Every once in awhile a film takes a stab at redefining a genre. The ones that hit it out of the park include Night of the Living Dead for the zombie film and The Godfather for gangster films. Go check out pre-Night zombie movies or pre-Godfather gangster movies; they do not remotely resemble those that follow these two films. Many films, over the past hundred years, can make this claim.
Cabin in the Woods probably can’t but it comes damned close.
It takes the Friday the 13th style, “kids out in the woods” sort of movie and gives it form. It attaches an overarching theme to 50 years of horror film making and it does it with humor and splash of gore.
One of the problems with a film like this is that it might not withstand spoilers very well—which also can mean it might not bear multiple viewings. There is no way to tell at the moment. Everyone will need to wait a few decades (or at least a few viewings) to determine that.M. Night Shymalan’s The Sixth Sense might seem the sort of film to fall apart on second viewing but it doesn’t. It just seems like an entirely different film when you know the “twist.”
If you know Whedon then you will expect humor and you will be happy to see some “old friends” from some of his previous efforts on television --s well as actors from such shows as The West Wing, Six Feet Under, Grey’s Anatomy and The Shield. This is to say nothing of the appearance of Thor.
The movie isn’t a one note film either, it isn’t Scream. It isn’t something there will be a sequel to as the plot, slyly, precludes any sequel. The ending also is a neat turn on some of Whedon’s earlier TV efforts. The film isn’t the best horror film ever made. It is somewhere between scary and the Evil Dead. You are never going to be really afraid here but this works and it should be a welcome change for fans of more mainstream horror films.