04/09/2012 09:59 am ET Updated Jun 09, 2012

Movie Review: The Cabin in the Woods

If you think you've seen The Cabin in the Woods before, well, you're half-right.

You've definitely seen movies along the same lines. But I'd also wager that you've never seen anything like it.

Directed by Drew Goddard from a script by Goddard and Joss Whedon, The Cabin in the Woods, opening Friday, takes, as its jumping-off point, the basic set-up for contemporary horror films: Five young people leave civilization behind for an uninhibited weekend in a cabin in a secluded setting. The five include a sexually active but unmarried couple (Anna Hutchison and Chris "Thor" Hemsworth), another couple who haven't met before the weekend starts (Kristen Connolly and Jesse Williams), and everybody's pal, the stoner-genius (Fran Kranz).

And then bad things begin to happen.

The film actually begins in a control room for what looks like a corporate laboratory of some sort. The two head scientists are played by Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins, who wear ties and shirtsleeves and who seem to command (with a sense of humor) a staff of busy underlings.

At some point, the connection between the lab and the cabin is revealed but that's all I'll say about it -- other than to say that The Cabin in the Woods never goes where you expect it to. And it has a hell of a lot of fun reaching its final, unpredictable destination.

What else can I say without giving away the movie's multiple surprises and shocks? Not a lot: It's a delightfully constructed puzzle, one that pays attention to its source material -- the modern teen-horror-movie formula -- while poking fun at it simultaneously.

And it manages to not only meet the expectations of modern horror but to blow them out of the water. Bloody? This movie traffics in gallons, even buckets, of blood -- so much, in fact, that you end up laughing at just how over-the-top it all is.

Jenkins and Whitford are old pros, capable of wringing laughs out of a look or even a raised eyebrow. Their irreverence is a marked contrast to the demeanor of the college kids battling for their lives in the woods.

I was having a discussion with a colleague about this film after we'd both seen it, talking about how difficult it would be to discuss in a review without giving away too much of the plot and ruining its surprises. He sniffed, "Well, I suppose you could say that the whole movie makes no sense."

Which is a rigid and reductionist way of looking at The Cabin in the Woods. After all, does any horror movie make sense -- particularly when you're discussing films that deal with the supernatural?

Don't look for The Cabin in the Woods to make sense. Look for it to thrill you, scare you and tickle you -- all at the very same time. It's a wild ride -- hop aboard before someone spoils it for you.

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