center looks to be some sort of governmental agency run by a couple of irreverent meatballs, deliciously played against type by Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford. And to compound the egregious aspects of the enterprise, the entire organization runs a betting pool on the winning predator — zombie, vampire, Jason, Freddy, and so on.
Much more goes on during Cabin than can be described here, but it is a movie that begs not to be taken seriously, which we won't.
But we will enjoy it.
BOO ALLEN is an award-winning film critic for the Denton Record-Chronicle.
The Cabin in the Woods
Rated R, 95 minutes