Just finished watching the Joss Whedon-written, Drew Goddard-directed Cabin In The Woods. Had the misfortune of never having had the chance to see it in theaters, despite most of my therapy clients assuring me that if I missed it, there'd be a strong argument for switching places with them. Now I see what they meant.
Writing a review for this movie is a difficult thing, since what makes it great (along with the crackling, Jossian dialog, the insanely brilliant production design, the surprisingly effective acting, and...stuff) is the way it reveals its secrets, like unlocking levels in a cracking-good video game. Not about to step on that process here.
On the surface, this is as familiar a story as you could imagine. That's the point, really: the "Teens in an Isolated Forest Cabin" simulation has been run so persistently in our culture that even the self-referential, oh, so Po-Mo deconstruction of it (care of the "Scream" series) has become an idiom of its own.
What Whedon's been able to do in "Cabin" would be nothing short of astounding...if it were anyone but Joss. Somehow, he's been able to take not only our familiarity with the assorted horror movie tropes, and fold it in on itself yet again, but he escapes being merely clever in doing so by creating a framework for understanding how (and why) these meme clouds have become so archetypal in the first place.
Now, that's what Meta's for!
I don't even want to go through the characters and describe their stories and how they fit together here. First of all, I don't have to; you'll know them right away. More importantly, though, going into this with too much foreknowledge would be a disservice to the experience of it, the way it turns your expectations and certainties on their heads (which may or may not be attached to anything at the time...), and forces you to reflect on yourself reflecting on the story as it reflects on itself...then takes you where you least expected to end up.
Now, don't worry: I'm not talking about "Inception"-level complexity here (GODS, did I love that film, but man, was it dense!). You could write dissertations on this movie...but it doesn't try to be one, itself. At a mere 1 hour and 38 minutes (less credits, which [a little surprisingly] do not contain an Easter egg at the end), this thing moves along with no lags or hangs in its masterful, relentlessly entertaining pace. You can't get away with not thinking...but you'll never be bored as you do it!
If you have a penchant for inky-dark humor, a strong stomach (!), and even a casual acquaintance with the vernacular of horror movies (which will be rewarded with a swarm of very excellent visual and thematic homages), you'll see how the seasoned team of Whedon and Goddard have served up a bubbling beaker of Instant Classic.