The Cabin in the Woods: written by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard; directed by Drew Goddard; starring Kristen Connolly (Dana), Chris Hemsworth (Curt), Anna Hutchison (Jules), Fran Kranz (Marty), Jesse Williams (Holden), Richard Jenkins (Sitterson), Bradley Whitford (Hadley), and Sigourney Weaver (The Director) (2011): In a perfect world, The Cabin in the Woods would, at the very least, get a Best Original Screenplay Oscar nomination for 2012. But it’s a horror movie and it’s a comedy, so it won’t. Nonetheless, it is a humdinger.

Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, who worked together on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, conjure up something special here: a postmodern, metafictional slasher movie that also works as a nifty addition to the Cthulhu Mythos and as a commentary on the tastes of both horror audiences and horror-film makers. Light-footed and well-acted, it never becomes leaden and it never punches the audience in the face with its cleverness. It’s a Charlie Kaufman film without the underlying pomposity.

Five college students on Spring Break go to a cabin in the woods. And then…well, frankly, you should experience it yourself. The ads and trailers for the movie gave way too much away as it is. Like the Scream movies, The Cabin in the Woods plays with cliches of the modern horror film. Unlike the Scream movies, it never becomes what it parodies. As one character realizes, “We are not who we are.”

If nothing else, this may be the first horror movie that could be read as a metaphor for U.S. drone strikes on targets in Pakistan. Or I may be overthinking it. But you’ll never look at a bank of elevators the same way again. Or a Japanese horror movie. Highly recommended.

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