Blood, guts, and a girl making out with a mounted wolf.
The Cabin in the Woods came to be as Buffy The Vampire Slayer writers Drew Goddard and and Joss Whedon set themselves on a mission to upgrade the slasher genre. With this film, they wanted to satirize the way it slips into torture porn. In other words, they aspired to make a clever, punchy new classic. Amassing a 30 million dollar budget attests to their hopes: a massive backend of VFX work provided an elaborate film world, where different levels of 'reality' are at play. As six college students head into the woods to spend a debaucherous weekend undisturbed, a whole underground laboratory monitors their every move. It appears that a big operation is underway to trap the unsuspecting crowd into a curated murder scenario, straight out of a horror movie. Among the victims, we see Chris Hemsworth at the time his career was just taking off, so that's history in the making for you.
Unfortunately, in its devotion to provocatively render some horror tropes irrelevant, The Cabin in the Woods cannot help but reinforce others. It still carries the whiff of the late 2000s' misogyny in the way it portrays women and it certainly doesn't try hard enough to disrupt the genre's opposition to female sexuality. The characters of Dana (the virgin) and Jules (the experienced one) are sure to make you wince, as they're written as flat as a piece of paper. So you say no to torture porn, but embrace misogyny...?
We got to hand it to Drew Goddard, when he does something, he does it well. Not only that he whipped a hugely expensive horror film into existence, but he made a box-office hit that doubled its cost in revenue. The way he imbued the film with all his love and expertise paid off. The Cabin in the Woods is knowledgeable, but not to the extent of over-intellectualizing horror. Instead, the script plays out all the tropes and cliches of slasher kills—such as who dies first, and who dies last—with a pinch of irony that subverts the viewer's expectations, for both newbies and connoisseurs alike. To be bold and free in reassessing what genre cinema can do is a rare opportunity even for well-established names, and at least there's one contemporary horror film that has crossed that threshold in recent years. In addition to the mad fun, the film's educational value should not be underestimated.