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Thoughts on The Cabin in the Woods
May 10, 2012 12:38 PM   Subscribe

Spoilers at every link and below the fold: What is really lurking underneath the film The Cabin in the Woods?

Is it about the horror movie industry or the rise of torture porn in the genre? Maybe you should ask co-writer/producer Joss Whedon or co-writer/director Drew Goddard.
posted by Brandon Blatcher (79 comments total) 45 users marked this as a favorite

 
SPOILER ALERT: Joss Whedon emerges in one piece and with dignity intact.
posted by hal9k at 12:41 PM on May 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'll ask it again here: What monster did the film reels in the basement represent?
posted by leotrotsky at 12:42 PM on May 10, 2012


Us, the audience, the people who pay to watch others be killed.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:44 PM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


My husband and I saw this Tuesday and were the only people in the theater. We had both managed to stay completely in the dark about the plot. It was great to be able to discuss the movie as it was unfolding. It was also nice to not have anybody around when I screamed two minutes into the thing.
posted by MaritaCov at 12:50 PM on May 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'd like to think the film was Evil Dead, thus activating the stoner's ability to defeat monsters. Though, more likely, I think it was either the girls from The Shining, the Ringu girl, or the movie that they're in.

The end of Cabin, like all horror movies, was technically left open for a sequel. We don't actually see the remaining two die. So, I'm hoping for the world's most unrelated sequel in which the stoner and the pretty girl battle Old Gods.

Also, I was reading Info-Psychology when I saw this, and reading the movie as the stoner's already activated 5th circuit consciousness allowed him to advance through to 7th circuit consciousness to defeat the 6th circuit corporation appeasing the Gods who are the 8th circuit was amusing. Come to think of it, the surviving girl can be seen to approximate 1st circuit biosurvival, the jock, 2nd circuit tarritorial, the smart and moral guy, 3rd circuit rationality, and the sexy girl 4th sociosexual circuit. Hmm...
posted by cmoj at 12:56 PM on May 10, 2012 [7 favorites]


That's a good collection of links. I do not like horror movies (torture porn has zero appeal for me, and I hate the startle-attack thing with a passion) but I saw this and thought it was brilliant.

I was really, really happy about the ending - mostly because nobody in cinema lets their characters make that choice, the anti-greater good choice. So not only was it refreshingly different, it said something that I think needs to be said in this 24-esque morality driven world.
posted by restless_nomad at 12:56 PM on May 10, 2012


We always knew what we wanted in the ending. It’s a classic horror image, the hand coming out of the earth, and we like it. It felt appropriate to our subject matter that that’s where it had to end. If you were telling it from our characters’ perspective, that’s the last thing you would see.

Boo to that; I was miffed that we didn't get to see the Elder God.
posted by Greg Nog at 12:58 PM on May 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Thanks for posting. I would never have thought about seeing this movie if it were not for these links.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:58 PM on May 10, 2012


At first I thought it was a bit of silly fun, but by the time the end came, I loved it. The positioning of all horror movie tropes as a required ritual necessary to sate a primal need? Awesome. I applauded.
posted by Theta States at 12:58 PM on May 10, 2012


I've never seen any of the torture porn movies, but I've gradually lost the stomach for even relatively mild gore. I keep thinking, "why are they doing such bad things to those nice young people?" So, I had to watch some parts with my eyes covered, but I loved it anyway. And the ending--he really did go there!
posted by Mavri at 12:59 PM on May 10, 2012


Man, I love this movie. Saw it opening weekend and have been thinking about it ever since.

And I still think Marty is the virgin, and Dana is the fool.
posted by jbickers at 1:00 PM on May 10, 2012 [11 favorites]


I'd like to think the film was Evil Dead, thus activating the stoner's ability to defeat monsters.

Given that there's a long history of fools releasing horrors upon the Earth, one could make a pretty good case for Marty being a sort of Pandora unleashed by the film.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 1:01 PM on May 10, 2012


And I still think Marty is the virgin, and Dana is the fool.

That was actually the twist ending I was expecting. (I was just as happy with what they chose.)
posted by restless_nomad at 1:01 PM on May 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


So, I'm hoping for the world's most unrelated sequel in which the stoner and the pretty girl battle Old Gods.

Or an Altquel!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:10 PM on May 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


That was actually the twist ending I was expecting. Me too, and I like that they left that open for us anyway.

I hope this isn't meant to be an audience-punishment film (turns out *we* are the real monsters! Joke's on you, people who just enjoyed the film!). I simply don't see Whedon doing that, you have to really hate your audience to pull it off.
Apologies if he says as much in that link, it's blocked.
posted by troika at 1:11 PM on May 10, 2012


Start with a base of good-quality horror. Add in three parts Call of Cthulu, two parts Office Space, and one part The Truman Show. Sprinkle with Shaun of the Dead to taste.
posted by miyabo at 1:13 PM on May 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


I left the theater pondering the significance of the final image: it's a HAND, not a tentacle or a talon or any other sort of appendage. A hand.


