When I heard the name Joss Whedon associated with the new Cabin in the Woods, I was tempted to see it. Then I saw that Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth, was in it and I wanted to go. When friends kept saying how good it was, I started bemoaning both my husband's dislike of horror movies and our lack of a babysitter. In the end, I went through a rather expensive and convoluted plan to go with a girlfriend from high school.
I am happy to report that those tropes I mentioned? Cabin in the Woods used all of them AND made them have a purpose within the story. If you haven't seen me mention this elsewhere: Joss Whedon is brilliant.
The story starts with a rather odd clip that takes place in a lab type setting where two men (Sitterson & Hadley) are discussing work. My friend and I glanced at each other with the "What did we get ourselves into?" look in our eyes. Then the title flashed on the screen and the action moved to a college town (specifically the apartment shared by our two female leads: Jules and Dana). They're getting ready to go away for the weekend with Jules's boyfriend, Curt; the guy they're trying to fix Dana up with, Holden; and their stoner friend, Marty. (I missed a bit in here because of a phone call from my mother--don't ask.) They pass the requisite creepy old man who tells them not to go to the cabin. Of course they go anyway.
Scenes between the kids at the cabin are broken up by scenes in the lab/control-room where bets are being placed on outcome and other things that are a bit confusing at first. But, the control-room scenes are also the primary comic relief in the movie. As things progress at the cabin, people start behaving... strangely, and then during a game of truth or dare, a trap door in the floor is sprung and they go into the cellar to investigate. This starts the real chain of events in motion. And it's one hell of a fun ride.
I really don't want to give away more of the story, let's just say if you like the twists and turns Joss Whedon always worked into his television shows, you will love this movie. Plus, he made sure to cast some fan favorites: Amy Acker (Fred from Angel), Fran Kranz (Topher from Dollhouse), and Tom Lenk (Jonathan from Buffy). There's even a Firefly Easter egg that I totally missed :(
A couple complaints.
It needed to be longer. At 95 minutes, it was a pretty short movie anyway, but an extra thirty minutes would have allowed for more showing of how the college kids were manipulated, which would have made their personality changes more obvious to the viewer (as it was, we didn't see enough of them before being at the cabin to see the difference).
The end was... not what I (or my friend wanted). It wasn't a horrible ending, but it felt too easy--lazy almost. It was fine, but the movie opened itself up for some brilliant, crazy ending and it just wasn't there. I'm very curious to get the blu-ray and see if it includes an alternative ending (or more than one).
Overall though, Cabin in the Woods has taken its place as my favorite horror movie ever. If you're a fan of intelligent spoofs or of Joss Whedon's work, you should definitely check it out.