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The Cabin in the Woods

DIRECTED BY DREW GODDARD

More than any other genre, horror films, in recent years, have demonstrated an increasing inclination to get meta. A self-aware approach is partly a means to trot out the genre’s particularly tried-and-true conventions while dodging accusations of being derivative. Occasionally, the postmodern angle is employed with a view to interrogating our peculiar cultural willingness to witness a cast of characters meet a grisly collective demise. (Token ethnic types first, naturally.)

Positioning itself somewhere between the affectionate, self-reflexive deconstructions of the Scream series, and Michael Haneke’s ingenious but ruthlessly sanctimonious Funny Games, The Cabin in the Woods is, in the words of screenwriter Joss Whedon, “a very loving hate letter” to horror tropes. It’s also terrific fun, and easily among the most ambitious and inventive entries in the burgeoning meta-horror sub-genre.

Whedon, of course, is a celebrated purveyor of clever cult entertainment, and because of his partnership with co-writer and director Drew Goddard (writer of Cloverfield, and a contributor to Lost and Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer series), Cabin always boasted a promising pedigree. It’s still a surprise that the film works as well as it does—thanks largely to the fact that it’s full of surprises. While you’ll have a general idea where things are heading based on the opening credit sequence alone, Cabin‘s twists are in its details, and in the extent to which Whedon and Goddard have fashioned a dual narrative that converges gradually.

The attractive teen stereotypes getting picked off one-by-one are par for the course, but the substantial passages devoted to a pair of wisecracking middle-aged mission control types (Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford, both great) are out of left field, and are responsible for many of Cabin‘s biggest laughs. To elaborate would be to risk spoiling several rewarding reveals, but suffice it to say, Cabin ultimately bears an unlikely resemblance to The Hunger Games as well as Wrath of the Titans, and, despite a slightly slack dénouement, is vastly superior to both.

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