Kill ’em all?

Funny and scary, The Cabin in the Woods takes a knife to tired horror tropes

Starring Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth and Anna Hutchinson. Directed by Drew Goddard. Cinemark 14, Feather River Cinemas and Paradise Cinema 7. Rated R.
Rated 4.0

So, a Jock, a Dumb Blonde, a Brain, a Virgin and a Stoner check into a creepy cabin in the woods and … wait, you’ve heard this one before? Of course you have, what with the archetypes being the default setting of horror, and the old dark house/cabin being its own subgenre. But what if those archetypes didn’t leave home being so dumb or smart or virgin-y or douchebaggy or baked? (Well, the stoner starts out as a stoner, but still.) Add a shady Umbrella Corporation aspect and layer every moment with nods and homages to pretty much every horror flick that makes a horror movie buff’s eyes light up, and The Cabin in the Woods joins the ranks of such cult items as Shaun of the Dead and The Return of the Living Dead as a rare horror flick that’s able to pull off that very, very difficult balance of humor and horror.

The movie slowly reveals itself as an arch—and very clever—deconstruction of the tropes of dead-teenager films that Scream wanted to be, but lacked the mad creative skillz to really pull off. And it also has a sly humor that Zombieland was completely incapable of mustering.

The Cabin in the Woods pulls it all off. Granted, it’s not 100-percent perfect, as tropes are tropes no matter how ironically you approach them, so the basic narrative suffers from a slight case of over-familiarity until it explodes into the third act. And then things get interesting—and very, very wet.

Of course, we have Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) producing a script co-written with Lost and Cloverfield scribe Drew Goddard (who also makes his directorial debut here), so this re-imagining of ‘80s horror is very clever and consistently entertaining. And it helps that the cast is uniformly endearing in its own way, subverting the trope that our mayhem-bait be unlikable for maximum cathartic pleasure.

But I would say, don’t read up on it too much, though. Half the fun is figuring out where it’s heading; which might be why it sat on the shelf for three years. It wasn’t because of quality, but rather the meta-aspect probably confused the suits at MGM when they got their screening. Fortunately for us, Lionsgate came through.