(On-demand video, October 2012) Horror fans won’t have to think twice about whether to see this film: The Cabin in the Woods is as essential a horror film as any in the past few years. A gleeful deconstruction of the good-old “cabin in the woods” horror scenario, it’s a commentary as much as it’s a comedy. It takes the good old tropes and plays with them until they fall apart. I have some evidence that the film won’t play very well to an audience that is unfamiliar with horror films, making it even more specially targeted (for better or for worse) to a specific public. Coming from geek-favorite co-writer Joss Whedon and co-writer/director Drew Goddard, The Cabin in the Woods is a blast-and-a-half for those in the know. Is it perfect? Of course not: one danger with parodying tropes is forgetting a few, and it sure seems as if one “upstairs sabotage” plot thread has been left dangling. (My theory involves the audience getting bored.) Still, what the film does manage to deliver is enough to mandate a viewing. It helps that The Cabin in the Woods is competently-made: Goddard knows how to deliver the laughs, and the actors do passable jobs in the roles they’re given. Kristen Connolly, Fran Kranz and Richard Jenkins stand out, by virtue of their places in the plot as much as anything else. There’s plenty of freeze-frame fun, and the film does a fine job at playing with the demands of the various genres it has taken on. For a while, The Cabin in the Woods is going to be the horror movie to watch with friends and that’s great: the horror genre was taking itself a bit seriously lately what with the icky torture-porn trend, and this is a welcome corrective. One final note about spoilers: it’s perfectly possible to spoil yourself rotten about the film, and still enjoy it immensely… so don’t panic if you think you already know too much.