Saturday, 21 April 2012

15/04/2012: The Cabin in the Woods [2012]

I wrote this review just after coming back from seeing it in the theatre. I have since seen it a second time in theatre and anxiously await the DVD release. At that time I claimed: “It is the most defining milestone in the horror genre in easily the last I don't know how many years, refreshingly original and yet a true homage to all the horror movies we already love.” In case you were wondering several months later, I still stand by that claim.

So clearly The Cabin in the Woods had gotten me very excited, although I was not entirely certain it would when I went out to see it. Like many I'm sure, I feared that after seeing the trailer, the movies greatest twist and feature had been revealed. The idea that someone was controlling and watching what happened in the cabin in the woods. However, let me promise you that you won't see anything coming, what I thought to be the biggest plot element is already revealed with the opening scene, and yet TCITW is still a twisting maze of mysteries.

Now, I am a big Joss Whedon fan and while I didn't know Drew Goddards name until I looked him up for this, I am certainly a fan of his work as well. So let me say this, thank you both for fighting off the usual studio bullshit of trying to make this movie into 3D, luckily you won that fight.

Second, this movie will be enjoyable for anyone, but horror fans I think will absolutely love it. I read an interesting review that said that the horror genre is dead, that these days we know all the tricks and secrets, and that they just don't scare us anymore. While this is arguable, the review states that it is because the scares are so unobtainable that people will continue to try and make horror movies. But if (I'm paraphrasing here) the horror ritual is so well known; its every detail understood, how do you create something new, and fresh, yet authentic and true? You go with it and unveil the ritual.

These are the five ritual sacrifices: The Whore, The Jock, The Fool, The Nerd, and The Virgin
 Anyone who watches horror movies can easily recognize the formulas that are so easily applied to today's horror movies. The Cabin in the Woods accepts this and runs with it, and while doing so it gives those of us horror fans tons of goodies and references to go with it. Clearly one of the biggest influences is The Evil Dead, one of my personal favourites. The cabin in the woods is itself the biggest reference (it even looks the same), along with many other fun references including the word "deadites" appearing somewhere. Along with the obvious influences of The Evil Dead, is a Hellraiser reference, something sure to please Alien fans, as well as a poke at Japanese horror films. All that is just scratching the surface and also if anyone can tell me what the Harbinger's phone call was a reference to please tell me, it's killing me.

Another great horror film tribute is the title card. A simple big red block letters title slapped in place. No big CGI opening credits a la Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It's the simple things that please me. A few other conventional formulas included are of course the characters. As I captioned the above picture we have the standard five required players, others are welcome but not necessary as the movie itself lays out. Knowing the rules we also know who will either be the last one alive or the sole survivor, The Virgin of course. It is how The Cabin in the Woods, lays out the standard ritual and rule set that it both does as Scream did in 1996 and yet is still completely and utterly original.

and these are the guys that run the show, make the rules and allow you to play the game.
Spoilers ahead, but if you've seen the trailer, and think you've already deduced most of it, trust me even with these small spoilers, you still won't know it all.

The way The Cabin in the Woods lays out its rules is through the guys above. A whole production team, lead by those two guys runs the game, almost like they are directing a free-form horror movie. While they advertise free choice, and give the participants the opportunity to save themselves, they orchestrate and rig the game as they see fit, like an Indian Casino. The Cabin in the Woods, like Scream, shows us how to make a horror movie.

Spoilers Ended.

It is also through those desk jockeys that The Cabin in the Woods introduces its humourous element, and in fact garners quite a few laughs from the audience. The Cabin in the Woods is not meant to be a dark and horribly terrifying scaring (that's scar-ing not scare-ing), although it may scare some with a jump or two it won't terrify you. It leans slightly towards a horror comedy, but in a very Evil Dead kind of way.

As always horror movies mix in sex with the blood and scares. What's sexier than a blonde and a wolf making out?
So it is clear I could and would like to go on about this movie for hours. Unfortunately I don't know too many horror fans that would truly appreciate it. So if you have seen it or want to I will happily discuss it with anyone. However, do not think you have to be a die hard horror fan to enjoy this movie, I think anyone would, but it is only if you know and understand the ritual that you can truly appreciate its unveiling.

The Cabin in the Woods, I personally think is the defining horror movie of the last decade. It is a game changer, both honouring those before it and raising the bar very high for all those after it. I have already seen it twice and even knowing what's going to happen I'm sure there is tons more easter eggs for me to discover in the woods, I'm only disappointed this movie wasn't released sooner, having sat on a shelf since 2009. In any case the tagline says it all.

The Cabin in the Woods IMDb
That review I mentioned with interesting ideas


  1. Nice review!! I'm glad Joss fought for 2D as well. I also enjoyed the simple title. There are some intros I enjoy, though, like Rob Zombie's House of 1000 Corpses" and "The Devil's Rejects". I guess the rule is if you're not Rob, don't make long intros! Haha!

    1. Oh yes, I have no problem with them, either and they can be quite amazing in themselves. I just thought it was another great 80's horror movie touch.