Horror movie fans who roll their eyes every time the blonde girl agreeably wanders off so a macabre villian can kill her may enjoy the winking knowingness of this weekend's new scare flick, The Cabin in the Woods. (Watch a trailer below.) Written by esteemed Buffy the Vampire Slayer scribe Joss Whedon, the film — about four comely teens who are terrorized while vacationing in an isolated cabin — manages to horrify audiences while spoofing horror cliches in the tradition of Scream. The 2012 twist? Technicians in a high-tech control room are making sure the teens meet their grisly fates on cue. Why are these computer jockeys toying with the film's protagonists? Critics aren't telling, but they assure us the rationale is brilliant. Is Cabin "the most original horror movie" in years?

It's truly excellent: "I can envision college term papers being written about the myriad ideas at work here," says Steven Persall at The Tampa Bay Times. The movie taps into the self-awareness that won Scream legions of fans, employs the spoof comedy that turned Scary Movie into a hit, and yet is genuinely frightening. The "meta puppeteers" who ensure that each teen dies on schedule is an unexpectedly brilliant twist, creating a "blood-red snowball effect of satire, adding layers of calculated insanity as it rolls along."
"Review: Audacious, entertaining Cabin in the Woods goes over the edge"

But we can't tell you anything about it: The Cabin in the Woods "is much more fun to watch if you don't know anything about the plot going in," says Allison Willmore at Movieline. That's not to say that it's filled with plot twists, shocking character revelations, and red herrings. But the clever concept underlying the film is a joy that should not be spoiled. Trust us — it's worth the wait.
"Review: Cabin in the Woods finds something new — and brilliant — in the genre wilderness"

If only it were scarier… "The laughs come easily, the screams not so much," says Betsy Sharkey at the Los Angeles Times. It's as if the filmmakers became so giddily wrapped up in their clever satire that "they forgot to include the intense sensation of rising dread" that we want in horror movies. There's no shortage of blood, zombies, aliens, ghosts, and even grim clowns. But the violence is too tongue-and-cheek to inspire the real "thrills and chills" that audiences will find themselves yearning for.
"Review: The Cabin in the Woods is Joss Whedon's inside joke"