A Unique Horror in The Woods
In 2012 Joss Whedon and Drew Gooden brought a unique horror rendering to the screen with The Cabin in the Woods. This was a bold undertaking given the previous campy backwoods horror flicks that had been in some way overdone. And they pulled it off.
A Different Little Spin on Things
From the very beginning, it is evident that The Cabin in the Woods was not going to be your average campy camping horror despite the title. The story begins in an underground facility. Suits and white coats parlay displaying a thin veneer of lightheartedness spread uneasily over a serious undertone.
Immediately the vibe was one of caution. White coats in horror are never a good omen and, unfortunately, neither were they this time around, as views would soon find out.
This story uses five clueless teenagers as centerpieces, placing them in a layered story. The Cabin in the Woods follows a basic horror formula. An average group of teenage friends chooses a secluded cabin off the beaten path. As a result, they become little hares trapped in the fox’s snare.
Their first stop is a dilapidated gas station with the typical ornery crank as an attendant. Their encounter with Mordecai, played by Tim Dezarn, makes one wonder who created the model for which all other stories follow. Why are all deep wood towns so similar in nature?
A Small Change in Equation
The intent of this film is not what the viewer thinks it is. Thirteen minutes into the film Whedon throws viewers a clue, turning attention back to the larger story, which has a bit more complexity.
Superficially, The Cabin in the Woods is a tale of ill-fated youth where ignorance is bliss and monsters have a penchant for young blood. And on this level, this movie is savage. It tears apart the horror genre and the tropes that drive it. The commentary on the formulaic nature is almost satirical. There isn’t much turning from the plot, the typified cast of characters, or the overdone story arch.
However, the elements aren’t merely rehashing horror tropes. Instead, these tropes are used for a larger story, a story of ancient ones, appeasement, and ritual sacrifice. These teens are not just run-of-the-mill monster kibble. They are pawns in a bigger plan, being lured and trapped for something much darker and twistedly heroic.
The five are composed of your composite character roster: The jock, stoner, legendary virgin, bombshell (airhead), and the token black guy. As in other horror films, these characters have the same pursuits and follow the same line of thinking. In fact, they are so predictable they come off like puppets at the whim of a masterful Marionette.
The primary agenda of the monsters is, as it has always been, the satisfaction of blood lust. However, in this case, they are not self-acting. They are contained and released for a purpose. That purpose is hidden from the five. Inarguably one of the saddest parts of the movie is watching the suits standing around to guess which monsters would be chosen to unleash their reign of terror.
Different Isn’t Always Bad
The Cabin in the Woods turns horror into an intriguing examination, prodding viewers to think, what if…? Horror movies were a means to satisfy bloodlust and the entertainment of it all is the ultimate salvation of humanity. Think of The Truman Show (1998) meets The Evil Dead (2013).
Despite its almost preachiness in vaguely calling out horror films as vacuous and depthless, this movie is worth at least one watch. The storyline is different. The actors are impressive; some may even recognize their favorites, Chris Hemsworth, Jesse Williams, and Anna Hutchison. And for those who love all things horror, there are no shortages of references to other horror movies. Subtly, the film nods to many other iconic creature features such as The Evil Dead (1981), The Strangers (2008), Wolfman (2010), and Killer Klowns (1988). That alone puts The Cabin in the Woods in a lane all its own.
The Cabin in the Woods (2012) Official Lions Gate Trailer