You see, everything that happens in the film is a commentary on the formulaic and predictably exploitative nature of the genre, itself. Some derps in the audience will no doubt cross their arms while watching and say something along the lines of, “Oh yeah, but I knew what was going to happen. This archetype was supposed to die first and blah, blah, me am smart *fart noise*.”
Well surprise, surprise, Miss Cleo: It was supposed to happen. It was supposed to happen, because you knew it was supposed to happen. And (writer) Joss Whedon knew that you knew that it was supposed to happen.
That’s the joke.
Naturally, if you’re keen on this insight, then the movie becomes one big-ass exercise in self-awareness. The “controllers” of the experiment are in the most literal sense, two extremely regular dudes – punch clock villains. They wear white work shirts, black slacks, and spend the first two-thirds of the film discussing who’s going to die and why, in the most casual way possible. When something goes wrong, they ensure that the proper cliché is employed to turn things back around, all the while seeming extremely nonchalant about the whole thing. It is their job, after all.
Because of this, you’ll never see anothermovie the same way again. Every time a character hears a noise, and goes to investigate it, you’ll picture one of those “two guys” flipping a switch. Every time an alpha male character says, “Hey, let’s split up,” you can’t help but imagine two guys in a control center high-fiving each other. Reality TV? Yeah, forget about it. That’s ruined forever too. Enjoy.
So, you might be sitting there saying, “Oh, so it’s just The Truman Show mixed with Scream? Yes, most innovative. *scoff*”
“You mainstream peons and your funny little stabs at creation would make me laugh if my face weren’t fixed this way, so that I can only properly express askance.”
Well, if that’s the case, then great job, Nostra-fucking-Damus – you just learned to play “connect the dots.” Here, have a sticker with a smiley face on it. You deserve it, champ.
See, some might not realize this, because it’s tough to realize anything when your head is so far up your own ass, but in terms of storytelling, we haven’t really seen much that’s “innovative” – by those terms, at least – in the last 100 years. Narrative is a question of “how to arrange which old tropes to make something that hasn’t been done before.” Writing a story that’s essentially new and amazing from scratch? Impossible – everything comes from something, and that something is based on the types of adversity we run into in real life. At the end of the day, it’s a question of concept and execution.
And man, oh man, we’re looking at some execution a la mode here. We’re looking at an execution that changes our perception of the concept of execution. A meta-narrative that hits that proper middle between cerebral and accessible that’ll cause theatergoers and critics alike to dance naked together in union and peace.
But wait – you might be thinking to yourself, “Hang on, if this cabin is being controlled by ‘two dudes’ as you keep calling them, then how do we get any scares out of this horror movie? I paid to be scared, damn it! I like being frightened and uncomfortable – IT’S FUN FOR ME.”
Oh my GAWD. Enough hypothetical scenarios please.
Nonetheless, good point. Here’s the deal though: Cabin in the Woods wasn’t meant to be scary – it was meant to comment on the fact that horror movies in general aren’t really scary as they are indulgent. Just as you know what to expect in Cabin, you know what to expect in any film wherein two hot and heavy teens engage in the beast with two backs on the forest floor. That shit isn’t scary. It’s just obvious.
But – BUT at the same time, who’s to say that a concept like Cabin can’t be scary? Just because a death is controlled by two frumpy white guys doesn’t mean that it’s not unsettling. It’s just morbid in a different way. A detached, calculated, and voyeuristic way. Like, as if we were the ones forcing big wigs to kill off teens for our amusement.
HOLY CRAP, MORE ALLEGORICAL COMMENTARY. IT’S EVERYWHERE. GET USED TO IT. DANCE WITH ME!
The Verdict: [rating:4.5]
Alright, enough of this weird bullcrap. Let’s wrap this up. I can’t recommend this film enough. It establishes a rhythm of its own by deconstructing its own genre, subverts its own narrative, introduces unforeseen conflict and becomes an actual film again, subverts that, then goes on to satirize the usual tonally incongruent “big reveals” that pervade the endings many of the horror flicks that came before it.
The best part? This parodied “big reveal” (with celebrity cameo, no less) throws in an even heavier allegory to our own sick interests. If M.Night shama-whateverthehell saw this film, he’d shoot himself in the head.
It’s like having a boxing match with your own expectations. That is to say, if you know what to expect and when. However, that’s the one crucial thing that keeps this film short of five stars; it’s not really made for everyone. Some just might not get it. Still though, that’s fine. I’ve heard that people who hate books often just don’t know how to read. I suppose the same could be said about interpreting a “thinking man’s movie.”
Regardless, whether or not you’re a cinephile or weird fetishistic…meta…guy… well, it really doesn’t matter, you’ll be tickled pink with Cabin. If you love horror films, or better yet, if you hate them, then good God almighty, you’re about to have yourself one blast of a cinematic adventure. You’ll know exactly beat for beat why everything’s going down as it does, and that same sense of knowing is going to kick you in the teeth when you least expect it.
“Don’t hit my teeth.” You’ll say.
But Cabin doesn’t care. He’s one bad-mother and he knows what’s what. He’ll take your ass down a peg, and you’ll thank him for it. You’ll buy him dinner and hope he does it again too.
Anyway, long story short, go see Cabin. But don’t just see it; you must observe, Watson. Open up your eyes as wide as you can and soak it in with your entire being. You’ll become a better person by doing so. I promise. People will like you more and the opposite sex will find you to be irresistible.
The secret is to watch Cabin in the Woods.
Also, you’ll probably have a lot of fun too. I mean, you like fun, right? Only a Nazi wouldn’t like to have fun. You’re not a Nazi, are you? Haha, of course not.
Wait, are you?
[Editor’s note: Joss Whedon has a documented loathing for the horror genre, and thus, Cabin in the Woods, while it creatively takes potshots at the genre, also takes potshots at its fans. I will not pay to be chastised. – Evil]