Posted by Niall Harrison
25 April 2012
Abigail Nussbaum on The Cabin in the Woods:
There is, quite obviously, a very large component here of blaming The Cabin in the Woods for not being the film I wanted it to be. Goddard and Whedon set out to make a metafictional horror comedy that comments on the genre's tropes by employing them, and in this they succeeded. (It should also be said that I might have been more appreciative of this success as its own accomplishment if I were a bigger fan of horror films.) Much as I try to stop myself from chiding them for being short on ambition, though, I can't help but dwell on how much potential lay in their premise--a secret organization dedicated to defending the earth from ancient, evil gods with a menagerie of magical nightmare creatures at their disposal, who lure a bunch of kids to a secluded location to become part of their sacrifice ritual only for the kids to turn the tables, and the aforementioned menagerie of monsters, on them. Once you know The Cabin in the Woods's twist it's impossible not to think of the film like this, and to have used this rich vein of story for little more than a metafictional gag seems like a criminal waste. I wanted more time in the facility, more interactions between the campers and the bunker crew, more information about the organization running this show, more questioning of Marty and Dana's choices. (Of course, maybe I'm only saying this because "underground facility that is also a wacky, surreal workplace and has become overrun by horrors while a menacing female voice booms on the PA" puts me in mind of Portal, which does a better job of blending humor and menace than The Cabin in the Woods and even feels like a more compelling story.) The Cabin in the Woods is a funny, clever film, but it isn't nearly funny enough, or nearly clever enough, to make up for the loss of that story.
At the heart of the movie is the same feeling that powered The Hunger Games: youth are trapped in a world they never made, unable to live a natural life, whatever that might be, but instead locked into sacrificial social structures, a phobic response to being born into the grave, given to war and unfairness with no alternative. The Hunger Games offers hope, at least in the trilogy, the prospect of one gladiator beating, even bringing down, the system. Cabin agrees, instead, with The Prisoner: the individual under capitalism is so complicit in the horrors done on their behalf that there can be no successful revolution unless one is prepared to end the entire world, and oneself, in doing so. (A terrorist manifesto? Discuss. Actually, no, don't.) Because to protest successfully is to end one's comfy world. This isn't a deconstruction of horror movies (which Scream already did, and a genre can really only be successfully deconstructed once, as Watchmen and just about the entire career of Captain Britain have proved), it's a complaint about their existence in a world of real horrors.