(Drew Goddard, 2012)
How do you judge a horror film that is not really scary? For The Cabin in the Woods depicts some horrific moments, has a few instances of suspense and a couple of sudden shocks; but it is never scary.
Instead it is clever. Filled with witty asides and sight-gags, aware of the ludicrous nature of both its own conceit and the genre it teases mercilessly, it skims along in a blur of post-modern references and strong one-liners.
Five college students straight from central casting - typically the film acknowledges even this - head to the cabin of the title for a weekend of partying. You know what happens next. And so does the film. But it has already presented a different, more interesting reality, and the way in which the two storylines intersect is what makes it so enjoyable. Just when it begins to grate, it shifts up a gear, launching into an epic, partly silly, partly brilliant final act full of laughter and gore.
Goddard directs with efficiency rather than inspiration, and the strong character dynamics in the script bear the pleasing stamp of producer Joss Whedon. The cast are playing nicely written types, and they mostly do well within that.
It's diverting fun with a good, surprisingly cynical ending, and no more than that.