So basically all I knew about The Cabin in the Woods was that it was a horror movie, there were people in a cabin in the woods, and Joss Whedon was involved. But right from the beginning of the movie, I realized that I was dealing with a bit more than that. The opening credit sequence starts out familiar enough, all dark and with blood spattering over the screen, then it immediately shifts to a scene of a mundane office conversation between two middle-aged dudes. Huhhhhhh? How is this related to the movie we think we're going to see? But as the tagline suggests, this is not the typical horror movie story you think you know.
The Cabin in the Woods takes that about 10 steps further. Here, we have an entire company with a full staff watching the five potential victims in the cabin, and doing everything they can to make sure that these kids actually follow the standard horror movie cliches. Reading the Latin from the diary, going off into the woods to have sex, going for a walk by yourself, splitting the group up when they should be sticking together - it's all here. The kids are secretly given drugs to make them act like the stereotype they're supposed to be and the company has complete control over everything in the environment inside and outside of the cabin to make the situation go the way they want it to.
To really get the situation moving, the company gets the kids to go down into the cellar, where there lies a myriad of strange objects, most of them seemingly innocuous. The kids don't know that each object holds the power to raise a certain kind of foe that will eventually kill them - a ghost, a Pinhead-like torturer, a werewolf. All these monsters are owned by the company, deep underground underneath the cabin itself, lying in wait for their turn to be chosen. Dana reads from a diary first and thus the choice is made. The kids are now fighting against a "zombie redneck torture family" and the company's mission is almost complete. Finding out just what their final goal is is half the fun of watching the movie, and I hope that everybody loved it just as much as I did.
On that note, I have to say that the characters and the actors playing them in the unnamed company were far more enjoyable than the kids in the cabin. Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford were a hilarious duo that I couldn't get enough of. Jenkins's comedic genius is untouchable; I have loved all of his performances in a variety of roles. Buffy and Angel fans will really get a kick out of seeing Amy Acker and Tom Lenk in supporting roles, the latter one being just as charming and funny as his Buffy character, Andrew.
The Cabin in the Woods is that it mostly caters to a specific audience, I believe. Mainstream audiences probably do know about all these horror movie staples that are introduced and played with in this movie (perhaps because Scream flat-out told them about some of them) but overall the ones who will appreciate it the most are horror fans. The audience I was with in the theater, though small, was most likely not comprised of others like me because they never laughed or showed any kind of understanding once through the whole thing. In the climactic and freaking awesome scene where the monsters are released from their boxes and all holy hell breaks loose, I was laughing my ass off, silently clapping, and wanting to stand up and cheer my absolute approval. Everybody else? Hardly any reaction at all. It made me a little sad.
But forget about them. This movie made me so stoked and excited about horror again. I don't think it necessarily "reinvented" the genre as other reviewers are suggesting, but I think it might be a "refresher" of sorts. It's one of the most original ideas to come to horror in a long time, and it serves as a reminder that horror doesn't have to ever die. With this genre, we can go as far out there as we want to with stories and concepts for future horror movies. We can use the tried and true methods for making a successful and gory film (i.e. five kids going to a cabin in the woods) but we can twist it into something completely different. Or we can learn from this movie and stay away from those stereotypes and continue to think of fresh, exciting ideas. It is possible, and Whedon and Goddard proved that with this stellar and mind-blowingly impressive film. I think it's going to be one to talk about and look back on for years to come.