Laughing Amid Buckets of Blood: Cabin in the Woods

I just got home from watching a wonderful little movie called The Cabin in the Woods. Seeing as it was written by the illustrious (my word, no one else’s) Joss Whedon, I knew that I was in for something surprising and likely refreshing, and that’s exactly what I got, plus a whole lot more. As always, tread carefully, as here be spoilers. Come back and read this AFTER you’ve seen the movie. Seriously, go. Now.

It’s been out for a while, I know, I’m a little behind on the review here, but bear with me. Cabin in the Woods was a delightful twisting of the horror genre in the vein of the Scream franchise (which I love dearly). I jumped, I grimaced, I gasped, but most importantly, I laughed.

Cabin in the Woods is hysterical. And I don’t just mean the goofy quips by the token stoner character (though he does admittedly have some gems), but rather I mean the absolute audacity with which it takes the horror genre and flips it on its head. It doesn’t try to be subtle in its subterfuge, and that’s weirdly refreshing. In reference to the film, Joss Whedon said this:

On another level it’s a serious critique of what we love and what we don’t about horror movies. I love being scared. I love that mixture of thrill, of horror, that objectification/identification thing of wanting definitely for the people to be alright but at the same time hoping they’ll go somewhere dark and face something awful. The things that I don’t like are kids acting like idiots, the devolution of the horror movie into torture porn and into a long series of sadistic comeuppances. – from an interview with Total Film

Whedon hits on some of the most important issues with the horror industry today. Too often the kids in slasher movies are frankly… morons. And maybe that’s part of the draw for some people, being able to tell yourself, “Oh I wouldn’t be that dumb in that situation.” For me, moronic characters make for moronic and gratuitous death scenes that don’t actually mean anything.

I actually liked all five victims in Cabin in the Woods. They were actual, you know, characters. Yeah, they each fit the stereotypes of “whore,” “athlete,” “fool,” “intellect,” and “virgin,” but right off the bat you know that they aren’t your typical five-some taking a weekend road trip likely to end in disaster. They have a certain awareness of their surroundings that finally answers the question: What if actually intelligent people were put in a horror movie situation? Well, they’d still die, but only because there is some higher power fucking with them. I rooted for and hoped for the deaths of every single one of them.

Cabin in the Woods isn’t just a horror movie. It’s a horror movie, within a movie, with a purpose. And for me, that purpose was the epitome of subversive nihilism. In other words, Cabin in the Woods reminded me that life is fucking funny, and also completely meaningless. In a good way.

Likely that made no sense at all, but keep reading anyway.

The larger corporate-like body subjecting these college kids to torture and death is doing so to keep the presumably Lovecraftian-esque Ancients from rising again and annihilating the world. And you know what’s great? THEY FAIL. Everyone dies! The world gets annihilated! I was literally bouncing up and down in my seat, I was so excited. I know it sounds awful, but I really was thankful that finally EVERYONE died.

What really struck me was how Cabin in the Woods was able to tip its hat to horror movies that came before it while bending (but not entirely breaking) the rules governing its genre. I saw gruesome creatures (like the merman), countless zombies, and awesome homages to horror classics (particularly the great Pinhead reference in the man with the puzzle box and blades sticking out of his face). Not to mention the use of Sigourney Weaver as the Director of the operation. I felt like my love of horror film was being recognized and awarded through these homages.

The Stoner and the Virgin are able to subvert the corporate authority by questioning the reality of their situation. Instead of saving the world, as they probably should in the end, they sit and smoke a joint together instead. Moral of the story?

Doubt your reality.

Fuck tha police.

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