From the moment The Cabin in the Woods opens not with its five hot young college-student protagonists but with a pair of dumpy office workers (Bradley Whitford, Richard Jenkins) in a drab-looking industrial complex, it’s clear that this isn’t going to be your typical slasher movie. The problem with Cabin is that there’s a little too much of your typical slasher movie contained within its clever genre deconstruction, and it’s not until the last third that the movie shakes off the obligatory plot points and goes somewhere truly creative and interesting.
Before that, we have to go through the motions of seeing those aforementioned college hotties heading out for a weekend at the title location, your basic super-creepy isolated backwoods house populated by horrific nightmares. Periodically, we check back in with the office workers, and their activities lend the movie its level of meta-commentary, riffing on the whole idea of horror movies and their place in the culture.
But the meta-commentary also effectively undercuts any potentially scary moments, and provides a handy catch-all explanation for dismissing any plot inconsistencies. For a while it seems like co-writers Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, a longtime Whedon associate making his directorial debut, only have one joke up their sleeves, one that starts to wear thin a little too quickly. But then the movie shifts gears away from the cabin and the familiar slasher template, and it becomes a lot more exciting and unpredictable, without losing its deconstructionist angle. It’s just too bad we have to sit through most of a mediocre slasher movie before getting to the really good stuff.