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The Cabin in the Woods: Chopping down expectations 

***1/2

THE CABIN IN THE WOODS
***1/2
DIRECTED BY Drew Goddard
STARS Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth

Stop me if you've heard this one before. Five college kids head to a cabin in the middle of nowhere, hoping for some r&r. Instead, something evil starts picking them off one by one ...

Chris Hemsworth, Jesse Williams, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz and Kristen Connolly in The Cabin in the Woods - LIONSGATE
  • Lionsgate
  • Chris Hemsworth, Jesse Williams, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz and Kristen Connolly in The Cabin in the Woods

Unless you've spent your own existence in a cabin in the middle of nowhere, there's no way not to be knowledgeable of this setup, which has powered many a horror flick for approximately four decades and counting. But it's guaranteed that you haven't seen anything quite like The Cabin in the Woods, which uses its ordinary, even boring, title to lull us into a false sense of familiarity. This is no cut-rate slasher flick like Friday the 13th or Cabin Fever; instead, writer-director Drew Goddard and co-scripter Joss Whedon elect to ape Rod Serling by taking viewers on a "journey into a wondrous land of imagination." The Cabin in the Woods isn't quite The Twilight Zone, but it does manage to carve out its own niche zone.

This is a particularly difficult film to cover since the less a potential viewer knows, the better — I daresay even the relatively spoiler-free trailer reveals a bit more than what's desirable. So let's just establish what we can ascertain from the movie's opening act. Five likable students — the sweet Dana (Kristen Connolly), the vivacious Jules (Anna Hutchison), the hunky Curt (Chris "Thor" Hemsworth), the quiet Holden (Jesse Williams) and the perpetually stoned Marty (Fran Kranz) — leave the city and head toward the remote cottage owned by Curt's cousin. Meanwhile, Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) and Hadley (Bradley Whitford), two men who work in what appears to be a science facility, prattle on about the accident of 1998 and take sizable bets from co-workers.

Not enough intel? Sorry, that's all you get here. But rest assured that these two plot strands will eventually find each other. When they do, the film falls into what I believed to be a reversal of misfortune, settling into standard fare with the cynicism elevated to an uncomfortable degree. Silly, shortsighted me. The Cabin in the Woods soon bursts free from this holding pattern, growing ever more outrageous and entertaining as it barrels toward its take-no-prisoners climax and conclusion.

To reveal anything more about this film would be criminal.

But did I mention that the happy frog made me laugh out loud?

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