Spoilers abound. Proceed at your own risk!
The Cabin In The Woods, currently in the box office top 10 and beloved by most of my colleagues and friends, is co-written by Joss Whedon, and helmed by maiden Drew Goddard (writer of Cloverfield).
I saw it last night, and concluded I'm just not a "Joss the Boss" fan. I like him as a person (what little I know from having done numerous interviews with him), but I never connected with his TV series Buffy, Angel, or Firefly. I found Serenity, his 2005 feature, mind-numbingly dull. Didn't like his Alien Resurrection screenplay, and I prefer Toy Story 2 to his 1. Never saw Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along.
This self-referential comedy stars Richard Jenkins (who rocked all in Six Feet Under, and was the best thing in Let Me In) and Bradley Whitford (best known for The West Wing) as puppet-masters in an elaborate hoax which takes place in a virtual reality set in the world of slasher films. Plunked into this wicked world are the most dangerous game: collegiate cinematic clichés. Final girl Dana (Kristen Connolly), handsome jock Hadley (Chris Hemsworth), blonde bimbo Jules (Anna Hutchison), tokin' stoner Marty (note to actor Fran Kranz: Pauly Shore called, he wants his shtick back) and others… each must fight their own demon to save their lives. Demons hark back to classic slashers kinda-like, but-not-really, Jason, Freddy, Pinhead, Samara, zombie hordes, et al.
I don't mind good-natured meta (Tucker & Dale vs. Evil) or cynical hipster irony (Scream), but The Cabin in the Woods features only a few moments of either. I did smile and sometimes chuckled during Jenkins and Whitford tete-a-tete, but my eyes rolled more than all the combined dice in Vegas at the endless assembly line of twist-free clichés (though the clichés are intended, that doesn't make them any less passé), the silly stunt cameo (is Sigourney Weaver in trouble with the IRS?), and the stilted dialogue ("I'm so sorry I almost shot you. I probably wouldn't have."). Even the death scenes aren't anything to write home about.
Having said all that, I'm not saying I hated The Cabin in the Woods. There are some inspired skits; like when one of the murderous monsters calls the office to check in and finds himself on speaker phone, when the wet black-haired ghost schoolgirl in Japan is vanquished, and when the collective celebrates their win with some alcoholic beverages and REO Speedwagon on the stereo. But those bits aren't enough to recommend a Cabin in the Woods theater experience — unless you're a Whedon buff, wait for DVD.
In the meantime, I recommend these superior spoofs on DVD to tide you over:
Love At First Bite
Saturday the 14th
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