The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

The Cabin in the Woods (2012) – Why do we like horror movies? [By “we” I mean those of us who like horror movies. The rest of you highbrow jerks and scaredy-cats go read some other movie review.] Anyway to repeat the question, why do we like horror movies? My short answer: they’re fucking fun. Duh. A more analytical approach might be that they allow us to confront fear in a controlled environment. (Also, they’re good for dates. Seriously.) Maybe watching the horrific unfold onscreen helps a viewer to achieve some kind of catharsis. I don’t know. Other smarter people have probably analyzed much more thoroughly. I’m just pontificating, as it seems somewhat relevant. Some films like Wes Craven’s New Nightmare or John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness, however, have posited that horror channels something deeper and darker than we realize. The Cabin in the Woods is the new horror film (opening on Friday the 13th… ooooooooo…) from director Drew Goddard, who was previously the writer of Cloverfield as well as a writer for the television shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Lost. He co-wrote the script with his old Buffy/Angel boss Joss Whedon, who also produced the film.

Okay so here comes the plot summary paragraph. I’m going to try to be somewhat vague (the trailers already give away too much). The film starts with two actors I didn’t even realize from the advertisements were even in the movie, Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins (also Amy Acker). They spend the scene mostly talking about random small talk stuff and their office’s rivalry with the Japan office. Then the title is on screen very suddenly despite the lack thus far of a cabin or woods. The main characters are introduced. There’s sensible Dana (Kristen Connolly), more “vivacious” (polite euphemism for “slutty”) Jules (Anna Hutchison), alpha jock Curt (Chris Hemsworth), sensitive brainy jock Holden (Jesse Williams), and paranoid stoner Marty (Fran Kranz). They go to a cabin in the woods (duh). The clichés are all there: creepy weirdo (Tim De Zarn) tries to warn them off, basement full of bizarre relics, raunchy game of truth or dare, sex in the woods at night. Marty starts asking questions, though. Like “why are we suddenly acting like total clichés? What’s going on?” The answer is a lot.

The Cabin in the Woods is not all that scary. In fact, there were a couple of jumps but overall it wasn’t that scary at all unless you have a thing about blood. [Or spiders (fuckin’ spiders) but that’s only one scene.] It is, however, fucking awesome if you are a fan of the genre. Really Whedon and Goddard have come up with a somewhat meta deconstruction of the genre that pays homage to horror. There’s thematic influences of H.P. Lovecraft, as well as pretty blatant nods to the Hellraiser series and J-horror. I don’t know how much the average horror fan is looking for an homage-laden deconstruction. I know when I first heard about this movie I thought it sounded like a rip-off of The Evil Dead (and indeed the whole “cabin in the woods with something bad in the basement” premise is likely a reference to that film) but there is a lot more going on here than rip-off. I know the trailers don’t look like the most original flick ever (I mostly went to see it out of a desire to see a horror flick on Friday the 13th) but if you like horror movies you should see this one.

I don’t normally do this but now I’m going to include a spoiler-heavy paragraph. Just highlight it to read, but really don’t until you’ve seen the movie. Okay, so I assume at this point you’ve seen the movie. If not, scram you impatient bastard! Some things are best revealed in the moment. I really like the way that the Lovecraftian “Ancient Ones” whose need for blood sacrifice drives the premise of the movie are the stand-ins for us the audience. They need to see things play out with the tropes of the genre. It’s a weird phenomenon in horror flicks. The well-done ones have you rooting for the characters to make it, but there’s that savage part of you that wants to see them ripped apart (the latter part being what makes you see these kinds of movies in the first place). Maybe there’s something fucked up about that. I don’t think so, but who knows? I mostly just like that a popcorn horror flick made me think about shit like that.

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