I liked this film, but I think the heart of the film is an argument which was made about a decade earlier.
The first ten minutes of The Cabin in the Woods inform us that a government conspiracy of some kind is leading a bunch of college students to their doom. Throughout the story, we'll cut to the government conspiracy as we watch them dealing with the events of a typical horror movie in a bored disinterested manner.
The movie isn't a comedy but it has a lot of moments of black humor which bear a resemblance to the best of Joss Whedon's work on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. Longtime fans of Buffy will remember he envisioned it as, essentially, a subversive horror movie and that is in full effect here.
|The Scooby Gang. Shaggy is at the end.|
Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon's script is built around the premise we don't value our protagonists more than the monsters. It's an accurate statement that some horror fans just go to the movie to see people viscerally killed. This leaves plenty of characters undeveloped because they're literally only serving the role as meat for the grinder.
The thing is, Wes Craven beat them to the punch. Three years prior to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, he made Scream. Hell, before that his A Nightmare On Elm Street movies emphasized character over massacre. Much like people forget Rambo only killed one person in the first movie, A Nightmare on Elm Street is about Nancy Thompson not Freddy. It was the other ones which turned him into a wise-cracking cartoon out to murder cardboard cutouts.
|This board gets a bunch of well-deserved freeze-frame bonus laughs.|
Beyond the satire at the heart of the movie is an homage to virtually every horror movie made in the past thirty years. There's homages to Hellraiser, Jason, Freddy, The Shining, and probably two hundred or more others I'd have to spend all day dissecting. Even the central premise is the protagonists of the story are undergoing the most stereotypical horror movie plot imaginable: a bunch of college students are going out to a cabin in the woods.
|The woman in peril trope is subverted all to hell here. Which is a plus in my book.|
I was especially fond of Jules as played by Anna Hutchinson, not just because she's absolutely beautiful but because her character has a lot of range. Ironically, the only character I hated was Marty the resident comic relief stoner. Usually, I love these sorts of characters but Marty's character annoyed the hell out of me every scene he was in.
Even worse, I swear, his actor goes out of his way to be Shaggy from Scooby Doo. I don't know if this was a creative decision or just coincidence (no, actually, it has to be deliberate) but the fact Fran Kanz has the audacity to imitate Shaggy's voice became extremely distracting. They even have roughly the same personality--replacing food for conspiracy theorizing.
Overall, I really liked this movie but it wasn't nearly as fresh or original as many people think it was. I also found the ending to be distracting as well due to its troubling implications. I recommend people see it but I wasn't blown away.