Hmmm.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:17 PM on May 10, 2012 [7 favorites]


Then again, many moviegoers will not enjoy ‘Cabin,’ because of the very point that the film makes as one of its possibly interpreted theses. That is, deviation from convention will disappoint the mainstream.

This has not been the case with anyone I know who has seen the film at all. Everyone, from goth to geek, horror-hater to slasher-school, has loved it! When I read that last bit about audiences walking out or giving the film a low rating...well, I was just gobsmacked. I want to see some serious citations, because I'm not buying it.

Best movie of the year, by far. And we all know Avengers was pretty damn good, so that's saying something. If Cabin in the Woods doesn't go on to become a cult classic that spans generations, I will be very surprised.

As well as incredibly disappointed.
posted by misha at 1:17 PM on May 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, that was an odd turn for that article to take. Is anyone familiar with "cinemascore?" I'm assuming its a specific aggregate score from some site, but the link in the article just goes to another one that references it uncited.
posted by restless_nomad at 1:21 PM on May 10, 2012


(The Metacritic scores are quite positive, especially for a genre movie. Unless this "cinemascore" is rating a 6/10 as a D+, which seems odd.)
posted by restless_nomad at 1:23 PM on May 10, 2012


I didn't notice anyone walk out when I watched it, but as we left there were some teenage girls behind us moaning about how "stupid" they thought it was.
posted by RobotHero at 1:23 PM on May 10, 2012


Rottentomatoes has the filmgoers' opinion at 80% positive, too.

Also, while I found the actual teens kind of boring, I would raptly watch an entire sitcom based on the corporation.
posted by Greg Nog at 1:27 PM on May 10, 2012 [7 favorites]


"deviation from convention will disappoint the mainstream"

That's the money phrase right there. Whether Whedon & Goddard intended to or not (and if they intended to, they're better off not admitting), the message of this film goes WAY beyond the Horror Movie genre. It's why sitcoms, soap operas, police procedurals, pop music, talk radio, rap music, superhero movies* are the way they are. And why even the "News Media" works within predefined "narratives" - because it's the way The Media works.

I left the theater pondering the significance of the final image: it's a HAND, not a tentacle or a talon or any other sort of appendage. A hand.

It's Adam Smith's Invisible Hand. The marketplace. If the movie does not get a big enough audience, there will be no sequel and its universe ends.


* and for all the good stuff Whedon contributed to The Avengers, it was still mostly seasonings added to a stew whose main ingredients were part of a recipe, defined by the preceding Marvel movies - he had the most latitude working with The Hulk, because its previous movies were considered audience failures.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:29 PM on May 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I left the theater pondering the significance of the final image: it's a HAND, not a tentacle or a talon or any other sort of appendage. A hand.


Hmmm.


I would have loved it if it started making the jack-off motion while Yakkety Sax started playing.
posted by clockzero at 1:30 PM on May 10, 2012 [12 favorites]


I didn't notice anyone walk out when I watched it, but as we left there were some teenage girls behind us moaning about how "stupid" they thought it was.


What is it with that word "stupid"?
Whenever someone with awful taste can't engage with something even a shade more complex than X Forgettable Hollywood Genre Flick its always because its "stupid"

It's never "dumb" or "weird" or any of those. It's always "stupid"

I had an ex girlfriend that hated Michael Clayton because it was "stupid" the same week she made me watch Balls of Fury (which she of course loved)
posted by Senor Cardgage at 1:31 PM on May 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, while I found the actual teens kind of boring, I would raptly watch an entire sitcom based on the corporation.

If it stars Bradley Whitford, and Sorkin writes it, I'm there. ...walking and talking with Jenkins as they trade witty remarks with various department heads.
posted by thanotopsis at 1:38 PM on May 10, 2012


I really had no interest in this film. Beyond the first Halloween, the first Nightmare on Elm Street and the first Phantasm films I ... I dunno lost interest. When I saw Evil Dead for the first time on VHS my stomach churned quite a bit. And I've seen REAL gore.

But the allusions to Whedon's Dollhouse have me piqued a bit. I really like that series, more than any other of his series. Like, not love. I LOVE Firefly because I love the characters. I LIKE Dollhouse because it fucks with your expectations once you get past the requisite "Elisha's gonna play a INSERT HOT CHICK STEREOTYPE AND HAVE HER WEAR GLASSES HERE this week" type of episodes at the start.

Once that's all done you as a viewer get pulled down a rabbit hole that's not perfectly constructed but it will definitely have you pondering the notions of identity, control, technology and free will. If you can get into it. I can't seem to turn people on to Dollhouse. It creeps them out, though I've been hard put to get a clear explanation of why they're creeped out.

At any rate, now I am eager to see this film. Even completely spoiled.
Because, y'know, Hemsworth and Acker and Kranz
posted by PapaLobo at 1:43 PM on May 10, 2012


Just saw this an hour ago and loved it. Great movie, great links.
posted by triggerfinger at 1:49 PM on May 10, 2012


The best part about the whole thing is that there was never any question that the studio would market this as a mostly-straightforward horror movie, which plays so perfectly into its hands.
posted by invitapriore at 2:01 PM on May 10, 2012 [8 favorites]


I left the theater pondering the significance of the final image: it's a HAND, not a tentacle or a talon or any other sort of appendage. A hand.

