I was one of those Whedon Fangirls who knew about The Cabin in the Woods when it was originally mentioned years ago. I’ve been following the Science Fiction-Fantasy-All round nerdy awesome blog io9 for what feels like a million years now. Way back in 2010 they posted their excitement for the new Whedon-Goddard Project with the most fantastic posters ever:
If something is chasing you…. split up.
Around this time there was a rise in the need to be meta. This film was either going to be a piece of meta brilliance, similar to the Scream films… or well just the usual Whedon awesomeness. Sadly, the company releasing it went under and The Cabin in the Woods was lost into the Nether of the Films that will never be.
But I still hoped.
If you follow this blog with any form of dedication, you probably have realized my love/hate relationship with the horror genre. I knew that if The Cabin in the Woods was ever released, then I would most likely wait for it to come out on DVD and watch it at home. As long as it had the same kinda nature as Zombieland I should be alright. I expected that the Whedon sense of humour would make any form of horror in this movie easy to handle… and tie that in with the meta-horror-making-fun-of-horror… it should be a cake walk. As long as I watched it at home with all the lights on… and maybe clutching a pillow (just in case)
But then as if by miracle, there was a trailer and a release date. The fangirls went wild, two Whedon movies in under 30 days? What is this madness? (I’m talking about The Avengers of course).
Not only did the film get the trailer, it also got a spiffy new poster:
My interest was peaked. But I still wasn’t willing to watch it in the theatre though.
Sadly for me, I have some really persuasive friends, so one night on our way back from getting amazing Burgers at a local Burger Joint my two friends decided that we would go see The Cabin in the Woods. They spent a good twenty minutes telling me it wasn’t scary, or that gory and that I could easily watch it and not regret it later. Only until AFTER I agreed to see the film, they revoked the statement on the gore. By that point I had already said yes and we were on the bus to the theatre.
Spoilers from here down…..
The intro sequence gave away the premise of the film to me pretty quickly. We were going to be dealing with a sacrifice to some form of God. Tie that in with the trailer and well… there’s the main plot of the film. There are five friends who go for a relaxing weekend at a cabin in the woods. They’re cut off from the rest of the world and picked off one by one by some form of axe murderer. We’re all really familiar with that horror trope. Hell, I’m working on a script based off of that idea. What we know going into this film from the trailer is that there is an even more sinister level to the story. *Cough* sacrificing these kids to the evil gods from before *cough*
What Cabin in the Woods does that is absolutely brilliant, is to make you question all the other slasher flicks that you have seen previously. When we were busing back from the theatre one of my friends raised a pretty interesting point: “Do you think The Cabin in the Woods is saying that all the other horror movies before it are actually sacrifices?” Yes. I think that’s exactly what this film is going for. Whedon and Goddard keep coming back to the point that there are cultural narratives that we all are extremely familiar with. The American Scenario portrays our fascination with type casting. In our horror movies we need to have the different basic characters dichotomies: The Whore and the Virgin, The Athlete and the Scholar and of course the Fool. The film also references the different dichotomies and cultural narratives in different countries (I LOVED the side plot about the Japan Scenario. It was brilliant).
If you are interested in looking into more research on cultural narratives and archetypal theory, I highly recommend you look into the works of Carl Jung. I could start talking about that right now, but then I would never be able to finish this blog post. Notes on Carl Jung will have to happen another day.
I’ve heard people argue that the characters in Cabin have their own distinct personalities that end up getting morphed into the stereotypes through the use of chemicals. I have to argue that this claim is false. Yes, the kids do have some distinct personality characteristics that are different from the usual slasher basic personas, but right from the very beginning we know that Chris Hemsworth is the Jock and his girlfriend is the traditional Blond Bombshell who is one of the first to die. The beauty of Cabin is that it acknowledges all these stereotypes and has fun with them, it doesn’t try and take itself seriously.
I absolutely loved the Stoner Marty. All of his little asides and how he easily figures out what is going on before everyone else. He’s easily the most loveable character out of the group and his “death” comes as a shock. Marty is the second character to be killed off. What is found out later is that he managed to escape and is undermining the entire system. Good job Marty, it’s nice to see someone actually doing something productive in a horror film. That doesn’t happen that often.
Cabin in the Woods as I mentioned earlier is focused on ritual sacrifice. The five kids need to be sacrificed to appease the Old God and stop him from rising and destroying the world. The humans who perform this sacrifice have fine tuned it to the extreme. They can control the environment of the killing ground, they can control the moods of their victims and they are able to see everything as it happens. I had a sick wish that I could have the job that the two main controller’s have (similar to my wish that I could control the Hunger Games… It’s the tech, I swear). But even with all this control, it’s interesting to look at the control that the victims have. As mentioned by one of the Controller’s the victims have to make the choice. They have to ignore the warning at the gas station, they need to select their artifact to choose their monster.
Which of course leads to the morbid game that the office workers play where they bet on which monster the kids will end up picking.
Where the film really shines is when Dana and Marty manage to enter the Office underneath the Cabin. The shot where they show the entire matrix of monsters is amazing. I personally loved the reference to Hellrazer with the circle puzzle and the razorblade-headed dude. Even his name was fantastic Fornicus, Lord of Bondage and Pain. The film from this point takes on that of a blood bath, but it doesn’t really faze you. Instead the joy from these scenes is the ability to recognize all the different horror icons and the films that Cabin is referencing. Hell, they even reference Supernatural!
Among the various possible monsters on the control room white board, one of them is just listed as “Kevin.” Although Kevin is never seen, in the tie-in book The Cabin in the Woods: The Official Visual Companion co-writer Drew Goddard said that Kevin was meant to be “a sweet-looking guy who seemed like he might work at Best Buy–until he dismembers people.”
– IMDB Trivia
Cabin in the Woods ends in a way that you don’t see often, the two characters choose not to save the world by killing themselves, instead they let the world burn while they share a joint. The last shot of the film is the hand of the God bursting through the ground to rain destruction down on the world. Not many films end with the world ending, and even few end with the protagonists choosing to end it. Marty or Dana, I can’t remember which, exclaims during the final showdown that “If this is the what needs to be done to keep humanity alive then maybe it’s time we give someone else a chance.”
All in all, what everyone thought was going to be a regular slasher film with a few quirks turns out to be something a lot deeper with a lot more going on. I loved Cabin in the Woods it was a breath of fresh air in a stale period of cinema. So if you haven’t seen it, even though the movie has been significantly spoiled… still go see it. It’s worth it, I swear.
If you want to see the list of all the creature references in the Cabin in the Woods click here.