As the story begins these five friends rent a van and drive deep into the forest for their weekend of fun. Before entering the woods they stop at an old decrepit gas station, where the creepy owner warns them in some vague way of the danger ahead, and then laughs as they drive into the darkened forest, like so many hoards of kids before them. This may all sounds like typical slasher-film cheesiness, but for The Cabin in the Woods, this is only the very beginning.
Not long after the teens arrive at the cabin and begin their weekend of partying, they realize that all is not what it seems. The cabin is rigged with strange appliances like one-way glass, and the hidden basement contains enough horror film paraphernalia to make any fan of the genre gleeful with anticipation. The first secret we are shown is that the cabin is actually a part of something far larger, an environment supposedly controlled by an underground science lab. The leading two scientists pull the strings of the world dozens of feet above them as they watch this cabin in the woods from monitors in a high-tech bunker. The experiment they are carrying out seems to be about what choices the college lab rats will make, and while this may seem a huge spoiler, for Whedon and Goddard there is far more still to be revealed.
This plot of a lab experiment on the cabin allows the writers to dissects horror films for their archetypal characters. Are the characters in horror movies driven by a necessity of the genre for them to act or behave a certain way, say how they split up when they shouldn't, how when someone says "I'll be right back" they rarely are, or how the ‘good girl’ is generally the last to survive? Or do the filmmakers simply attribute stereotypes to maximize fear with some embedded morality. The Cabin in the Woods is the first film since Wes Craven's Scream to deconstruct the horror genre in this way, the film being both a member and a critic of the genre. In the end this film seems to be a toying analysis of the genre, whilst delivering some of its own scares as well.
The originality of The Cabin in the Woods lies in its evaluation of its originally cheesy storyline, the characters are all stereotypes acting in a wooden story which is then suddenly and quite magnificently pulled right out from under them by Goddard and Whedon. This film touches on almost everything in the genre, with most overt references to Friday the 13th and The Evil Dead. However, The Cabin in the Woods is no ordinary slasher film, and shouldn’t be mistaken for any cheap trick either. It has plenty of its own laughs and gore, but will ultimately be remembered for its uniquely critical homage to this beloved genre, that and its surprising twists.