By JAMES MELVILLE
Hey, James. Yeah, disembodied voice? You know what’s worse than the Holocaust? Uh…not much, man. No, stupid. That orange fence on the quad for Springfest. Dude. What? That’s really offensive. But it’s taking our freeeeeddddooooommmsssss.
That’s what you sound like when you complain about minor inconveniences to your Sacred Day of Getting Shitfaced.
The Cabin in the Woods (2012):
The Plot: Five college students go for a weekend of sexyfuntimes at a remote cabin in the woods (title drop!), only to find out that things are not what they seem. If any of them want to survive, they’ll have to figure out just what the hell is going on.
How does that sound? Conventional? Boring? Actually, that plot synopsis was…super misleading! Yay! This isn’t a horror movie. It’s more of a black comedy that tries to explain how the generic plots, crazy monsters, and stupid characters of horror movies could be real. Truth be told, The Cabin in the Woods is a bit hard to define. Is it another Scream? Is it just Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard being self-indulgent? Only time will tell.
Alright, it’s been enough time. I guess I’ll have to throw some more exposition at you. Catch! Ooh. Or not. Hey, you better get that looked at. I think I can see bone.
These five young folks are all intelligent, decent people, which is unusual in the horror genre. However, they soon find themselves acting increasingly out of character as they are forced, for sinister purposes, to become horror movie archetypes. Dana (Kristen Connolly), fresh from a fling with one of her professors, becomes the Virgin. Her best friend Jules (Anna Hutchinson) and Jules’ boyfriend Curt (Chris Hemsworth) turn into the Slut and Jock, respectively. Curt’s single, intelligent, football playing friend Holden (Jesse Williams) gets to be the Nerd, and their pothead conspiracy theorist friend Marty is, naturally, the Fool.
We find out in the opening scenes that Dana and friends are being monitored by two guys, Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) and Hadley (Bradley Whitford), who appear to be regular office drones, with normal people problems. Hadley’s wife, for example, has baby-proofed all the drawers in the house, in spite of the fact that she’s nowhere near pregnant. Oh. And when I say “regular office drones,” I should also add “who have access to hi-tech equipment and work in a building full of other workers dedicated to the same task.” The plot, as they say, thickens.
Does the whole “being monitored by office workers” thing sound like a huge twist? It’s not. In a lesser movie, it might have been, but here, it’s revealed early, and built upon in delightfully warped ways. The joy is in watching the characters figure out what’s going on, and then finding out why they’re being turned into horror archetypes.
The “twists” in The Cabin in the Woods are really just the filmmakers peeling back the layers surrounding its gooey, fantastic center. As one of my friends said, “it’s like an apple wrapped in an onion.” I took that to mean that beneath the horror premise and darkly comedic weirdness lies an incredibly fun film that is also good at keeping doctors away from you.
At the film’s core is a question that we’ve all asked ourselves at one time or another: “why are these kids so freaking stupid?” We all know the answer: because it’s a horror movie. Rather than use that concept as a way to excuse dumb characters, Joss Whedon and director/co-writer Drew Goddard make it a jumping-off point for a very smart movie. They follow up that first question with another: “what do you do when you realize that you’re in a horror movie?”
That’s where the Scream comparisons come in. The big difference—aside from the fact that the plots are nothing alike—is that The Cabin in the Woods goes somewhere with that question, while Scream just wants everyone to know that it’s self-aware. Because, ya know, the 90s.
As for the self-indulgence, while Whedon and Goddard are clearly having a lot of fun here, I found the film to be very well constructed. The final “twist” is gradually unveiled over the course of the movie, starting as early as the opening credits, if the viewer pays attention.
And as the plot gets weirder and weirder, the film manages to stay true to its own internal logic. Which is excellent. There’s nothing worse than movies that break their own rules. Well, except the Holocaust. That’s worse.
Should you see this? Yes. Go in expecting witty dialogue, likeable characters, dark humor, and a truly excellent use of a giant bong.
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