‘Cabin in the Woods’ houses fun meta-horror

Article Published: Apr. 19, 2012 | Modified: Apr. 23, 2012
‘Cabin in the Woods’ houses fun meta-horror

From left, Chris Hemsworth, Jesse Williams, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz and Kristen Connolly star in ‘The Cabin in the Woods.’

“Cabin in the Woods” is a tricky film to review.

In this case, that’s a good thing.

This clever take on the classic horror movie is so original that fully describing its plot would work to viewers’ detriment.

It’s rife with surprises from the very get-go, which effectively sets the tone for the gleefully gory, tongue-in-cheek proceedings.

In his directorial debut, Drew Goddard (writer of “Cloverfield”) makes one of the decade’s most memorable horror flicks with what seems like a less than memorable framework.

We’ve seen the so-called story more times than we care to imagine – a group of college archetypes visits a cabin in the woods, only to be picked off one by one by some unspeakable horror.

You’ve got the attractive goody-two-shoes virgin (Kristen Connolly, “Revolutionary Road”), the boisterous jock (Chris Hemsworth, “Thor”), his promiscuous girlfriend (Anna Hutchison, “Panic at Rock Island”), the more-clever-than-he-looks stoner (Fran Kranz, “The Village”) and the bookworm (Jesse Williams, “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2”).

But, as the trailer suggests, something else is at work here, perhaps engineering and controlling the horror, using these oblivious – and unfortunate – kids as puppets.

And for what reason? “Cabin in the Woods” happily takes its time letting viewers know, dropping hints and revealing clues along its blood-spattered trail.

It’s a colorful trail, to boot, and not just red. The movie’s packed with clever dialogue, winks, nods and meta-humor aplenty, as Goddard simultaneously honors and pokes fun at the films with which he obviously grew up.

The college kids play their archetypical characters to a tee, but the film’s most memorable performances come from Richard Jenkins (“Burn After Reading”) and Bradley Whitford (TV’s “The West Wing”). I won’t elaborate on their roles, other than that these two fill them brilliantly.

But “Cabin” isn’t all laughs, as Goddard demonstrates he’s pretty with clever with suspense, too. A scene in which Hutchison’s floozy is dared to make out with a mounted wolf head is one of the most memorable, nerve-racking and eerily provocative moments in modern horror.

There’s plenty of method to the madness, all of which comes courtesy of co-writers Joss Whedon (TV’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) and Goddard. These two know their horror, and “Cabin” is obviously a labor of love.

“The Cabin in the Woods” isn’t for everyone, especially those expecting your run-of-the-mill horror flick. It begins and ends where you’d least expect it. It’s a bizarre, often hilarious take on horror movie conventions that screams of originality in the process, and it’s one hell of a fun ride.

“The Cabin in the Woods,” rated R for strong bloody horror violence and gore, language, drug use and some sexuality/nudity, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone. For show times, see page 28 or visit http://www.mountaintimes.com/movies.

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