We're talking about Joss Whedon. He was once the King of all Geeks. The name was used when it came to blockbuster genre films. The creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly, and the director of The Avenger have fallen from grace due to accusations of inappropriate, abusive behavior from actors. It's not easy to forget the fact and embrace the fiction when you're sitting down to watch any of Whedon's work. It is even murkier in the case of The Cabin in the Woods. The whole film is a deconstruction of sexist, offensive, outdated tropes, so their inclusion in this specific film makes sense, even if they aren't exactly ok. They are wiped off the face of the Earth at the end. There is a lot of baggage to unpack. Let's get to it.
The Cabin in the Woods was directed by Drew Goddard and co-written by Whedon. It follows a group of college students who go on a vacation to the location of their choice, only to find out they're not there. If you haven't seen The Cabin in the Woods, you should click away. If you haven't been spoiled already, now is as good a time as any.
The Cabin in the Woods is filled with huge secrets and you don't know what to expect when you watch for the first time in a few years. It seems odd that there is a short credit section with a bunch of god-like hieroglyphics. Two office workers are starting their day, played by Richard and Bradley, and followed by that. The Cabin in the Woods has more to it than just kids dying in the woods, which makes it obvious that it fits in with traditional horror expectations. The curtain is pulled back every time, until it is revealed that the five students are to be sacrificed by a supernatural being in order to appease ancient gods. If these gods are not paid tribute in a specific way, they will get angry and destroy it.
Isn't it one of the most intriguing ideas ever? On the surface, it looks like a horror movie scenario with kids being murdered by zombies. There is a group of normal people who kill strangers in order to save the world. Saving the world is usually heroic. It's disturbing here. The workers are seen as villains by The Cabin in the Woods. Since the audience is following the victims, we are stuck in the middle. It is a fascinating flip on the idea of heroism.
This sacrifice scenario plays out all over the world. Everyone else has failed as the film begins. If the U.S. kills these kids, the world will end. The stakes were simply too high. If you didn't understand how the movie was a deconstruction of modern cinematic tropes, the workers downstairs led by Jenkins and Whitford became the writer and director of a film. They use all manner of tricks to guide their characters to their dooms. They are the maestros of chaos. It all goes terribly wrong.
If The Cabin in the Woods was just a movie about corporate puppeteers killing kids, it would be a good one. One of the most memorable third acts of the era was when the final two survivors (Connolly and Kranz) found their way down into the nerve center of the operation. They unleash every monster, spirit, creature, etc. at the cabin in order to proceed. The result is a batshit crazy symphony of death, with dozens of creatures all killing the downstairs employees in increasingly hilarious, disgusting ways. The Director (Sigourney Weaver in a surprise cameo) tells Dana and Marty that if they don't die, the world will die. They decided on the latter.
There are so many things I love about The Cabin in the Woods, all of which are the same as they were 10 years ago. It is an exciting, propulsive movie. It doesn't take any punches. The more you think about it, the more interesting it becomes. Beyond just a cool horror film, it's a meta-dissection of the genre, filmmaking in general, and society as a whole. There is more going on below the surface in the film and in reality.
Which brings us back to the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Watching The Cabin in the Woods, which features young people walking around in their underwear and taking their clothes off, makes an audience member aware of the actions of the director. It does fit and drive the narrative in The Cabin in the Woods, even if the answer is no. The Cabin in the Woods is a horror film that is very similar to the horror films of the 1980s, which prioritized sex in a very overt, now-dated way. To call attention to the genre is what it chooses to do. Sex is needed to appease the gods according to the story. There is a scene of dozens of men staring and waiting for Hutchison's character to take her top off, which is excessive and not funny, but again, it is on. The world needs to be done.
After all that, The Cabin in the Woods has the guts to destroy everything and everyone on Earth just puts the whole thing over the top. The world where lewd, crude things are acceptable is gone. The characters say it's time for humanity to end and someone else to get a chance. In 2012 it seemed like it was kind of weird. It rings truer now that we have suffered since the decade began. Our world may be beyond saving. Two teenagers smoking a joint in The Cabin in the Woods.
The Cabin in the Woods did well at the box office, grossing double its budget. Not bad, but not good enough for a sequel. There were other stories that could have been told if it had been a hit. There are other victims. There are concurrent stories in different countries. The gods are being unleashed. All of these stories could have been told. They are all unnecessary. Audiences always say they want but rarely appreciate what The Cabin in the Woods did. It was original, exciting, and had an edge. Even with that one dark mark, this one is as sharp as ever.
The Cabin in the Woods can be rented or purchased on most digital services.
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