A jock, a party girl, a more studious jock, a virgin and a nerd go into the woods...
Though it sounds like one we've heard — not to mention already seen — before, "The Cabin in the Woods" takes a familiar set-up and keeps hacking and slashing, deeper and darker, into forests where even Grimm brothers dare not tread. Also, it has an office party.
Some 16 years after the first "Scream" gave horror movie clichés a sly nudge in the ribs, this worthy successor tickles them then cracks them open. Once again, a group of preternaturally attractive young people get together with the intention of putting themselves in maximum danger. No, that's not the stated goal, but that's how our heads roll.
In charge of the trip this time is Drew Goddard, the writer of "Cloverfield" as well as vital cog of "Lost" and "Alias." More relevantly, he also wrote for "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel." So when directing for the the first time, he had Buffy/Angel auteur Joss Whedon along as co-writer, producer and second-unit director.
This movie has sat on the shelf for some time because of studio financial problems, not lack of merit. But it may take Buffy fans back to her glory days. As TCITW travels its twisty, jolting path, its mix of gore and humor, angst and action, plus workaday, ho-hum routine at the horror center bears all the hallmarks of the Buffyverse. Be afraid, be very afraid, but don't stop the clever asides and visual puns.
Stereotypes take your places! Sexy but shy Dana (Kristen Connolly) plans to take her economics books along for the weekend, but her sleek and newly blonde roommate Jules (Anna Hutchison) assures her they will have better things to do than study. Jules' hunky boyfriend Curt, a blondish quarterback, has loaded up the motorhome for a weekend of fun. And since Curt is a virtually Nordic god — to be specific, our current Thor, Chris Hemsworth — we can see why Jules is up for the ride.
Still, was it a good idea for her to dye her hair? Would Jules be concerned to hear another character describe the formula as "Dumb Blonde?" Maybe not.
Curt has thoughtfully invited along his equally hunky teammate Holden (Jesse Williams of "Grey's Anatomy"), doing the double duty of keeping Dana company and providing the cast with a slightly non-white character.
Our victims, er, leads, seem set. But at the last minute, up drives their pal Marty in a cloud of smoke from a giant bong. Fortunately, stoned but sharp Marty, a very sly Fran Kranz, has devised it to telescope down into a thermal mug. Because the group certainly doesn't want any attention as they party at Curt's cousin's newly purchased cabin out at the lake.
You know, the one "off the grid," past the decrepit gas station with the wild-eyed, unshaven attendant, up the unpaved, one-lane road clinging to the cliff and through that long mountain tunnel. The place with no neighbors. Well, no living neighbors.