Some thoughts on The Cabin in the Woods

Thar Be Spoilers Ahead.

(If there’s one movie you absolutely, positively do not want to spoil for yourself, it’s The Cabin in the Woods. Don’t even watch the trailers.)

I truly admire The Cabin in the Wood’s ambition. If there’s one trait I’d like to see more of in the world of cinema, it’s ambition. Too many movies fall short because they’re not brave enough to push the central concept of the movie past it’s benign roots.

However, the danger of being ambitious is that you can be overly ambitious. Swing hard for the fences and all you might end up with is a big woosh.

I wouldn’t call The Cabin in the Woods a failure by any means, but maybe it’s a foul tip (this metaphor is really at its breaking point.)

The main problem I have with this movie is its lack of tension. I love the movie is a meta commentary on the horror genre. I love the organization that sets up and controls environments to create cliched horror scenarios. But there’s really only two ways to present this idea.

Option 1. Start the movie off without any indication that there’s a top secret organization controlling the environment. Have the movie start off as a cliched, unoriginal horror movie and slowly reveal pull back the curtain on the secret organization.

The downfall to this option is that audiences wouldn’t want to stick around for something so cliched. (Or maybe they would, I’m just speculating.) Similarly, the advertising for this option would have to solely focus on the cliched horror parts. Any acknowledgement of the secret organization would ruin the surprise.

Option 2. This is what the filmmaker’s went with. Along with establishing the cliched horror scenario of college aged people going on vacation, you also establish the secret organization that sets up these scenarios.

As mentioned before, the downside to this option is it creates an environment without tension or suspense. By creating a universe in which a secret organization sets up scenarios to kill people, you know that these characters are going to die.

The only part of the movie that had any sort of suspense was the ending in which the characters have to decide whether to sacrifice themselves or the entire world.

The Cabin in the Woods is a really fun, satirical, biting critique of the state of horror movies, but the movie itself functions more as a term paper than a movie. Perhaps a third option to frame the movie would have been to focus solely on the shadow organization. It’s hard (and somewhat pointless) to armchair quarterback what movies should have been.

I’m extraordinarily glad this movie exists. The state of horror movies is fairly abysmal. The cycle of art tends to be a genre, or method, or medium rises to popularity. Then it becomes complacent with itself. Then either it dies out or, like the filmmakers of Cabin in the Woods, people make satirical deconstructions of the genre. It’s at about this point in time when the genre should start making a resurgence.

We’ve seen this happen before. Halloween was the genesis for an entire decade of slashers. By the 90s the genre was worn out. Then Scream came along and revitalized horror movies. Slashers didn’t re-emerge as a dominate horror sub genre, but it did pave the way for horror movies in general to thrive again.

What do you think? Like the movie? Dislike it? Comment below!

Harrison

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