“Do NOT read the Latin!”
Justin’s rating: Groovy. Completely groovy.
Justin’s review: The horror movie genre’s been satired, parodied, analyzed, meta’d, meta-meta’d, and gone post-modern more times than I can count. And yet, there always seems to be those who want to continue to pick away at what makes horror tick and why we like it. I don’t think there’s any other film genre that has so many movies within it that deliberately dissect what the genre itself means.
And yet here we go again, with The Cabin in the Woods.
Reportedly written as a protest/satire of the rash of torture porn movies that have come to dominate the genre over the past decade, The Cabin in the Woods accomplishes the near-impossible: It is funny, it is clever, it is self-referential, it is scary, and it is all of these things in equal measure. Coming from Buffy’s Joss Whedon and Angel’s Drew Goddard, we should expect all that, although I don’t think the typical horror audience would. For them, it’s all about the familiar setup — five teens heading into the woods to spend a week at a cabin, only to find themselves under siege by the forces of evil itself.
Of course, this being Whedon, whatever you expect, expect the opposite. In this case, the teens are being monitored by jaded men in white coats who are seemingly pushing buttons to manipulate the vacationers into a horror movie nightmare. There’s a sense of routine in these high-tech rooms as they take bets on all manner of gruesome deaths, and yet there’s also something else going on. How and where these two stories converge is at the meat of this movie, and something I wouldn’t dare to spoil.
The clever part of the movie is that we, as the actual film audience, are made acutely aware of what we’re doing — watching pretty teens die for our entertainment — and any feelings of disgust toward the puppet-masters automatically apply to ourselves. We’re asked that key question: Are we just as bad as the killer because we’re getting off on the deaths, or are we better because we sympathize with the survivors?
The funny part is definitely in the vein of the best Whedonesque writing, and I probably laughed during this more than any recent comedy I’ve seen. The characters are all pretty charming and nice, even the lab coat guys, and it’s nice to be able to laugh before all of the scares begin. In fact, it most closely reminded me of Evil Dead II in many ways, from the setting (isolated cabin, scary cellar, deep chasm cutting them off from society) to the numerous nods (the zombie hand, mentions of “Deadites” on a whiteboard, the girl singing the same song from EDII, the unlikely hero) to the strong mix of comedy and horror.
Because the movie’s a tight hour-and-a-half and there’s a lot of territory to cover, it all moves pretty quickly. As such, what genuine scares there are are few and mostly the jump-scare variety; the movie just doesn’t have enough time to build up a horrifying atmosphere. But that’s okay, because as a referendum on torture porn, it’s more about the gruesome manner that the kids are offed more than anything else (and even here, the movie spares us from being too graphic).
Oh how I wish I could talk about the last half-hour, because it’s probably one of the greatest half-hours of any horror movie, ever. It’s an explosion of ideas and mashups that create a panorama that’s so over-the-top, it starts laughing at the very movies that inspired this one. Let’s put it this way: If you had to arrange horror movies to be watched in a certain order, The Cabin in the Woods should probably be the last one no matter what ordering system you used. You’ll know why when you see it, and you really should see it (age appropriately, of course). Whedon showed that he could do superheroes right with The Avengers, and he and Goddard do horror just as proud with this one.
- In the scene where Jules kisses the wolf head on the wall, the wolf’s tongue is covered in powdered sugar to give it a dusty look and to make the scene tolerable for the actress.
- Among the possible choices on the facility’s betting board are the following: Werewolf, Alien Beast, Mutants, Wraiths, Zombies, Reptilius, Clowns, Witches, Sexy Witches, Demons, Hell Lord, Angry Molesting Tree, Giant Snake, Deadites, Mummy, The Bride, The Scarecrow Folk, Snowman, Dragonbat, Vampires, Dismemberment Goblins, Sugarplum Fairy, Merman, The Reanimated, Unicorn, Huron, Sasquatch/Wendigo/Yeti, Dolls, Zombie Redneck Torture Family, The Doctors, Jack O’ Lantern, Giant, Twins and Kevin.
- The Reaver from Firefly!
- Refernces to Evil Dead II and Hellraiser
Marty: Do NOT read the Latin!
Curt: [Jules is holding complex textbooks] What are these?
Curt: [angrily] No. I’m serious. What are these?
Jules: I just…
Curt: Where did you learn about this stuff?
Jules: From you, okay? I learned it from watching you!
Marty: It was the pioneer days; people had to make their own interrogation rooms. Out of cornmeal.
Sitterson: They have to make the choice of their own free will. Otherwise, system doesn’t work.
Hadley: I’m never gonna see a merman.
Marty: Good work, zombie arm.
Marty: [drives up smoking a bong] People in this town drive in a very non-intuitive manner.
If You Liked This Movie, Try These:
- Evil Dead II
- Cabin Fever