Here's a confession: I was never particularly enamoured of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and I've never seen an episode of Firefly, Angel or Dollhouse. I did, however, watch Serenity and thoroughly enjoyed it. So, I'm no Whedon aficionado. Drew Goddard? I'd no idea that he'd written Cloverfield or episodes of Lost and Alias (another series I've never seen), or that he'd had a hand in producing either of them. I am, though, a life long lover of the horror genre - from the Universal Horror movies, via the 'golden era' of the 70s and early 80s through to the proliferation of, largely forgettable, torture porn and mock-doc entries that make up much of the contemporary genre.
Every now and again a movie comes along that is deserving of the hype that precedes it, whether it be generated by the studios themselves, the fanboys (and girls) or the critics and journos that get an early viewing, and Goddard's The Cabin in the Woods, co-written by Whedon and the director, is one of those movies. It also needs to be reviewed in an even more spoiler conscious fashion than the average slice of cinema. Going into this movie with as little specific knowledge about it as possible should enhance the entertainment value immeasurably; and what entertainment it is too. Taking the well worn premise of five friends heading off to, you guessed it, a cabin in the woods for the weekend, Goddard and Whedon's movie proceeds to have about as much fun with the genre, its conventions, its history, its fans and the act of watching the movie itself as is possible.
The list of superlatives that I could use to describe how relentlessly entertaining The Cabin in the Woods is would be endless, and its not purely an exercise with limited appeal to horror movie buffs. Goddard and Whedon have pulled off the impressive trick of constructing an (often very funny) narrative that can either be engaged with on a meta level or just enjoyed purely for the visual thrill-ride. Reflexive, self-reflexive, referential, playful and smart - but never overtly self-conscious, irritatingly clever-clever or navel gazingly insular - The Cabin in the Woods is a movie that horror genre fans and non-horror genre fans, the cine-literate or the casual viewer can take equal pleasure in. The term 'game changer', which I've seen bandied about in relation to Cabin, seems redundant to me, as it's not about changing the game, its about love of the game. Goddard and Whedon clearly know the horror genre (and I suspect many other genres) inside out, and they contribute their own thrilling, invigorating ideas to it. I can't imagine having as much fun in a cinema again for a long, long time.