Still haven't re-watched BURIED, so here's THE CABIN IN THE WOODS.
Another movie about kids at a secluded cabin in the woods, called THE CABIN IN THE WOODS? Between this, the EVIL DEADs, and a few others, I seem to like the old, abandoned cabin genre of horror. This one, much like CABIN FEVER, however, takes the genre and flips it on its head. This time around by taking all those slasher movies and dissecting it, self-referencing it, and all around displaying its nuts and bolts for all to see.
It seems all slasher films have the same stock characters. There’s the nerd, the jock, the slut, the hero, the final girl. They all play their roles to the letter and get killed off in ways you’d usually expect. Well at the beginning of THE CABIN IN THE WOODS you don’t have those familiar stock characters. Each of them seem to be their own character, if not containing a little bit of each stock character. Oh, woops, forgot the important part, the two guys at the center of everything, Sitterson and Hadley.
These are the two characters that make everything possible. They’re the two guys at the control board. Consider them the writers of the slasher film. They provide the atmosphere, the scares, the evil creature, and just about everything that makes a slasher film a slasher film. See, in the world of THE CABIN IN THE WOODS, we’re shown behind the curtain, where we find out why slasher films are the way they are. Apparently there are old gods we must make happy through a ritual. That ritual is sacrifice, of course. Whether it be a cabin in the woods, a Japanese ghost, or an all-out hell opening catastrophe, there must be a sacrifice done in a particular way to please the old gods. If the ritual isn’t completed, then it’s hell on earth and all other sorts of bad things. So Sitterson and Hadley are the ‘writers’ of the American team, which uses the ol’ cabin in the woods ritual (other countries have their own special style of ritual), and as long as one of these country ‘teams’ get the ritual to work, that’s another year the old gods are pleased and no hell on earth.
The first thing to happen is to get these characters to fit the needed tropes that we already discussed, nerd, final girl, jock, etc. To do that, they use gas, laced marijuana, and other sneaky ways of altering them so they fit the needed mold. Then they manipulate the environment to make them do various things, like check out the cellar, be scared of the woods, get naked and have sex, and other things you usually see in a FRIDAY THE 13th film.
The rest of the film plays out with the twentysomethings in the cabin becoming little more than pawns in a game of old-god-pleasing-chess. Unfortunately for all of us, this group of kids figure out what’s going on and rallies against it. Will the ritual take place, or will a self-aware group of kids thwart the ritual and make the rest of our lives very uncomfortable? For that, you’ll have to actually see the movie.
Every once and a while, a horror film comes along that was a very much needed adrenaline shot to the heart of the horror genre. This is one of those films. Oddly enough, it fits more in the late 80s or early 90s, for maximum effect. But I’ll take it being two decades later than perfect because the film still works today. It says “Yes audience, I’m aware that you keep getting the same old films that do the same old things that do not pique your interest like they did when it was fresh (ish) and new (ish). Here we are, THE CABIN IN THE WOODS, to the rescue. We’re going to take all those cookie cutter horror flicks and make fun of them, while at the same time staying true to them. The best part is, you won’t even notice that we’re beholden to what we are parodying until you think about it later!”. THE CABIN IN THE WOODS is a bold experiment that, luckily, succeeds. It rang true with audiences, becoming the horror hit of 2012.
The script is spot on, which isn’t surprising seeing how it comes from the mind of Joss Whedon (THE AVENGERS, BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER TV series and Academy Award winner for…no joke…TOY STORY) and Drew Goddard (CLOVERFIELD, one of my favorites), who also directs the film. Joss has the keys to the Marvel kingdom, and Drew is the mind behind the Netflix series of DAREDEVIL that was just released recently (which, by the way, is fricken’ AWESOME!!! Totally makes you forget that crappy Ben Affleck DAREDEVIL movie).
One of the best parts of the movie is that, in the cellar, there are a ton of unique items. Each item is linked to a different ‘evil thing’. Once the twentysomethings accidentally choose one of these totems, that ‘evil thing’ is activated. The list of ‘evil things’ is long, and each are represented in the film at the end, where chaos reigns. So there are dozens of horror film baddies that are waiting in the wings to kill these kids, but only one group is chosen. This is a lot of fun to watch, and going down the list (which appears on a whiteboard) and figuring out which horror movie those ‘evil things’ belong to is a really fun game to play. Add to that, trying to guess which cellar object will activate what.
Above ground, in the cabin, things play out like your run of the mill slasher film, until they accidentally start getting wise to what is going on. But below, the huge place in the ground where all this staging and human-chess-playing takes place, is all fun and laughs. Where above you watch something that is stereotypical of the genre, often it’ll be followed by a cut to below ground where the importance of that trope is explained. So even while the film is cutting its own path, it’s also letting us know the rules of the genre, and why they’re important and endlessly copied.
Oh, and: Sigourney Weaver. Awesome. I rest my case. If you haven’t seen it yet, what’s wrong with you? If you have seen it, this film works on multiple viewings because it seems there is always something new to find and laugh about.
Go watch. Now. Seriously. Rent it. Watch it. Love it. Repeat.