Movie Review: The Cabin in the Woods

★★★★☆

Five college kids – a jock, a flirty blonde, a party animal, a bookworm and a stoner – spend the night in a terrifying cabin in the woods. It’s a premise we’ve all seen and heard countless times.

When the trailer for The Cabin in the Woods came out, I rolled my eyes at the film’s use of every slasher film cliché possible: The jaunty pop music at the beginning that slowly becomes dark and chilling, the clear-cut teenage archetypes and the menacing redneck who warns the kids not to go any further into the woods.

Then I realized who wrote the film – Joss Whedon. If you don’t know his work, Whedon has masterminded several TV and movie hits including “Firefly,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.” His adaptation of The Avengers premieres in May.

With such a repertoire of fine work, I wondered what he was doing writing a low-grade horror film like this. Still, I decided to give the movie a chance, knowing it had been constructed under his careful hands.

The Cabin in the Woods did not disappoint. Right from the start, it was obvious that Whedon hasn’t lost his ear for sharp, witty dialogue. The characters are built off of flimsy tropes but they are still genuine and believable. The burnout Marty, in particular, stands out as an audience favorite. Ultimately, these are characters that viewers quickly become invested in and want to root for in spite of their limited screen time.

The plot of the film is brilliant on a different level. Avid horror fans will undoubtedly appreciate the film’s tongue-in-cheek jokes and references. Even casual filmgoers, however, will get a kick out of the film’s subversion of common scary movie devices if they’ve ever dabbled in the horror genre before.

The Cabin in the Woods has a few jump scares here and there but it won’t give anyone nightmares, nor should it. Expect to laugh more often than you’d think, and check the rest of your expectations at the door. The film’s twists and turns are best viewed with an open mind.

Where 1996’s Scream redefined horror with genre-savvy characters who knew not to investigate strange noises outside, this film re-evaluates the genre in a different way. Without spoiling too much, The Cabin in the Woods is simply a fun, enthralling theatrical experience and horror like you’ve never seen it before.