Nightmare fuel

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LOOK OUT BELOW. Kranz, Hemsworth and Hutchison explore the cellar.

Either willfully and on purpose or purely by accident, “The Cabin in the Woods” is being promoted as just another generic slasher flick featuring clueless people systematically being done away with through increasingly gory means. Even the title screams “nothing special here.” Whatever the intention was, the result of the bait-and-switch actually helps the film, because “Cabin” is anything but just another horror movie.

The directorial debut for Drew Goddard (who wrote “Cloverfield” and a lot of “Lost”) and written by Joss Whedon (who directed “Marvel’s The Avengers” and created “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”), the movie seems to hew to convention when it features five good-looking college students (TV vets Kristen Connolly, Anna Hutchison, Jesse Williams and Fran Kranz with Chris Hemsworth—yes, Thor—thrown in) as they take a weekend off for a good time at a far-flung cabin. But they soon realize that something horrible awaits them as night falls.

What they don’t realize is that they are also being watched on a bank of video monitors by a couple of tech types (played with lots of winking by Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford).  As the stoner Marty (Kranz) says: “Something weird’s going on.”

It is nearly impossible to talk about “Cabin” without giving anything of its many surprises away. Suffice to say, it is a very intelligent take on the slasher flick, reinterpreting it even as it sends up the conventions of the genre. The cast is obviously a shout out to the Scooby-Doo casting in these types of films (Take a guess which one is Fred and which one is Shaggy) and the first half or so of the movie does unfold like a “Halloween” clone.

HELP. Connolly crawls for her life.

Then “Cabin” makes a smart, sudden turn that totally changes how the movie works. Impressed? Don’t be, at least not just yet. It keeps going crazy clever from that point on—it literally doesn’t stop. “Cabin” will turn the tables on you at least once more. Let’s just say that there’s something in this film for fans of all the different kinds of scary movies. It also manages to keep you guessing and laughing at the same time.

The film’s clever structure is a double-bladed trick. Those who are looking for the ordinary, shallow scary film that the marketing promises will be utterly befuddled by the movie’s frenetic, insane second half. But anyone who seeks more from their scary movies will find everything to love in “Cabin.” Goddard directs the film confidently and Whedon’s dialogue just, well, kills. The two gleefully extract horror’s DNA and plays havoc with it. Thus the “Cabin’s” killer app is clearly its novel reinvention of all that can happen in a classic horror movie. It’s been described as a horror version of “Inception,” and the label is dead on.

While remaining full of violence and shocks, “Cabin” is a celebration and subversion of the genre, a great horror movie about great horror movies, a gift for devoted horror film buffs. To fully enjoy the movie, bring your sense of irony and sense of humor to the theater and just suspend your disbelief. You will be rewarded with the brain-twister that is “The Cabin in the Woods,” a movie seriously to die for.

“The Cabin in the Woods” is now showing in Metro Manila theaters.

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