The Cabin in the Woods ★★★★★

Is "The Cabin in the Woods" a horror film? No, not really, but that is intentional. It becomes obvious from the very first scene that this is not an ordinary horror movie. While there are some scary moments in the film—one of the most effective scenes involves a wall-mounted wolf head—its greatest strengths lie elsewhere.

The film offers plenty of references to various elements of the scary-movie genre as well as many funny scenes and lines of dialogue. Director Drew Goddard, who co-wrote the remarkably clever script with Joss Whedon, clearly knows how to make an original, fresh, multilayered, and wonderfully entertaining movie out of mostly horror-film clichés; a movie that wisely doesn’t rely on a single big twist. When all is said and done, "The Cabin in the Woods" stands proudly as an absolutely ingenious deconstruction of the horror-film genre. It has the power to irrevocably change how one regards horror movies.

The awesome, unpredictable climax must be applauded for its intensity and sheer audacity. Watching the finale, when all hell breaks loose, I couldn’t help but smile to myself with childish delight. What happens during the final thirty minutes or so completely subverts one’s expectations, thereby etching the ending into the viewer’s memory.

Clocking in at 95 minutes, the picture has no problem sustaining its narrative energy from the first frame to the last. And speaking of which—the line "The sun is coming up in eight minutes", spoken near the end of the proceedings, is a witty reference to the film’s running time, further emphasizing the meta aspect of the movie.

"The Cabin in the Woods" virtually demands to be discussed as soon as the end credits have rolled. In fact, one’s appreciation of the film is likely to grow upon post-viewing reflection. A second viewing is recommended and sure to be at least as rewarding as the first one.

At first, I had two major gripes with the movie: zombies are pretty boring monsters, and a turn of events involving one of the characters and the vitals monitoring system in the control room (I’ll say no more lest I spoil one of the surprises, which I certainly don’t want to do). Then it dawned on me that those things are part of the point the film is trying to make, and all was well again. Furthermore, it actually took me quite a while to realize the significance of the mysterious Ancient Ones, but once I did, I saw "The Cabin in the Woods" in a whole new light.

Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, and Jesse Williams nicely fill the roles of Dana, Curt, Jules, Marty, and Holden, respectively; they are good-looking and know how to act. As a viewer, one roots for the likable protagonists because they are fairly well-rounded and also because they aren’t really themselves once they arrive at their destination. Richard Jenkins, who plays Sitterson, and Bradley Whitford, who plays Hadley, have great chemistry together and are a joy to watch. Having a certain A-list actress who shall go unnamed here appear in a small role in the final act had the effect of taking me out of the movie, which, in this case, worked in its favor.