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Friday, November 21, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 29.0° F  A Few Clouds
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Shhhhhh! Don't spoil the glorious surprises of The Cabin in the Woods
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Terrifically funny from start to finish.
Terrifically funny from start to finish.

Two men (Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford) have a conversation around a water cooler about mundane topics. Later, five college students prepare to pile into an R.V. and head out for a weekend of fun at a remote lake house. There's a genial jock named Curt (Chris Hemsworth), his sexy girlfriend Jules (Anna Hutchison), Curt's pal Holden (Jesse Williams), quiet and bookish Dana (Kristen Connolly) and unapologetic stoner Marty (Fran Kranz).

And that's about all I can say. Because if anything became clear when The Cabin in the Woods started getting early screenings and playing at film festivals, it was that YOU DO NOT TALK ABOUT The Cabin in the Woods. It became something of a badge of honor not to move beyond the most cursory explication of plot setup, at the risk of spoiling the film's unique sense of discovery. That's a fairly remarkable phenomenon in a world of movie news where nothing is considered more important than being "firsties" in announcing everything remotely connected to an anticipated film.

Director Drew Goddard - who co-wrote the script with his old Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer collaborator Joss Whedon, and wrote Cloverfield and Alias episodes for J.J. Abrams - has crafted something that pops with an utterly distinctive riff on horror film tropes, respectfully raising familiar characters and situations to the level of mythology without the smirking self-awareness of the Scream films. While it's almost certain to appeal most strongly to serious film junkies - and horror buffs in particular - it's terrifically funny virtually from start to finish, snapping off ferocious punchlines. When a movie manages to turn the appearance of its title on the screen into a brilliant joke, you know you're in for something special.

I suppose one could safely comment - vaguely - about the performances by the wonderfully entertaining Whitford and Jenkins. It's also possible to note that there is a five-minute stretch late in The Cabin in the Woods that is among the most ferociously, hilariously, gloriously awesome chunks of movie-love filmmaking you'll ever see - and you'll want to be paying close attention, or see it a second time, to absorb it all. And it's perhaps also fair to note that Goddard and Whedon play pretty fast and loose with the "rules" of the world they've created in a way that may not hold up to close scrutiny.

But that kind of close scrutiny will have to wait until we've all seen it. Until then, do yourself a favor and go see it. Then, when you're talking about it with friends who haven't seen it...shhhhhh.

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