At first blush, “The Cabin in the Woods” reads like your run-of-the-mill slasher flick. After all, it revolves around unsuspecting teenagers isolated at a secluded setting who suddenly find themselves stalked by a homicidal maniac. Furthermore, at the picture’s point of departure, we’re introduced to five, naïve college kids embarking on a weekend getaway by Winnebago to a lakefront cottage located so far from civilization that it has no cell phone reception and can’t be tracked by GPS either.
Such a break off the grid is just what the doctor ordered for the overstressed quintet assembled by Curt (Chris Hemsworth), a jock who’s been blessed with free use of a cabin by a long-lost cousin. Each of the classmates invited to join him represents a readily-identifiable horror film archetype. There’s Jules the blonde bimbo (Anna Hutchinson); Marty the wasted stoner (Fran Kranz); Dana the innocent virgin (Kristen Connelly); and Holden the straight-A student (Jesse Williams).
En route, the motley crew blissfully ignores the ominous warning to turn around while they still have a chance issued by a creepy local yokel (Tim De Zarn) familiar with the grisly history of the estate where they’re headed. And it isn’t long after their arrival that evil forces residing at the haunted house start picking them off one-by-one.
That is where the similarity to the stock scary movie plot begins to unravel in this genre-bending adventure marking the auspicious directorial debut of Drew Goddard. Our ill-fated heroes have no idea that their ensuing struggle for survival is a high-tech ordeal being very-carefully orchestrated from an underground bunker at the whim of a couple of jaded government bureaucrats (Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford) with an army of techno-wizards.
It’s impossible to discuss the storyline further without spoiling an abundance of surprising supernatural developments, but suffice it to say that waiting to be unleashed are a host of bloodthirsty ghouls and goblins capable of killing in an endlessly-creative, if gruesome fashion. Overall, this hair-raising roller coaster ride keeps you on edge for the duration, although its frustrating game frequently feels unfairly rigged in favor of the sadistic puppeteers over the intrepid protagonists you’re so futilely rooting for.
While this howl-inducing splatter-flick definitely deserves its R rating given the incessant gore, it nevertheless remains highly recommended for fright fans interested in a more cerebral brand of bloodletting.
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for profanity, drug use, sexuality, nudity and graphic violence.
Running time: 95 minutes
Distributor: Lionsgate Films
To see a trailer for The Cabin in the Woods, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eXfc12BqFkc