On the surface level, the story follows five friends Curt (Chris Hemsworth), Holden (Jesse Williams), Jules (Anna Hutchison), Marty (Fran Kranz) and Dana (Kristen Connolly) as they journey up to an isolated cabin for a weekend of drinking, swimming, truth or dare, and other scandalous behavior typically associated with college student getaways. A pre-trip meet up spells out the group dynamics: Dana is the good girl, Curt and Jules play-against stereotype as a hot blond and jock couple that in addition to good looks are also accomplished students, Holden is Curt’s bookish but still charming friend, and Marty is the group’s lovable pot-smoker.
Once on the road, the group encounter an ill-tempered gas pump attendant that, despite his disdain for the college kids, warns the group about their destination – asserting that visitors regularly disappear up in the woods. Dismissing the warnings, the group reach the cabin where, that’s right, things quickly devolve into bloody mayhem.
While many of the proceeding events center around good girl Dana, all of the friends are utilized in interesting ways – especially as the film toys more and more with genre stereotypes. As mentioned, these aren’t the dumb college kids audiences normally see in slasher-type films – and, while the plot can be somewhat convenient at times, there are plenty of interesting twists that arise out of having characters that, despite their basic caricature origins, defy expectation by making different (and, subsequently, more interesting) decisions. Given the difficult task of both embracing and rejecting these horror stereotypes, the cast (which, at the time, included a lot of untested talent) does a surprising job with the more serious moments – coupled with plenty of humorous nods to the audience.