Cabin in the Woods

Fran Kranz, playing stoner geek Marty, in a scene from “The Cabin in the Woods.” [Lionsgate Inc.]

Lionsgate Inc.

‘The Cabin in the Woods” is a difficult movie to discuss without giving away a few plot details. I’ll do my best to not spoil anything major throughout the course of this review. To be on the safe side though, I implore you to put down this paper now and just head to the theater without any prior knowledge. This is a movie you’re going to want to experience completely fresh.

You’ve been warned.

What if it turned out that every slasher movie ever made was all part of a government conspiracy? That’s the premise of the new horror comedy, “Cabin in the Woods.” In the film’s universe, a secret organization brings five young adults together and manipulates them into spending the weekend at a creepy, abandoned cabin.

The teenagers are led on a path that causes them to accidentally raise the dead, although they just as easily could have summoned vampires or giant snakes. They are further influenced to do stupid things, like splitting up and having sex in the woods. All the while, the agency is watching them via hidden cameras.

This is a very clever premise that’s extremely well executed by director/writer Drew Goddard. Credit also must go to co-writer Joss Whedon, the director of the upcoming “Avengers” and creator of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

Like “Buffy,” “Cabin in the Woods,” is a smart, funny, and creative horror story that exceeds all expectations. One would never anticipate a film like this to be as good as it is. But even those who are typically turned off by this genre may be pleasantly surprised.

The strongest attribute of “Cabin in the Woods” is its satirical sense of humor. Unlike so many other movies of it’s kind, “Cabin in the Woods” does not open with a young woman alone in her house waiting to be killed or with a fully laid-out back-story of a legendary monster. Rather, it begins with two middle-aged men, played by Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford, at a coffee machine making small talk. The scene gives no indication that the film is going to be a horror story of any kind. Then in mid conversation, the title “Cabin in the Woods” is just plastered on the screen in a bloody red font.

The cast is quite strong as well. The Scooby gang that is lured into the cabin consists of Kristen Connolly as Dana, an innocent girl who has had minimal sexual experience, Chris Hemsworth as Curt, a macho self-appointed leader of the group, Anna Hutchison as Jules, a sexually outgoing woman who recently dyed her hair blonde, Jesse Williams and Holden, an intellectual who is holding a torch for Dana, and Fran Kranz as Marty, a stoner who is literally the live-action Shaggy.

“Cabin in the Woods” embodies the wit of the “Scream” movies, the camp value of “Planet Terror,” and even the sense of mystery of the game “Portal.” On the whole though, “Cabin in the Woods” is an entirely original creation of its own. Some audiences may grow wrestles in the film’s first act, which takes its time letting the story unfold at a leisurely pace. But it’s all worth watching to get to the second act where matters really begin to shift into high gear in a superb climax.

It’s also interesting that “Cabin in the Woods” comes out just a few weeks after “The Hunger Games,” another film that placed young people in a dire environment as others watch them on television for entertainment. Could it be that these two movies are making some sort of commentary on the extremes reality television has gone too? It’s possible. One thing is for certain though. In a year that has brought audiences some truly pedestrian thrillers like “Silent House” and “The Devil Inside,” “The Cabin in the Woods” is by far the most fun and entertaining of the bunch. Even if you went against my initial warning and read this review from beginning to end, a good time will still be guaranteed.

• Ahwatukee native and Desert Vista graduate Nick Spake is a student at Arizona State University. He has been working as a film critic for five years, reviewing movies on his website, Reach him at

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