Review: 'Cabin in the Woods' is sheer horror heaven

A  "Cabin in the Woods" offers a new twist on the old genre of horror films.

Story highlights

  • "Cabin in the Woods'" is directed by Drew Goddard and co-written by Joss Whedon
  • The movie offers quite a few twists and turns on the horror genre
  • Critic: The film doesn't just keep us on our toes, it chops them off
If you go down to the "Woods" today, you're sure of a big surprise -- and if anyone tries to spoil it, my advice would be to shut them up quick.
Believe me, you don't want to know. But this is a movie people are going to need to talk about, so if you're at all invested in horror movies -- what they are, what they're for, what they can be -- you best see this one quick, and steer clear of Tumblr until you have.
What can I tell you without saying too much?
For starters, you have to know that this is the first feature directed by Drew Goddard, a writer from the "Buffy," "Angel," "Lost" school, based on a screenplay he co-wrote with the considerably famous "Buffy", "Firefly", "Angel" creator Joss Whedon. Fans of those shows won't be disappointed by these horror hipsters' acidic, postmodern designs on one of the movie industry's hoariest, least respected staples. Whedon also wrote "Toy Story" of course -- which may be why the wild, nutso finale seems to owe a debt to another Pixar movie ... but let's not go there.
The outline is as crude as the title suggests: Hollywood has been telling us to be afraid of the backwoods at least since "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," and "Deliverance" (before that, it was the old dark manse on the hill). By now the homespun log cabin is more likely to evoke the evil undead than Honest Abe. But just as the clever poster image puts its own twist on the familiar picture, transforming the house into a kind of spinning Rubik's Cube, Goddard's movie quickly puts its own distinctive kink on horror clichés.
By quickly, I mean from the very first scene, which wittily undercuts the portentous opening music and sets up the movie's first puzzle: how do the casually smug, cynical lab-coated technicians played by Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins relate to the five bright, sexy college kids we see taking off for a cousin's countryside retreat? You could probably figure it out: there are only so many permutations