The Cabin in the Woods has a premise that showcases both postmodern cleverness and an honest appreciation for the fun of watching horror films. We are introduced to a set of stereotypical teenagers whose role is to make all the wrong decisions and die spectacularly at the hands of whatever horror film villain there is out there in the woods but they're not the main action of the film. Instead, the stars of this horror comedy is the group of scientists who live in the basement of their cabin in the woods. Manipulating the cabin as though it's a massive set, they take perverse fun organising an office pool to see which teenager gets killed off first, which monster in the woods they end up choosing to be their executions, and the manner of their deaths. It's not just a government conspiracy but a worldwide conspiracy – all over the world, teenagers are manipulated into becoming fodder for horror film scenarios!
The premise is clever enough: it sets up the horror film conventions, holds your hand and takes a step back to explain how the conventions work, gets all snarky and witty deconstructing the conventions before your eyes, and still tells a decently horrifying and hilarious story at the end.
As a postmodern or deconstructive horror film, it is as high concept as last year's Dale and Tucker vs Evil. Genre-savvy audiences will be grinning at all the in-jokes that Whedon and Goddard make as well as their sly digs at the horror genre. There's even a cameo speech at the end that rivals David Carradine's Kill Bill Vol. 2 speech about superheroes! That said, the film is more clever than it is funny, but it is still a load more fun to watch than it is funny.