Cabin in the Woods is a multi-layered masterful look at the sorry state of modern horror. It deftly satirizes the short-comings of horror movie cliches while carefully avoiding spoof territory.
Cabin in the Woods is the brainchild of Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard who successfully prove in 90 minutes that most modern horror films are the product of laziness. Audiences are getting stories. They’re getting templates.
But before I get into spoiler territory, you should know that the less you know about the film, the better. It’s not just a send up of horror films, it’s a legitimate film itself. In fact, if I had not seen the trailer, I think I would have loved the ending even more than I do now.
To be fair, the movie has to sacrifice a few elements of a good film to accomplish what it wants to accomplish. For example, a lot of the story’s mystery is sacrificed early. It has to be done to really enjoy the satire. However, that also means the ending isn’t exactly a surprise. (Though I should mention it IS awesome.)
The character development and story arcs are shallow, and they HAVE to be that way. It’s part of the joke.
The film is exactly what it needs to be. But what makes it really great is that if they had stripped the humor out and restructured the story, it could have been a great horror film on its own. I’m glad they didn’t because it’s near perfect.
If you need to have Cabin in the Woods compared to a film, I’d say The Truman Show is most accurate.
The film follows the exploits of a group of college kids who head to a cabin in the woods for a weekend of fun and relaxation. Very early you figure out that they are pawns for a mysterious group of scientist-types who are trying to orchestrate something specific.
It’s a great vehicle for taking aim at horror films. There are several levels of detail that demand multiple viewings. On the surface you get broad humor, like the scene where a couple is drugged so that they’ll have sex in the woods so they can be slaughtered.
But there are also tiny details, too. For example, the athletic guy always seems to have a football nearby early on.
Cabin also works on a more literary level.
The secret organization exists to prevent the end of the world. The youngsters are being sacrificed to appease the elder gods. What the movie is really saying is that the audience is the elder gods. We’re being fed the same movie again and again, and as long as we are we’re content to exist in an unchallenged stupor of mediocrity. If the template is changed, we might just wake up and realize how bad modern horror is. That would certainly spell destruction for the guys pulling the strings.
Cabin in the Woods is great fun, and unlike other films, the deeper you dig the more interesting it gets.