'Cabin': Thank you for not reading this review

Chris Hemsworth in "The Cabin in the Woods." SOURCE LIONSGATE
April 23, 2012

I am going to preface this review by urging you to not read it.  For many readers, this is a task that is easily fulfilled (See, Mom? You're off the hook this week!).

But if you have not ventured out to the theaters for anything other than repeat viewings of "The Hunger Games," I will make but a simple plea: if you are a fan of intelligent films of the horror, science fiction or comedy genre, you owe it to yourself to slap down the cash for "The Cabin in the Woods." It is a film that deserves audience members who know that M.C. Escher is not some hot new DJ on the dubstep scene.

If you think you're in for yet another camping-kids-get-hacked feature - as the marketing of this film would suggest - you could not be further from the mark. Typically, this is where I would chide the studio for its failure to adequately advertise this film, but in this case, they have actually done a remarkable job of keeping tight-lipped as to the "Inception"-like twists to be discovered therein.

If you thought the genre of American horror film needed a serious reboot, so did the makers of "Cabin," and they have created one of the most ingeniously fun fright flicks since "Scream" crashed the horror party a few decades ago.

But please, if you have not seen the film, stop here, for it is a film in which the enjoyment derived from it is exponentially opposite your knowledge going into it. Consider this your final warning.  I'm serious.

OK, I tried telling you, so it's your own fault for continuing. I will still try to steer away from revealing too much of what transpires, which is not all that hard because writer Joss Whedon burrows pretty far down the rabbit hole. And the fact that the film made it out of the ashes of the MGM bankruptcy (it was actually filmed in 2009) and to the big screen is a testament to its quality.

We are initially introduced to the genre archetypes: Curt (played by a pre-"Thor" Chris Hemsworth), the strapping jock; Jules (played by Anna Hutchinson), the sex-hungry blonde; the virginal Dana (played by Kristen Connolly); the brainy, sensible hunk Holden (played by Jesse Williams); and the wise-cracking fifth wheel Marty (played by Fran Kranz). An invitation to a secluded titular lodge brings them together for the weekend, along the way encountering all the requisite trappings of the genre: a creepy old dude at a gas station sagely telling them of their fate, a basement in the cabin filled with dusty items that scream "get out now!" and a cacophony of strange sounds from the surrounding woods.

Now, horror junkies could play connect the dots blindfolded with what happens next in an ordinary genre picture, but considering Whedon has been responsible for some of the sharpest writing on television and film in the past decade ("Buffy," "Toy Story," "Firefly"), I can promise you that you will not have a clue as to what he has in store here. To reveal any more would be to ruin the fun (even though I gave you fair warning above. But did you listen? Noooooo!!), but I can say that it involves actors Richard Jenkins ("The Visitor," "Step Brothers") and Bradley Whitford ("The West Wing,") practically tap dancing through their roles, as they seem to be having so much fun, and a third-act finale (complete with a killer cameo) that builds into a crescendo of crazy. The good kind. And, unlike many films of the genre, this one practically begs for repeated viewings to spot all the shout-outs mentioned within. But "Cabin" is not merely a nod to horror films, it is a complete deconstruction of them, even providing room for a dissertation as to why we enjoy being scared so much in the first place.   It's a film that will pass the scratch test for fans, but works on a completely philosophical level for those who feel today's horror films have taken a southbound turn, or even question those who love this type of picture in the first place.

Oh, and thank you for not reading the review.