Movie Review: The Cabin in the Woods

The Cabin in the Woods is going to be a tricky movie to review. Mainly because it’s a movie that relies heavily on a fairly substantial twist, and a lot of the interest of the movie is generated by figuring out exactly how that twist fits in to place. Since I’m not one to spoil a movie for someone, let me just say that while I’ll do my best to avoid outright spoilers, simply discussing the film and reading such a discussion might be enough to spoil it for you. Let me also say it’s a very violent, bloody movie, and so that might exclude a whole lot of you right there. This is a cliche horror movie, but it’s a very meta cliche horror movie, which is what attracted me to it. I mean, how do you pull of something like that?

Here’s the short review, with absolutely no spoilers: I enjoyed the film, though I felt like the overall tone didn’t quite work for the ending. Joss Whedon was a co-writer, and that gets some bonus points right there. The basics are simple. 5 teens go for a weekend of fun at a cabin in the woods, with horrific results. Need I say more? 3 out of 4 stars.

Now, here’s where I write to people who’ve already seen the movie. GOT THAT? FULL SPOILERS AHEAD. I’ll even page down a bit, to protect the eyes of the innocent.

I’m not kidding.

I’ll wreck the movie for you, folks

Still here?

Okay, fine.

My real thoughts of the movie. The twist of it all being a sacrifice is played a little poorly for me. The problem is that it’s just too obvious. I get it, and once I get it, I want there to be more to it. I’m very much intrigued by the concept, but it felt to me like it wasn’t taken to its full extent. The thing is, I’m not sure I can point to a single thing that made me feel this way. It was more of an overall reaction.

I love the idea that these horror movies are an extension of human nature–the modern day equivalent of human sacrifice. And in many ways, I can see that. I guess I felt like you could do all of that, without taking it quite as far as the movie takes it. I see no need for actual real old gods of wrath. The creepy crawlies in the movie could just as easily have been from technology as from reality.

Maybe that’s what feels off. So much of what happens in the movie is technology based. The pheromones. The holograms. And then the climax is all fantasy. The creatures are real. The gods are real. For me, the more interesting movie would be the one where these horror films aren’t there to appease the gods. They’re there to appease the people. To appease us. You just can’t tell me that the old gods weren’t satisfied by the carnage of the finale. That doesn’t feel right to me. One lousy fool was supposed to die, and since he doesn’t, the world ends? Even though something like 200 people just got slaughtered in the same process?

Please.

I would have loved to have seen the movie go even more meta. To have the people controlling the horror movie actually end up being part of the horror movie sacrifice themselves. Because I really enjoyed the parts where we’re watching the people watching the people getting killed. That was incredibly inventive. It makes us, the audience, a willing participant of this awful ritual. I think the movie would have worked better if it had played this angle up more.

No need for old gods.

Plus, the end-of-the-world ending doesn’t fit with the humorous sub-tone throughout the film. It’s like two different movies.

That said, I loved so much of this movie. The way the cliches get used and explained. The concept of someone controlling these horror movies–because someone inevitably is, be it the writer or the director or whatever. “Chad doesn’t even have a cousin.” Some really great things are there. But the movie tries to be too many things at once, and that duality brings it down from 4 star heights.

But what did YOU think? I’d really like to get some other reads on this one here.

3 Comments

  • By Becky Green, February 13, 2013 @ 7:00 pm

    I’m not disagreeing with you totally, but I was laughing through that entire movie. They got a lot right, and hit a lot of things spot on. I thought the end where the gods break free was funny and a little unexpected. Most movies nowadays seem to shy away from bold moves like that. It seems like they’re always looking for a way to sneak in a sequel. Not so with this. I’ve watched this movie twice now since it came out, and laughed just as much the second time. If ever there was a time and place for gore and the f-word, this is it, for me 🙂

  • By Steve the Bookstore Guy, February 13, 2013 @ 7:59 pm

    I pretty much agree with you. In a way, I kinda thought the whole messy thing at the end was just going to be the way to appease the gods without having to kill one dude. Otherwise, why on earth would you have a big red button for, “Let all the monsters out INTO THE FREAKING BUILDING.” Under what circumstance would you actually WANT that? Don’t get me wrong, the resulting scene was hysterical.

    I think you’ve hit on it though, why even have the Old Gods? Either cut them, or make them even more involved – perhaps letting the hordes of monsters out within the building to KILL the Old God.

    But yeah, the movie was fun, but i too thought the god part ended up feeling tacked on.

  • By Bryce Moore, February 14, 2013 @ 3:06 pm

    Becky–I thought the movie had some really funny parts, and I loved where it didn’t take itself too seriously.

    Steve–Yeah, the big red button? Really out of place in this movie, where the people running the ceremony were taking themselves so seriously. It’s like putting a nuclear launch button in the middle of a Walmart, and hanging a sign on it that says DO NOT PUSH.

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