The Cabin in the Woods (2011) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1259521/
Five friends decide to spend a weekend at a remote cabin in the woods. They are, of course, the cliche five consisting of the jock, the jock's hot girlfriend, the hot boyfriendless friend, the intellectual brought along as a potential romantic interest, and the stoner fifth wheel. As they drive to the cabin they stop to get gas at the station manned by the cliche tobacco-chewing crazy-eyed redneck that warns them against going further, who they obviously ignore. At the cabin they discover it has a cellar, find an old diary and read aloud an incantation from it, which unleashes a zombie family upon them.
Yep, stereotypical horror film setup with stereotypical horror film beats.
You also get snatches of scenes at some secret high-tech monitoring facility with tons of lab-coats running about, making plans, coordinating stuff and apparently watching the fated five.
Yes, "The Cabin in the Woods" might be like many a horror/slasher/thriller film you've seen in the past, but it also is not. It turns that genre of horror film on end and bequeaths upon the viewer an interesting grander story that encompasses and somewhat explains the purpose behind the existence all those past .
Story penned by Joss Whedon (Avengers, Firefly, Angel, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and co-written and directed by Drew Goddard who has quite a wealth of experience as a writer/producer of many Buffy, Angel, Alias and Lost episodes. In a nutshell Goddard is a bastard love-child of both Joss Whedon and J.J. Abrams. So yes, we are treated to the sort of Whedon-esque dialog one would expect as well as the great story sensibilities one would expect from a Whedon/Abrams alumni. And for a directorial debut Goddard did smashingly, he obviously learned a lot working with both production masters.
Casting - spot on. Thor/Avengers fans will recognize Chris Hemsworth. Dollhouse fans will be pleased to see Fran Kranz. "Greys Anatomy" fans get some Jesse Williams. If you were a Power Rangers Jungle Fury fan there's a bit of Yellow Cheetah Ranger Anna Hutchinson.
Plus the ever-castable Richard Jenkins and some great bit parts for Whedon-verse alums Amy Acker and Tom Lenk. I didn't notice any glaring acting mistakes or casting weaknesses. Everyone did well.
For me as a Whedon/Abrams show watcher there was plenty of meta enjoyment. The grander story works quite well too. It makes a great nod to the "teens in the woods" slasher format, adds its grander component, and makes many references to slasher/horror/thriller films from the past without making obvious parody-style fun of them.
And what's even better is the film doesn't even hide anything. They tell you exactly what is going on as the story unfolds, and if you still don't realize how what you've seen adds up, they spell it out for you without taking shortcuts or breaking the trust of the film viewer.
Smartly done film, quite entertaining and enjoyable, and easily recommended without snark.