The Cabin in the Woods Chases Horror Conventions Down a Dark Alley and Stabs Them

You have to hand it to the marketing team behind The Cabin in the Woods.

No movie has had such a successful hush-hush campaign since 1992's The Crying Game, when critics went so far as to eschew protocol in taking out all gender-specific pronouns (and leaving us to discover on our own why star Jaye Davidson had a jawline like Milli Vanilli). But then, no movie has needed such reverence for its many, layered reveals as this masterful death knell for the horror genre. As co-writer and first-time director Drew Goddard will attest, speaking in a post-screening Q&A in Tempe earlier this month: This is a very difficult film to talk about with people who haven't seen it.

Goddard, who wrote the shaky-cam Godzilla homage Cloverfield (as well as episodes of Lost, Alias, and Buffy), co-wrote the script for The Cabin in the Woods with sci-fi icon Joss Whedon. Specifically, they locked themselves in a hotel room for three days until it was done.

You can see the fruits of this unconventional writing process in the film, which is filled with the kind of

clever, witty, irreverent dialogue

you would expect from brilliant people trying to make each other laugh (like any day in the


writers room, or how

we assume Tim Burton comes up with his ideas: on bunk-bed sleepovers with Johnny Depp

, between flashlight shadow-puppet contests).

In an era when the genre is dominated by torture porn and torture-porn adjacent films, Whedon and Goddard set out to put the "fun" back in horror, to make a movie that they would be excited to see. The result is a self-reflexive roast of horror movie conventions (but not so many, says Goddard, that it devolves into "weird horror movie masturbation") that draws you in and then spins off in completely new directions, earning the film a well-deserved standing ovation at SXSW.

Here's what can be shared: A group of friends set off in a motor-home for a remote cabin in the woods. There, they uncover the cabin's many shocking secrets. Also, one of the friends is Chris Hemsworth. Back in 2010, when the movie was first made (before MGM got hit hard by the recession and had to auction it off to the highest bidder), Hemsworth was just an aspiring young actor with quarterback good looks and a lot of potential, and not Hollywood's next megastar. The delay in distribution ended up being the best thing that could have happened for the film, says Goddard, "because now we have the God of Thunder in our movie."

And that's all you need to know, other than: See it. The Cabin in the Woods is a scream/laugh masterpiece that will continue to surprise you, the kind of film that turns all audiences into midnight-showing-of-Star-Wars super-fans who break into spontaneous applause.

The Cabin in the Woods opens nationwide this Friday, April 13.

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