Chris Versus the Movies: Cabin in the Woods

Posted: April 14, 2012 in Braak, crotchety ranting, Horror, movies
Tags: , , , ,

QUICK! I am writing down all of my thoughts about this before I have time to organize them. Spoilers follow the jump, DON’T READ THEM unless you have seen the movie. It is a pretty good movie, and it is worth seeing, and don’t find out anymore about it than that.

1) Obviously, this is not a horror movie at all. It’s not even really a slasher movie. It is a “meta” horror movie, in the sense that it is ABOUT horror movies, but it’s not a meta horror movie that’s ALSO a horror movie, the way that Nightmare on Elm Street: A New Nightmare was, or the way that Galaxy Quest was a movie about Star Trek, but was also a really good episode of Star Trek.

The movie is a Black Comedy; its irreducibly absurd ending automatically renders itself inert, thus reinforcing the cultural status quo. At the end of the movie, giant monster gods destroy the earth; that is basically the same as finishing a movie with, “Hahaha! J/K!”

Whatever, it was good, I liked it, and it was better than most other horror movies. But it doesn’t really take the existential aspect of its horror seriously, and stops its scary parts with just regular old suspense.

2) I thought I was super-smart when I saw the opening credits and thought to myself, “Oh, I get it. The Cabin in the Woods is a ritual sacrifice undertaken by the ruling power to propitiate some kind of ancient monster. And we’ll figure out that the reason that horror movies are formulaic is because all horror movies are actually this same ritual sacrifice.”

And then they explained it like, twenty minutes in, so, duh, obviously I’m not a super genius. All right, all right, it’s not like the movie made a big secret of it, or whatever. Quiet down everybody.

The problem that I have is that, while this is a very funny and entertaining way of describing the essential thesis of horror, it’s basically just the essential thesis of horror. I don’t think the analysis goes any deeper than, “Horror movies are a ritual expurgation and castigation of unwitting victims.” Well, so. Agreed. And?

It doesn’t even get into WHY the death of the virgin is optional. Why sexuality is something that has to be punished in the first place. And, you know, near and dear to my heart — it treats all the monsters like they’re interchangeable.

I mean, okay. You can make a pretty funny essay about the use of the car in American culture, but that doesn’t change what cars are, or what we need them for. It’s not like Cabin in the Woods is going to “reinvent” horror, or anything.

3) I don’t think it’s fair to put Pinhead in the regular monster category. You can say a lot of things about Hellraiser, among them that it’s just completely fucking nutbar, but a formulaic horror movie it is not, and it’s a bit of a disservice to Clive Barker to take a potshot at him if you aren’t going to take more Wes Craven potshots.

4) I think I am just becoming instinctively contrarian when it comes to Joss Whedon. I don’t dislike Joss Whedon movies. They are good movies! I was once the world’s leading advocate for Titan: A.E.! Cabin in the Woods was a good movie! I don’t want to be that guy, the guy that hates on someone else for no reason and when everyone else likes something, he just stands back and says, “Well, you know, it wasn’t THAT good.”

Maybe I’m just instinctively mistrustful of worship, and the way that some cats talk about Whedon (or “Joss,” as they sometimes call him, like he’s their friend) smacks of it.

I mean, shit, who am I to say anything about Joss Whedon, obviously? Nobody, that is plain. But still. Genius? Brilliant? I don’t know, I don’t know man. Maybe I’m just mad that I didn’t think of it?

5) That part about the mer-man was pretty funny.

  1. braak says:

    I also just publicly admitted that I kind of liked Jennifer’s Body, so there is basically no reason to ever take my opinions seriously.

  2. mbourgon says:

    How scary is it? I dislike horror movies, dislike the jumps and the gore and most of all the scaring. That being said, I do like Whedon’s stuff, So I’m tempted.

  3. braak says:

    It is a little on the gory side, and there are some suspenseful bits, but for the most part, the humor and structure stops it from being real scary. Even the gory stuff, a lot of it is done in a kind of tongue-in-cheek, obviously-not-very-real way.

  4. braak says:

    In case that person who googled “Cabin in the Woods Pinhead?” comes back: The guy (in the credits as “Formicus, Lord of Bondage and Pain”) with circular sawblades through his face and who had a demonic puzzle-sphere was a clear analog for Pinhead.

  5. David says:

    Awesome post. I definitely agree with your 3rd point. On the way home, I remember ranting to my uninterested girlfriend about how the ‘pinhead’ character was based on a being who wasn’t intrinsically evil, too intelligent to be a puppet and even redeemed itself in later movies. I don’t have as much to criticize about the movie, but I will say that I thought the ‘titan’ hand shooting out at the end was kind of dissapointing. I was expecting cthullu.

  6. braak says:

    Right? I mean, I’m on board for ending a movie with ancient monster gods destroying all of human civilization, but for some reason, the idea that they have gigantic human hands is where I draw the line.

  7. braak says:

    Also, the more I think about it, the more I think I’m not really criticising the movie so much as I am criticising the legions of people who’ve been talking about it like it’s the most brilliant take on horror since Freddy Krueger used his deadly hand of knives to start slicing bread.

  8. Jesse says:

    Geez, everyone but me figured the whole thing out by the credits! I don’t know what it is about those credits. I mean, I knew SOMETHING was up then (but you know that by looking at the movie poster), but I didn’t know what until Girl From Chem freaks out about the Ancient Ones.

  9. braak says:

    I don’t know, man; I was predisposed to be in a figuring-out frame of mind, I guess.

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