‘Cabin in the Woods’ shines new light on horror’s darkest corners

It’s rare that a movie trailer opts to reveal almost nothing about the plot of the movie. The Joss Whedon produced “Cabin in the Woods” opts to do directly that and is a much stronger film as a result.

Gleefully playing with slasher tropes, five friends travel out to the eponymous removed house for a weekend of drunken debauchery. Each of the friends very obviously embodies a classic stereotype, with Chris Hemsworth of “Thor” stealing the show as a sociology major who slowly feels himself turning into a jockish, sex-crazed archetype.

Viewers always are about two steps ahead of the protagonists as the world of an underground bunker filled with balding office drones delight in controlling the fates of the horny teenagers. Even this isn’t everything about the unnamed groups and as the film builds to a gloriously gory crescendo, their mysterious motives become clear.

“Cabin in the Woods” is going to be vastly different things for different people. Those who have poured over Whedon’s oeuvre, particularly Dollhouse and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, are going to find plenty of nods to the shows they love and loads of actors returning to play variations on their iconic roles. For those versed in horror movies from mid ‘80s to present, the movie is a grab-bag of often twisted by hysterical pop-culture references, with everything from “The Evil Dead” to “Scream” to “The Ring” to “The Strangers.”

For those looking for little more than a straight horror ride, “Cabin in the Woods” is going to be a somewhat frustrating film. Fans looking for little more than a bloodbath are going to point and laugh at all the stereotypical mistakes, only to have the film twist and turn on them until the obscenely bloody conclusion.

Regardless of past experience, “Cabin in the Woods” is an absolute must see for almost anyone that’s willing to get into a gore-filled horror-comedy. Whedon’s greatest success here was examining the way we view horror movies as a product and the way he manages to embrace, examine and usurp cliché in a brilliantly meta way, while never holding the audience at arm’s distance. This is a horror film that virtually demands to be seen and is a true treat for movie nerds everywhere.