You think you know the story, you think you know the players, you think you know the outcome. What makes Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard's Cabin in the Woods unique is that we don't know anything.
Dana, Curt, Marty, Jules and Holden are all heading to Curt's cabin for the weekend. All the players are to be expected: the good girl, the jock, the pothead, the popular girl, and the bookworm. On the way there they run into a creepy gas station owner, get spooked, and continue on anyway until they eventually reach their destination. Once there, the cabin in question seems like it was last inhabited during the Roosevelt administration and the paintings that adorn the rustic lodge are something that Charles Manson would find cozy. Wait, that is a little odd isn't it? Nearly all of these stories are identical in nature. That can't be coincidence can it?
And the audience finds out it isn't from the onset of the film. Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) and Hadley (Bradley Whitford) appear to be mundane public sector workers, but once they settle into their office the actual nature of their work is revealed. It is never coincidence that these college students/teenagers/whatever always fit the same five roles, it is manipulated into a certainty. The popular girl isn't really a slut, but her hair dye ensures that will be changed. The jock is not a meat-head, but rather, a sociology major. These twenty-somethings are melded into the characters that we want to see. Not enough lust present? Pump in some pheromones. Are the characters out-witting the villains? Alter their mindsets with some neurological toxin. Sitterson and Hadley are efficient at what they do and they do it well.
The inherent meta-comedy of Cabin in the Woods takes a oft-used storyline and infuses it with gumption. These stories are tried, but true and the audience knows them beat-by-beat. By shifting the overall narrative of why these teens die, this becomes much more than another slasher flick. What further impresses about this film is that in all of the laughter that comes with tearing down genre tropes is that the characters aren't lost. More importantly, they aren't just the cardboard cutouts the film is making fun of, they are fully realized and fighting their outcome. They want to live, badly.
In taking down the horror genre, Whedon and Goddard get a lot of credit and just enough actual scares to make Cabin one of the better satires in recent history. Well done, sirs, well done.