Apr 29, 2012

The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

This review contains spoilers.

Typical of the work of Buffy's Joss Whedon, The Cabin in the Woods exhibits a slick flair for genre subverison and manages such with no shortage of pop culture aplomb. No doubt you are aware of the horror movie conventions that constantly strain the credibility of even the most dimwitted of slasher sequels in which teenagers are offed with relative ease: promiscuity ensures death, virginity repels it, and characters who'd likely survive in a group are all but guaranteed to split up like idiots when push comes to shove.

Turns out there's a reason for these ridiculous archetypes: ancient gods, residing deep within the earth, who require a yearly sacrifice -- one ensured by a Big Brother-like organization that ensnares the unwitting for a game of almost certain death (in an amusing touch, global branches of the program function through their respective horror movie trademarks). The agents who control the tightly regimented game (which doubles as a high-stakes reality TV program for the desensitized employees) have access to the monsters and spirits taken for granted by the rest of the world as fiction, as well as the means of manipulating even the most subtle elements of their doomed participants' environments.

At its best, this witty scenario suggests a Haneke-like (or Haneke-light) commentary on audience implication; in the film's reality, these literal snuff films are a required exercise lest nothing less than the end of the world come about. Pity that the film partakes in contrivances as egregious as the conventions it aims to deconstruct; the resulting double standard corrupts the initial appeal of the concept, and reveals The Cabin in the Woods as pretentiously self-serving lip service that assumes hateful mockery of the material it relies upon justifies its own one-note pandering. I'd like to forgive the have-its-cake-and-eat-it-too, excessively ironic self-awareness, but it's hard to overlook the transition from smart to smart-assed and the dispensation of credibility for a weightlessly nihilistic punchline. And that's including the always pleasant presence of Richard Jenkins. Bummer.


  1. Anonymous12:05 PM

    the fact that you did not like Trick 'r Treat means we have nothing to discuss sir lol

  2. The fact that Trick 'r Treat is your yardstick of choice means that I couldn't care less.

  3. Anonymous12:21 AM

    Don't really see whats so weightless about the ending. Just because you disagree with the idea of it doesn't take away from it. Joss Whedon's Atheism pokes though and really, how should it have ended?

    1. Anonymous6:36 PM

      With the stoner kid shooting the girl and we find out he's been the virgin all along!

  4. I'm all for apocalyptic scenarios, Anonymous9:21PM, but not when it smacks of a poser (yes, I'm calling Whedon just that) who can't properly flesh out his thesis. By the time Signourney Weaver collects a paycheck and doesn't shoot "the fool" dead on the spot, "Cabin in the Woods" became everything it was railing against. At least, more transparently so.

  5. Anonymous5:55 AM

    It would have been a lot more clever for them to have S. Weaver's character shoot and kill the fool on sight, as rob humanick suggests...and then find out that he was actually the virgin, and the girl was not. Then the end would have been fun and more in line with the rest of the movie.

  6. Anonymous11:40 AM

    You should get off your high horse. Just bc you're well spoken doesn't make you right or your opinion valid, and while I understood everything you said it just makes you sound condescending and pretentious. You're not a critic for the Harvard times dude and your critical thesis for Cabin in the Woods from the "projection booth" isn't going to win you a Pulitzer. In short. It's ok man haha. Relax a little.

  7. Antony11:42 PM

    My Gods, way to spoil a movie! Good thing I watched it before reading your review (which I totally disagree with by the way, but to each his own).

    Also, Bs for The Ruins and two Final Destination films but The Cabin In The Woods gets a C? Wow. Really?

    1. Anonymous5:24 PM

      er read the top of the page:

      This review contains spoilers.


  8. Your grade on "Drag Me to Hell" it is indeed where I would place said movie. I would have to disagree with this review of cabin in the woods. My reasons include:
    This movie has a few creative twists, involving monsters/ archetypes that span across cultures and movies, and brings them together for a fantastic story. The archetypal characters we are all familiar with, brings us a sense of familiarity, and are key to story telling. This familiarity brings me to my next point.
    The majority (if not all) of us slasher film fans, take absolute pride in knowing the preconceived formula of horror movies; this movie had us as the target audience.
    We took glee in finding out why these typical characters behaved in the way they did. This movie gave better explanations than, "Oh, those kids are just stupid."
    And the whole cabin in the woods cliche, surely not pioneered, but made recognizable by "Evil Dead" brought back nostalgia. Hell, it gives one a whole new way to look at the cult classic. The cabin, the cellar door opening, finding something in the basement, reading it/ invoking the evil, and watching the archetypes suffering the consequences. All, obviously intentionally parallel, but it gives the movie another dimension to look at.
    Enjoyable (if in someways foreseeable twists) and bringing in other movie characters/ plots makes this movie multi-dimensional, and gives one something to think about. I know I will be referencing/ incorporating this movie any time I see 4-5 kids getting killed on the big screen.
    Things like this, I suppose, I truly enjoy. Finding movies that I can connect the dots, and apply to other aspects of my life.
    Your opinion is obviously your own, and you have good reasons for it. I just suggest trying to take in the whole picture.

    I loved Drag Me to Hell, I am a huge Sam Raimi fan. But that movie was the definition of predictable (if in a pleasant way)

    This movie (C.I.T.W) had twists (I know my considerations account for little, but I consider myself an expert on the horror movie formula) And expanded beyond the typical horror movie universe. I give it an A-. Not that it counts for anything.

  9. i dont think it was just nihilism for the sake of it, but part of the statement on horror itself. if these films (comics, books, poems, hesitant to say horror since as a genre it is fairly young)didnt exist, the titan within us could very well break free.

    also, trick r treat and this film are very similar. the fact that you didnt like either those but overall do enjoy the genre implies you dont expect much from film as a medium other than passive entertainment.

  10. @Antony: Wow, way to not read the first four words I typed. And yes, really. I'm not even shocked that there are people as unimaginative as you.

    @doctor.Gorror: I'm continuously dumbfounded that anyone, let alone a horror buff, could respect Trick R Treat, but I digress. You'll find evidence to my near-religious devotation to the horror genre here, here, and here, for starters.

    That you seem to take film seriously but can't wrap your head around the fact that one person's complex art or entertainment commentary (say, a four star review of Cabin in the Woods) might be another's spoonfed, obvious hogwash, illustrates a mental deficiency I won't define further so as not to be completely outright insulting. A glance at the effort I've put into this blog over the years, not to mention a handful of my favorite titles, would've seriously altered your uninformed opinion.

    @Jake Waclawski: Your opinion absolutely counts for something -- don't worry, and don't be self effacing. Just be open to new experiences, as your interest in film now can only be enriched by your interest in all film. Had I seen it even five years ago, I might've enjoyed CitW much more, and the same can be said for the newly released Prometheus. Both espouse grand ideas but fail to deliver on their potential, to me. I left both feeling empty, precisely because I look to film as more than passive entertainment -- but this is not to argue that those who didn't, don't.

  11. Anonymous4:08 PM

    Cabin In The Woods started with much promise but turned sadistic and cynical. I grew weary (and guilty) witnessing the indifference and/ or enthusiasm of the organization of manipulators. I prefer the spirited balance of horror and comedy displayed in such films as Return of The Living Dead, which breaks up the tension with welcomed, giddy humor. Even with a less than happy ending, it at least bears a resemblance to paranoid reality. Cabin In The Woods' conclusion seems abrupt, like a child's attention span after a couple of hours with a new toy.