A bunch of kids spend a weekend in a cabin. Think you've seen this all before? That’s what this film is hoping.
What were once original motifs in classic horror films from the mid/late 70’s to early 80’s, quickly became retreaded and watered down clichés for the next few decades’ worth of slasher films. Cabin builds on that familiarity with everything that’s wrong (or right, depending on your view) with the horror genre, and deconstructs it. It takes all the tired tropes and dumb choices these films make, and causes you to view every scary movie you've ever seen from a fun/new angle.
Do you ever wonder why there’s always a beefy jock and some horny blond in damn near EVERY horror cast? Do you facepalm over why characters are stupid enough to split up in the middle of being trapped in a desperate situation? Or are you the type that smiles and enjoys it when stock victim goes outside to check something out and meets their untimely end when clearly they should've just stayed inside? Whether you love these tropes or hate them, you’re bound to get something out of this film because writers Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard love them and hate them too.
The prerequisite sex scene, the virginal Final Girl, etc. Whedon & Goddard not only deconstruct the genre, but they do so in a refreshingly post-Scream NOT self-aware manner. The narrative doesn’t stop to have its characters point out some horror convention that it is post-modernly eschewing. The filmmakers are smart enough to know audience are in on the joke (we don’t need it spelled out for us) and the film itself still plays it straight, and that is what makes it so crafty and lets the jokes land so well. It’s not just what this film has to say; it’s how it says it. Not only do they know how to gleefully subvert your expectations, they also know to really earn a climax. This film has the best third act I've seen in a long while, both in how fascinatingly the truth is revealed and in how delicious a spectacle it becomes.
If I’m being cryptic about the film’s story, I’m doing you a favor. I have a real hard time praising all the clever and witty things about this joyous film experience without spoiling the bejesus out of it. The less you know about the plot points, the better. Just know that if you've sat through the good and the bad, from Evil Dead to Friday the 13th part VII, then you will find this a genuinely gratifying experience. This film is like a reward for a contest you didn't know you entered.