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k-bigpicA movie about a group of college kids who go to a remote cabin—a jock, a scholarship jock, a stoner and some hot girls, one a brainiac, one a party girl—complete with a dangerous hillbilly type, mysterious incantations and lines like “No matter what, we have to stay together,” sounds very familiar. Like a thousand teen chillers we’ve seen before, but add in a secret government agency, ancient evil life forms and other surprises (you’ll get no spoilers here) and you have the best mash-up of horror and humor since “Scream.”

All I will tell you about the plot is this: five college friends go to a cabin in the woods. Then all hell breaks loose. All the conventions of the teen horror genre are here, but turned upside down.

The pleasure of “Cabin in the Woods” is in the not knowing, so excuse the brief synopsis. Go in fresh and be surprised.

I can tell you there has never been a slasher flick quite like “Cabin.” The subversive mix of horror movie lore—“The virgin’s death is optional.”—post modern self awareness and gruesome gags isn’t new but rarely has it been this smartly presented.

Like romantic comedy, horror is a genre that frequently takes the easy way out. By the time we got to “Saw 3478: A Stab in the Dark” the movies were more about how many gallons of stereoscopic blood could be squirted toward the audience than creating a new, intriguing story.

Conversely “Cabin in the Woods” screenwriters Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard (who also directed) have crafted a film that is exhilarating in the way it adopts and then challenges the conventions of the form. They even have fun with J-horror with hilarious results.

Expect Whedon’s trademark crackling dialogue. Expect gallons of blood. Expect to be challenged. Expect the unexpected.

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