The Cabin in the Woods (2012) – 31 Days of Horror: Oct 24

by Jovial Jay

The less you know about The Cabin in the Woods before watching it, the better.

The Cabin in the Woods trailer teases the viewer with the fact that based on the shots shown, they are familiar with the story and the events. There is nothing further from the truth as the film twists the audience’s perception against themselves.

Before Viewing

The trailer does look like films audiences have seen dozens of times. College kids hop in a trailer, drive to a cabin in the woods, party, have sex, and then an evil comes! But this trailer also has other weird shots. Like an eagle flying into an invisible (?) wall, control panels and CCTV displays. It promises to be not what anyone expects. If you already know the secrets, don’t spoil them for the other kids. Just take your shoes off and step inside!

Presented below is the Trailer for the film.

Spoiler Warning - Halloween

After Viewing

The Cabin in the Woods is scary and fresh and makes you think you know what’s about to happen. But you have no idea. If you haven’t seen the film, please don’t read any further!

The film opens with two technicians or engineers, Hadley (Bradley Whitford) and Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) discussing baby proofing in an office break room. They are joined by Lin (Amy Acker) talking about an upcoming event, which makes no sense. What is this scene even about?

Cut to: a group of college students getting ready to visit a cabin in the woods, that was just bought by one of the guys uncle. Curt (Chris Hemsworth), his girlfriend Jules (Anna Hutchison), her friend Dana (Kristen Connolly), Curt’s new friend Holden (Jesse Williams), and their stoner friend Marty (Fran Kranz) hop in their RV and drive out of town.

They stop at a derelict looking gas station where the Harbinger warns them to stay away from the cabin, but they disregard his warnings and roll up to the cabin. The kids all start acting weird, as Curt becomes more belligerent, Jules becomes more sexual, and Holden becomes more intellectual. Occasionally the film switches back to the facility seen at the opening, where Hadley and Sitterson are taking bets of some kind, and watching the kids on monitors. When questioned they say that they don’t mess with the kids free-will; that they may guide them to the basement, but the kids still make the decisions, whatever that means.

After a quiet evening playing truth or dare (and making out with a stuffed wolf head), the kids wander into the basement and discover lots of artifacts including the Buckner diary, which tells of tortures visited by the family upon each other. The reading of these passages unleashed a redneck torture family to come kill the kids. The technicians all celebrate the choice and then get down to business.

The fate of the kids is used to appease the ancient ones, a series of old gods, by ritual sacrifice. It’s a complex process that is specific to each country. Video monitors show a Japanese demon (similar to the girl in Ringu) scaring a classroom of kids. Each kid takes on a role, as Athlete, Whore, Scholar, Fool and Virgin, and if the ancient ones are pleased, then humanity is saved for another year. If not…well, people don’t like to talk about that.

The Buckner Family, kills off Jules and Marty. The other three escape in the RV but can’t get through the mountain tunnel; the company has caused a cave-in to keep them in the area. Curt tries to jump the chasm to the main road on a dirt bike, but strikes and invisible barrier and tumbled to his death below. Holden is killed soon after by another of the Bucker’s leaving Dana to escape on her own. Hadley and crew start celebrating since the death of The Virgin is optional in their scenario. But then a call comes down from The Director (Sigourney Weaver) that the Fool (aka Marty) is still alive!

Marty and Dana make it down into the facility, unleashing every other monster held in the cages, which quickly decimates the security force and any other people in the building. The Director implores Dana to kill Marty and save the world from an apocalypse. She declines and the two wait moments until the ancient ones rise up. The film ends with a giant arm coming up through the cabin in the woods, squashing the camera’s view. Cut to black!

We’re not the only ones watching, kid.”
“Gotta keep the customer satisfied. You understand what’s at stake, here?” – Hadley & Sitterson

Much like Tucker and Dale vs Evil, The Cabin in the Woods plays on the audience’s knowledge of horror films. Everything seems to be familiar, but the director starts to change things ever so slightly. The premise starts all too familiarly, but Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon start adding in strange cutaways to the tech facility. I couldn’t be sure what I was seeing for at least the first 45 minutes. By the climax of the film, all expectations are washed away, and viewers just have to go with the new and unexpected ending. Who knows what will happen?

The Cabin in the Woods

The Cabin in the Woods (2012) – The cast views the audience with questionable disregard.

There are many things to like about this film. Among them is the tech’s constant discussion of someone else watching, or references to others, as in the quote above. This is before the exact mention of the ancient ones. I believe that the discussion revolves around the filmgoers. We, the audience, are the “customers” that have to stay satisfied. That’s why Hadley wants Jules to “show her boobies,” he’s the audience surrogate speaking. If the audience gets what they expect, the film is a hit and the franchise continues. If they do not get what’s expected, then the film ends in a strange and arbitrary manner. Or, the ancient ones awake and destroy humanity.

I also enjoy the explanation for all the horror film tropes that The Cabin in the Woods uses. Why are the blondes dumb or the jocks alpha males? The company makes chemicals that cause that. Why do teenagers always have sex in the woods? Pheromones. How come the protagonists always drop a weapon after using it once? Little electrical shocks sent by the controllers. All of these and more are really clever ideas, to explain things that are stupid idiosyncrasies that crop up in lots of horror films. And they’re one of the things that makes The Cabin in the Woods a really smart film.

Finally the use of a multitude of monsters makes this film a horror aficionados dream come true. Not only are there a number of monster types listed on the wagering board, but by Act 3 nearly every monster from the last 50 years of horror films gets a chance to shine. From werewolves, to zombies, creepy clowns and even a stand-in for the Hellraiser himself, Fornicus – Lord of Bondage and Pain.

This film continues to impress on repeat viewings with so much material for fans of the genre. It has smart writing and great direction, making The Cabin the Woods a perennial favorite!

Assorted Musings

  • The film was shot in 2009, but not released until 2012. In that time Chris Hemsworth had gone from a nobody, to being known as Thor, the god of thunder in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
  • Hadley mentions the problem with the Chemistry department being the cause of the incident back in ‘98. Many people point to the film The Faculty, released in 1998 as the reference for this line, due to the fact that none of the kids die in it.
  • Fran Kranz is the star of the recent Horror/Mystery film You Might Be The Killer…
  • Amongst the films referenced, the primary one is The Evil Dead (which takes care of the Cabin hosting 5 college kids), and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (for the redneck zombie torture family aka the Buckner’s).

The ending of Truth or Dare, where Olivia makes the decision to doom the world, is very similar to Dana’s decision here.

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