Movie Review: The Cabin in the Woods

MovieReviewThumbSmby Brad Nelson
Speaking of whatever happened to Joss Whedon, I ran across this movie while browsing through Netflix looking for something to watch:

The Cabin in the Woods

This movie is a combination pick-them-off-one-at-a-time horror flick and dark comedy and it works as both. But it’s also too intelligent to be seen as both probably by a very large percentage of the audience, thus the relatively low (even accounting for inflation) rating at IMDB.com. Seven-point-one is their equivalent of “meh.”

If you don’t want to read about the general premise of the movie then stop reading here. Five yutes — the whore, the athlete, the druggie, the scholar, and the virgin — head out for a weekend at a cabin. And, honest to god, I forget how this was set up, but it was definitely set up.

In parallel to this story runs the story of technicians who are watching and manipulating things in and around the cabin that these yutes are staying at. It’s a bit obscure at first what they’re doing. But it’s funny because you know something is going on and at the start of it, everyone is making bets on which scenario unfolds first. And at this point, you don’t really know what they are actually betting on. (Hint: Damn, the mermaid didn’t win.)

This probably could have been even funnier. They went for understatement for the black comedy, which is fine, but I wouldn’t have minded a little more overt comedy. But there are some good gags. At one point the kids are kind of regrouping after discovering some weird shit in the cellar of the cabin. And one of the technicians behind the scenes says something like, “Watch the master at work.” He then flips a switch and unleashes a hidden fog of chemicals that the jock walks through. The jock then turns around and says to everybody “I think we would cover more ground if we all split up.” It’s a funny take-off of the usual cliches of horror flicks.

None of that has really spoiled the movie so far. But if you want to know what’s really going on, read further. It will spoil it a little but most of this movie’s appeal is in the moment-to-moment shtick, particularly as they jump back and forth between the kids in the cabin and the technicians behind the scene watching it all.

Well, what this is really about is a ritual sacrifice to appease the underworld gods. And if these gods are not appeased yearly, they will take over the earth and kill every last human being. And it’s not enough to just kill five yutes on a stone slab or something. They must be terrified as well, which is the premise for going through this set-up where the kids have some control over the situation but are definitely steered toward making the choices that the tech guys want them to make. And whatever monsters they unleash, it will be maximum terror.

And to try to guarantee the success of the sacrifice, there are similar setups occurring simultaneously in countries all over the world. By far the funniest moment in the movie for me was when the control room of the “Cabin in the Woods” contingent were watching the “big board” of TV screens showing some of the action occurring at some of the other sacrifice-centers around the world. This gag was built upon some earlier stuff. For instance, we saw some horrible monsters unleashed amongst a bunch of Japanese children. I think it was at a girl’s school or something, and they were just getting slaughtered.

Then flash forward nearer the end of this movie and you see on the Big Board a group of a dozen or so Japanese school girls dancing around a ring while chanting some incantation that turns the monster in the center of the ring to a harmless frog. And then the tech guy in the “Cabin in the Woods” control room quips something like, “Jesus Christ, they can’t even kill a bunch of twelve-year-olds.”

It moments like this that drive the movie. The fiver characters themselves in the Cabin in the Woods are not particularly well cast (although the “whore” is a knock-out). Perhaps that was intentional to make them look a bit b-grade-ish.

But overall it’s a fun movie with a fun premise….even as you do see more than a few people hacked to death. They certainly had the right sardonic tone but were perhaps lacking a bit in the gag department. But they ended it somewhat imaginatively (I’m not gonna tell you) and it works as a movie. • (161 views)

Brad Nelson

About Brad Nelson

I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.
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