I knew that The Cabin in the Woods was going to be different. I knew it would be a satirical exploitation of the horror genre. I knew that the victims in this movie were going to be put in an environment that was controlled by an underground government agency that observed how they reactions to horrific situations. I even knew it was going to be quite a bit of humor despite all the above facts. However, I was totally surprised. It isn’t so much the twists and the turns, as it is the delivery and the dry humor we experience from this film. Writers Joss wheden, (the, almost literal, king of geekdom) and Drew Goddard certainly knew the genre they had set about to challenge. The references to countless horror movies and genre cliches makes this the Shrekof slasher films.
The audience follow the story of five young people as they prepare, and embark on, a weekend getaway to a cabin in the woods. The scenes used to introduce these characters are the most dull part of the movie, and yet it was necessary. I say dull, though the above mentioned scenes lasted only a few minutes; just long enough for us to realize that these five aren’t unique characters. They’re every victim we’ve ever seen on screen. The flirtatious and stupid girl, the “scholar”, the idiot stoner, the good girl, and the testosterone filled jock. It is possibly the most generic introduction to these characters that could have been conceived, which is precisely the intention. Had it not been for the first five minutes of the film, which was unlike any thing I’ve ever seen in this a horror movie, I would have had pretty grim hopes for the remainder of the film. But Drew Goddard (Director of the movie, as well as writer) knows his material, and he’s letting the audience in on the joke. We know these kids are heading for almost certain death, we don’t exactly know what’s going to get them, but it’s probably going to be pretty scary, at least in the traditional “Boo! I scared you” sense.
To a certain extent, all the choices in this film are made by the individual character. The agency controls various aspects, but ultimately allow the characters to choose their fate. The movie explores the idiotic choices that are made all too often in scary movies. It points out the glaring holes in common sense that us, as viewers, have accepted for far too long. “Why would you split up?!” “Don’t go in there!” “Just turn around!” I find myself speaking to the utterly incompetent characters being displayed before me. This film answers these question using a dark humor that fits perfectly with the overarching storyline. Cabin in the Woods is many, many things, perhaps most of all it is a lens over through which one should watch all horror movies through, at least the bad ones.
As humorous, and simultaneously, violent, as the movie is, it touches on quite a few different subjects. Namely, in my opinion, that of complacency. Whedon and Goddard practically lecture us on how we’ve become complacent as an audience. We accept things, we consider horror to be the acts of violence. Dismembered bodies? We’ve seen it before, it isn’t scary, it’s latex and red corn syrup. There are few horror movies that truly scare me when I watch them. What frightens me the most is not the violence or the gore, it’s the ideas and the build up behind them. It’s not the killing, it’s the chase and the reasoning behind the mayhem. Perhaps the greatest horror movie of all time is John Carpenter’s The Thing. An Alien flick that uses every element to move the terror from the screen into the minds of the viewers. Slow build ups, isolated locales, friends rightfully unable to trust each other, truly terrifying revelations as to what the threat actually is, as well as very unsettling visuals. The Cabin in The Woodssucceeds on the visuals, but it knows that’s about where most modern horror films stop. Whedon described this film as a “Loving hate letter to horror movies” and he certainly succeeded in that definition. The film is a horror movie that uses every cliché in the book to make something truly unique.
The way that this movie is able to mash together genres is absolutely astounding. For those familiar with Whedon’s work in the past, you’ll have a glimmer of an idea of what to expect. For those that have never experienced any of his work (though I hope there are no such people) you have no idea what this film has in store. There has, and perhaps always will be a fine line between horror and comedy. Some of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen have been intended as horror movies (Trolls 2, for example). Cabin in the Woodssees the line between humor and horror and obliterates it, making fun of the genre, as well as the audience having accepted such mindless drivel for so long.