Weekly Watch: ‘The Cabin in the Woods’
Alexandra Lowery | Monday, November 3, 2014
Imagine you and your friends gathering around the futon late one school night, lamenting the lack of decent horror films on Netflix. You scroll through the browser as the streaming media provider boldly recommends two- or three-star films based off your vague interest in “Scary Movie 3,” which you’re pretty sure you rated a two also. You sigh heavily and say the only thing keeping your hope alive: “Well, at least there’s always ‘The Cabin in the Woods.’”
That’s when your fourth-floor friend, Anne, laughs at you. “That movie was horrible. My friends and I couldn’t finish it.”
You remain calm, steady your breathing. It’s not Anne’s fault after all — her chronic use of the elevator has given her a false sense of entitlement. And, apparently, horrible taste in horror movies.
Unfortunately, fourth-floor Anne is not the first encounter I’ve had with “Cabin” skeptics. In fact, the film is a member of the select group of features that can claim its critical rating is higher than its audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes. An amazing feat considering critics hate pretty much everything that doesn’t involve Daniel Day Lewis or Martin Scorsese.
What I don’t understand is why audiences didn’t like it. A movie like “Cabin” does not come along very often. It has the ability to be funny and suspenseful all in the same breath while simultaneously breaking down a genre that has become perpetually clichéd. It hasn’t been done since Wes Craven sent us “Scream”-ing, and honestly, “Cabin” wore it better. What can I say, I’m a Whedon girl.
I do admit the movie is initially jarring. You turn it on expecting to see five college kids making their way to their bloody deaths (patience, friend), but instead you see two grown men discussing marital complications and some ambiguous concern about “Stockholm going South.” I understand — you just want to know what it all means. But that’s the point. The cast and crew were sworn to absolute secrecy about the genuine plot of the film, so, by the time it premiered, no one actually knew what to expect. They want to keep you guessing, not just about when the next scare will come around the corner, but what exactly this underlying driving scheme entails. It adds suspense and mystery and makes your second watch all the more worthwhile.
Equally jarring but just as beautifully executed is the film’s laugh-out-loud, albeit dark, humor. It’s not easy calling a horror movie funny, but the writers are able to achieve it by turning horror movie banalities on their heads and exploiting the dire situations of the five coeds for the audience’s own grim amusement. It’s hard to forget a scene in which a guy unsuccessfully hits on a girl while the screen behind them streams a live feed of a young woman getting brutally bludgeoned to death. It doesn’t get more humorously dark than that.
Perhaps though, the film’s crowning glory is its ability to deconstruct and reconstruct what we all once knew as the horror genre. It gives us explanations as to why we always see the same archetypal characters, why they always seem to be dropping their weapons rather than holding on to them and why the heck it’s always so foggy. However, the creators also mean to make the movie somewhat of an ode to its predecessors. The finale, a truly life-altering 15-minute display of carnage, pays homage to an unthinkable number of classic horror movie villains, referencing everything from “The Evil Dead” to “Reptilicus.”
“The Cabin in the Woods” will endure as not only a fantastic horror movie but also a fantastic movie in general. It’s smart, witty, scary and absolutely worth watching, post-Halloween or not. Just remember this, don’t let the fourth-floor Anne’s get you down.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.