YOU have to give writerdirector Drew Goddard full marks for effort. With tongue wedged firmly in cheek, he lampoons hoary clichés and attempts to reinvigorate the horror genre with this slick tale of college kids in peril that is three parts bonkers to one part twisted genius.

Joss Whedon, creator of the Buffy The Vampire Slayer television series, co-wrote the script and his droll humour percolates throughout.

For the opening five minutes, making sense of the madness in Goddard and Whedon’s hare-brained method takes up most of our attention, which is no bad thing given how thinly characters are sketched.

Plot twists are the key selling point of The Cabin In The Woods and the big reveal in the closing minutes is a humdinger, including a cameo from a big name Hollywood star.

Yet for all of its audacity and deliciously off-kilter humour, the various elements don’t gel and once the writers’ grand plan is laid out before us, we feel slightly underwhelmed.

Bookish college student Dana (Kristen Connolly) is looking forward to a jaunt into the great outdoors with friend Jules (Anna Hutchison) and her jock boyfriend Curt (Chris Hemsworth), and slacker Marty (Fran Kranz).

Curt invites along his shy buddy Holden (Jesse Williams) as a date for Dana, and the five thrill-seekers head into the mountains to a remote log cabin.

Meanwhile, scientist Richard Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) and Steve Hadley (Bradley Whitford) stare at a bank of CCTV screens, which seems to be following the progress of the students.

They invite the rest of the team to bet on the quintet’s chances of survival but new guy Truman (Brian White) resists.

The Cabin In The Woods has some big laughs and lashings of gore.

The young cast embrace their genre archetypes, screaming or disrobing on cue, while Kranz plays his stoner with aplomb.

Goddard knows how to end with an almighty bang.