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Same Ol', Different Ol' 

The Cabin in the Woods is another cabin-in-the-woods movie, with some twists.

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It’s not always a bad thing when a movie has been sitting on a shelf for a while. Almost always, sure, but not here. Made three years ago for MGM, which went bankrupt, The Cabin in the Woods was eventually grabbed up for release by Lionsgate. Looks like it’ll all end up as a good thing.

This horror film about a quintet of good-looking young folks who head off to an isolated cabin, where some will meet their demise, is not your typical horror film about good-looking folks in an isolated cabin, despite how it may seem.

We’ve got an established couple (Ana Hutchison and a pre-Thor Chris Hemsworth), a blind-date couple (Kristen Connolly and Jesse Williams), and a fifth wheel (Fran Kranz — the clown at the end of Donnie Darko), who is the group’s resident intelligent pot head.

They proceed to jump in the Winnebago, drive down lonely roads to a cabin and accompanying lake where there’s no cellphone service, and start getting picked off. Yeah, we’ve seen this stuff before. But the writing team of Joss Whedon and director Drew Goddard have gone enjoyably askew in their revisiting of it.

There’s an annual “experiment” involving the cabin and its residents, conducted by an unnamed group of folks mostly wearing white, pretty much all of whom seem to be having fun, even though it’s clear that, before long, blood is going to flow.

The lab coat people know it, too, but they’re more interested in gambling on the experiment’s outcome than in any kind of ethics.

They also really get into it by watching everything that happens in and around the cabin on a battery of video screens, courtesy of tiny cameras hidden all over the place. Things like, oh, blood rituals and zombie attacks. Yet the first half of the film sticks mostly to character studies of the five protagonists, as well as a couple of villains. It’s right about at the halfway point where things take a grim turn, eventually get worse, and finally go nutzoid.

The lab-coat explanations are satisfactory, though all you need to know, going in, is that, according to the slowly-turning-desperate lab coat folks, “something big is at stake.” But they’re not the ones being slaughtered, although fans of retribution will be pretty happy with certain turns of certain events.

Cabin in the Woods is gory, but it’s also funny and smart, and there’s enough originality packed into the utterly unoriginal to be worth your time. 

The Cabin in the Woods Rated R
Directed by Drew Goddard
Starring Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford and Chris Hemsworth

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