I hadn’t told you, you would have probably thought this was the synopsis for The Evil Dead. But there is a lot more going on beneath the surface. Of both the cabin, and the movie. You get your first indication that this isn’t your normal horror movie with the opening scene. Most movies of this genre open with an introduction to the killer. And in a way it is, but watching two office workers talking about baby-proofing in a vast, bustling, vaguely futuristic complex certainly throws you when you are expecting the usual opening ten minutes of gore. The next scene, and the introduction of the kids we’ll see being dismembered over the next hour and half, seems more familiar. But even then something is amiss. All the usual suspects are there: The Jock, The Virgin, The Nerd, The Whore, The Stoner: the core group of characters used in one way or another in every horror and slasher flick. And Scooby Doo. But something’s different. The Jock reads Russian literature. The Nerd is on the football team. The Virgin has had sex. You get the picture. Unlike most movies from this genre, their characters aren’t ruled by the role they play. What cowriters Whedon and Goddard are planning is a commentary of the genre on a scale that Scream could only dream of. They are taking everything we know about horror movies and turning it on its head. Before the first act is even over, the secret of the cabin is laid out us [SPOILER!]: the entire area is rigged by a secret organisation so the group follows the path of a preplanned scenario. The outcome: their grisly deaths. The scenario plays out like your typical horror movie, overseen by the office worker technicians from before, Sitterson and Hadley. I’ll get into the why later. Right now, let’s talk
about the how. Using everything from surveillance cameras, to force-fields, to mood-altering drugs that make them act more and more like their stereotypes, the kids are controlled and prodded towards their death. But first they have to pick it. That’s right. In a wonderfully sadistic twist, the group of soon-to-becorpses, unknowingly, decide how they will die, and there is a whole array of well known monsters and killers to choose from. We’ve got zombies, werewolves, witches, sexy witches, killer clowns, out of control robots, angry molesting trees, a unicorn (for some strange reason), the list goes on. But ultimately what comes after this group are The Buckners, a family of undead hillbillies that are basically a zombified version of the family from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It’s the familiar, repetitive horror antagonist that studios tend to go with because that’s what puts bums on seats in the cinemas. As Sitterson puts it, “They have a 100% clearance rating”. The film maker’s and audience’s frustration with this thinking is voiced by Hadley, who really wanted to see a Mer-Man, something new and different. So, the killing starts, and the movie stops commenting on the state of horror movies and becomes one itself. Because at the end of the day, it is still a movie. But Goddard, as director, employs every trick in the book to make
this the most well-made horror film ever, echoing the greats such as Halloween. But then he throws out the book with the brilliantly insane third act. So the group have been whittled down to The Stoner and The Virgin, and they have discovered the secret of the cabin, but that’s not what have the technicians worried. All through the movie, it has been apparent that the kids must die, that failure is not an option. The scenario isn’t going according to plan, and after being treated to a massacre of the entire complex by the ghouls and beasties they harbour, we find out what that plan is. A race of ancient gods reside below the planet, demanding a sacrifice or else they will destroy the planet. So, the entire action of the movie itself was being shown as a movie for these omnipotent beings, and if these guys are not happy, instead of taking to the internet and lambasting everybody involved with the production, from the director to the guy who gets the coffee, they rise up and negate all existence. It’s at this point that the movie grabs you by the collar, and starts smacking you around the face, shouting “Look!!! Do You See, it’s meta!! Meta!!” It’s an incredibly smart idea and totally unique. But haven’t we seen ideas like this beaten into the ground before? Well, it’s to this point that is the main reason I love Cabin in the Woods so much: it makes the idea of a sequel absolutely impossible. The survivors decide not to play by the rules, that The Stoner dies, thus leaving The Virgin alive, as we have seen so many times before. They both survive, and the world ends. Kind of hard to do a sequel with the world destroyed, isn’t it? So there you have it.
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