60 Second Movie Review: The Cabin in the Woods (2011)
May 4, 2012 10 Comments
I’m not a fan of horror films, in large part because I get grossed out by gore. I remember seeing Poltergeist while staying with cousins of mine in California back when I was 12. It was in their living room, late at night, and I was alone. So, yeah, I didn’t sleep well that night. Flash forward a few decades and I’m writing that if you just see one Joss Whedon-written, well-paced, engaging, and inventive horror film this weekend, I recommend that you see The Cabin in the Woods. But if you are scared to go into the woods of possible spoilers, turn back now! This is a review that should probably just be read by those who have seen the film. You have been warned…
So, for the rest of you — just how much fun was that? It gets harder and harder to be creative with genre films. The basic choice is between trying to do the formula better than it’s been done before, or doing a version that spins it all around and self-consciously plays with the form. The Cabin in the Woods does both, as Whedon does a lot of what he does best. He gives us quirky, compelling characters who live in a world which communicates almost exclusively through banter, and then he puts them into motion by combining the staples of horror film with the what’s-going-on-in-this-world metaphysical questions of science fiction.
The sci-fi guys are contemporary but feel like they could be from multiple eras, from the 50s to the present, while the five young ones fit stereotypes that could be from the 70s to today. Many generations have shared the gift that is the stoner character. Much of that is the point of The Cabin in the Woods, as when Jules makes out with the big bad (dead and stuffed) wolf, it’s like blowing a kiss to the wolves of Grimms’ Fairy Tales.
I don’t enjoy simply waiting to be scared, which is why I appreciated that the film constantly kept us guessing, not in the traditional manner of who-will-get-killed-next-and-why (although it did plenty of that) but with questions such as “What is Bradley Whitford doing in this film and what is his character’s job?”
I had fun guessing and got some of it right, like thinking it was too soon to have the stoner killed off that first time because he was serving as a major stand-in for the audience, and knowing that the puppeteers were going to have to face their own monsters, as we the people would stand for no less.
I also got some wrong. I certainly didn’t think it would end with the destruction of the world, but really, by that time I didn’t care about having a clever conclusion, as the ride had already provided enough twists and turns. If we wanted to poke holes in the plot, it wouldn’t be difficult — why the hell would such a top secret operation use interns, let alone allowing interns to bet on the method of the mayhem? — but that seems besides the point, as the film was a play on films which acknowledged that it’s a film.
Sometimes, the only answer to an unjust world is to refuse to play along, which is another reason I was okay with the ending. The Director’s speech was a little unfair to Dana — after repeated lessons that Dana shouldn’t trust anything these people say, suddenly she’s supposed to know that this particular story about gods and virgin (or virgin substitute) sacrifices is the gospel truth? We know it’s the truth, of course, because A) it’s Sigourney Weaver and B) we’ve seen it all. We’re the voyeurs, the ones who watch with glee as everyone gets devoured by a smorgasbord of monsters, and unlike Holden, we’re not about to turn away when someone like Jules shows us her boobies.
As for the moral questions the movie raised, I’m a fan of any work of art that provides both entertainment and ethical quandaries. One of the implicit critiques of The Cabin in the Woods is that Hollywood consists of puppeteers arranging horrors for the pleasure of the bloodthirsty old gods — that is, the ticket-buying public. We demand sacrifice!
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CineSnark: Trust me, go see Cabin the Woods, or, Why we need Joss Whedon
the m0vie blog: Does Cabin in the Woods Out- “Hunger Games” The Hunger Games?
Confused Gender: Meta-Slash-Feminist Filmmaking : Cabin in the Woods has Lots of Gore, Boobs and Even More Intelligence