Watch This Now: 'Cabin in the Woods'

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Joss Whedon's mindbending scary-movie sendup lurches back to life on DVD and On Demand today.

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Lionsgate

Talk about your horror movies: The Cabin in the Woods, shot in early 2009, was originally scheduled for a February 2010 release. But that date was put on hold so that the film could be—cue creepy soundtrack—converted to 3D for release in January 2011. Like a plucky teen protagonist, the film escaped that gory fate, only to be put on hold again as its struggling studio, MGM, tried to sell it to another distributor. Lionsgate picked it up and the movie finally made it to theaters last April, its long, purgatorial nightmare at an end.

And thank goodness. Co-written by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, and directed by the latter, The Cabin in the Words is among the sharpest mass entertainments of the year (a distinction it shares with Whedon's other spring release, The Avengers). In an interview with Total Film, Whedon called the film "basically a very loving hate letter.... On some level it was completely a lark, me and Drew trying to figure out what the most fun we could have would be. On another level it's a serious critique of what we love and what we don't about horror movies."

Or, as I put it in my review,

...the movie is a delightful demolition of the horror genre, a tale that subverts not only its own terrors, but those of pretty much every scary movie you've ever seen. Why do the protagonists of these films always choose the worst moment and locale to have sex? Why do they split up when it's evident they should stick together?....

The Cabin in the Woods is a horror movie embedded in a conspiracy flick embedded in another horror movie—the most inventive cabin-in-the-woods picture since The Evil Dead and the canniest genre deconstruction since Scream. It is by turns moderately horrifying and wickedly funny, offering more nods and winks than a narcoleptic on jury duty. Look! There's the sour, sun-scorched hillbilly with his cryptic warnings; the placid lake perfect for drowning in; the dark, spidery cellar. And down in that cellar, a treasury of cursed relics ample enough to set in motion a few dozen horror flicks (which is, again, the point). Sly reference is made to The Grudge and Hellraiser, to werewolves and zombies and fishmen and pretty much everything else known to go bump in the night. It is perhaps unfair to saddle the film with too much ambition, but it is, in its openly satiric and exceptionally witty way, a Rosetta Stone for the horror genre.

You can read my full review here. But the short version is this: If you have even a passing fondness for horror movies (and I barely have that) or savor the occasional wicked, knowing subversion of a shopworn genre (think of this as the Kiss Kiss Bang Bang of horror movies), The Cabin in the Woods can now be enjoyed in the comfort of your own home. Pop some popcorn, dim the lights, and lock your doors.

Next week, the Whedonathon continues with the DVD release of The Avengers.

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Christopher Orr is a senior editor and the principal film critic at The Atlantic. He has written on movies for The New Republic, LA Weekly, Salon, and The New York Sun, and has worked as an editor for numerous publications.

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