Most of the art of this love poem to the horror genre can be summed up in its first mind-rattling 20 minutes. Opening with two middle-aged corporate engineers discussing the joys and sorrows of wives in childbirth at the coffee machine, and briefly touring their odd facilities, the scene suddenly shifts to a gaggle of typically oversexed college kids (perfect slasher movie fodder) preparing for that potentially naughty-fun weekend in the woods that always ends in gallons of stage blood reckoning. (Though, admittedly, this troupe is more attractive and intelligent than most.) As they drive off hitting their bongs, we see an operative speak through his headset, notifying his superiors that the game is on. After the thrills, laughs, and killer mermen, you might still wonder, which game?
Sure, Cabin in the Woods is not as great as the movies it lovingly and violently parodies — any Sam Raimi film you know contains oodles more artifice and only half the self-consciousness factor. But Cabin is a truly different kind of meta-horror-sci-fi-thingie, brought to you by the inspired talent combination of Joss (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) Whedon and Drew (Cloverfield) Goddard, and it earns sufficient crazy kudos for living up to most of the implied promise. The film profits best from Goddard’s cinematic eye, with lucid camera-work producing high definition phantasmagoria, but it also preserves Whedon’s trademark ability to make us applaud the very worst things possible in any given situation, including a strong hint of global gruesomeness to come.
You might find the ending a bit much. But walk it off. It’s going to be a long time before you see another film that takes you to the very core of our dark imaginings with so much goofy truth and humor then leaves us in the dominion of something we’ve never seen before. I like heroes who get bloodied beyond expectation and then as the climax moves forward, question philosophically whether or not humanity deserves all the work. By the end of this one-of-a-kind film you might be ready to wonder too.