The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

The Cabin in the Woods (2012) movie poster

director Drew Goddard
viewed: 05/04/2012 at AMC Loews Metreon 16, San Francisco, CA

From producer co-writer Joss Whedon and co-writer/director Drew Goddard, The Cabin in the Woods is a horror film about horror films, a riffing commentary on the genre, the tropes and cliches, the purpose, the audience, and the mentality of the makers.  It’s as much about the film-making process as it is about giving you a scare or a shock.  And in reaching for this meta-commentary, it breaks out into a rather hilarious and complex uber-scenario, an over-arching narrative about the manipulators, the writers, directors, the puppet-masters, as it were.

This meta-horror film is one of the best and most interesting additions to the canon/genre in years.  If you are so inclined at all to see it, read no further, just go and see it.  Seriously, the less you know, the more interesting it will be.  Just go see it.  Reading any further is only a risk to your own potential enjoyment of this clever and fun film.

Don’t say I didn’t tell you.

It’s not giving much away in saying this about the film.  It opens with a sequence about these corporate/political types, working within some strange bunker, prepping an interior world for a set of five young people to experience a traditional horror setting, the titular cabin in the woods.  So, it’s pretty obvious from the beginning that there is more at play in the film than the by the numbers slashers’ body count.

The film then veers off into the central narrative of the campers, five archetypes (who need to be drugged and motivated to achieve ideal levels of archetype behavior), who cross over into a wooded place for their particular doom.  The manipulators are essentially the corporate movie-making machine, painting by the numbers, hitting their spots, specific notes, and the commentary shows: this is how horror films are made.  It’s by template.  Insert varying evil killer thing, kill off according to a script.   Even the manipulators/creators are somewhat bored by the proceedings.

When one of the characters becomes hip to the manipulation, that’s when all hell breaks loose.  The entirety of the mechanism of production is revealed, huge sprawling mechanism that it is.  And it’s quite a funny vision.  Beyond the mechanism lies the reason that all this work has to be done, a need to sate some ancient rite with blood of the young and the entertainment of the many.  This last part has a somewhat Lovecraftian vibe to it, so even though it’s kind of silly, it’s also kind of awesome.

I guess that this is the year that Joss Whedon proves himself out on the big screen.  His new release, The Avengers (2012) is raking in the dough and has been posting surprisingly strong reviews.  This film, which sat in limbo due to bankruptcies, is probably not for nearly as wide and audience, but it’s a bit of a breath of fresh air in a genre that is indeed far too color-by-numbers than it should be.

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