Not a hand. A fist. A raised fist. The symbol of black power, feminism, solidarity, basically any movement of people rising up. So why haven't they done it before? Because they have a steady stream of young sacrificed to them via mediums.

It's... so... clear.....
posted by lumpenprole at 2:01 PM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Leotrotsky, about the videotapes in the basement, I think they were actually meant to represent "Kevin".

"Some stuff had to get cut from the monster rampage sequence at the end. The Angry Molesting Tree, which you can glimpse in the elevator in one scene, got much more molest-y in another shot, which might wind up as a DVD extra. Also, one of Goddard's favorite monsters was Kevin, a sweet-looking guy who seemed like he might work at Best Buy — until he dismembers people. But Whedon fought to include the Dragon-Bat." via
posted by misha at 2:03 PM on May 10, 2012


Leotrotsky, about the videotapes in the basement, I think they were actually meant to represent "Kevin".

Geeky nitpick: Leotrotsky asked about the film reels.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:08 PM on May 10, 2012


Best film I've seen for... Oooh... Ages. And actually suprising - when does that happen?

If you've read this far without seeing it then that's a shame, you've missed out.
posted by Artw at 2:26 PM on May 10, 2012


Also, while I found the actual teens kind of boring, I would raptly watch an entire sitcom based on the corporation.

I believe you're looking for the late, lamented Better Off Ted.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 2:29 PM on May 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Way ahead of you!
posted by Greg Nog at 2:31 PM on May 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was disappointed that the world ended when the main characters refused to follow the rules of horror movies. I actually do interpret the hand at the end as the invisible hand of the market, about to utterly crush the (movie) world for stepping out of line. The ending as it is reinforces the idea that the stupid public gets terrible movies and art (and everything) because that's all it can handle, and all it can reward. Trying to rise above or to do something more worthwhile gets you destroyed in the box office. The main characters know this, and their destruction is a price are willing to accept. It's better to be destroyed in the market than to commit the kind of self-murder necessary to appease the public.

But that just isn't so. I believe the movie could and perhaps should have argued, in its final scenes, that this view of the market and the public is wrong. That better things can actually be rewarded, not punished.

The movie could have ended with a long silence, absent of planet-wrecking gods, followed by the two survivors slowly walking back to the surface of a better world. A world that understood, finally, that the shit rules of shit movies (and books, and politics, and everything else) were not laws of the universe but lies dreamt up by humans blinded by fanaticism, or sadism, or their own limited talents. That these laws can and should be ignored by any decent director, writer, artist, human—and the world will not end.

Oh well. Still a really good movie.
posted by jsturgill at 2:43 PM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was disappointed that the world ended when the main characters refused to follow the rules of horror movies.

I interpreted it slightly less literally - more in the "if we have to do this kind of shit to save the world, the world isn't worth saving" - which is basically what Marty says at the end. I read that as more an attack on the genre rather than on, say, humanity - that it's time for a whole new paradigm to take over in horror movies because the existing ones are so bankrupt. I think reading "the Old Gods are the audience/market/production companies/whatever" too literally, scene for scene, is a bit of a trap - they're all of those, and also just big evil monsters, because this is actually a horror movie as well as metacommentary.
posted by restless_nomad at 2:50 PM on May 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


I had an ex girlfriend that hated Michael Clayton because it was "stupid" the same week she made me watch Balls of Fury (which she of course loved)

Was she stoned? Because if so I can definitely vouch for the veracity of her opinions about those films.
posted by Hoopo at 2:53 PM on May 10, 2012


restless_nomad: "Yeah, that was an odd turn for that article to take. Is anyone familiar with "cinemascore?" I'm assuming its a specific aggregate score from some site, but the link in the article just goes to another one that references it uncited"

CinemaScore is a market research opinion poll thing the studios often use. It's basically polling of opening weekend audiences in large cities.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 2:55 PM on May 10, 2012


I interpreted it slightly less literally - more in the "if we have to do this kind of shit to save the world, the world isn't worth saving" - which is basically what Marty says at the end. I read that as more an attack on the genre rather than on, say, humanity

I interpreted it literally and was pretty jazzed about the decision to phase out humanity, but got a little sad that raccoons might not survive the wrath of the Elder God either because raccoons are way cool
posted by Greg Nog at 3:02 PM on May 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Leotrotsky, about the videotapes in the basement, I think they were actually meant to represent "Kevin".

Brandon Blatcher: Geeky nitpick: Leotrotsky asked about the film reels.

That hurts my feelings, Brandon.

I know what you're trying to do. You're picking a fight with me so I'll despouse you. Do you think I haven't noticed all your new young spouses, with their favorites and their wiles?! !

You think, if you do it right here on the blue, I won't make a scene, don't you? DON'T YOU?!

Just wait until I post my Meta about your dastardly enspousening ways. You'll be lucky if you're ever sidebarred again!

Yeah, I totally meant to write "film reels", sorry!
posted by misha at 3:04 PM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


CinemaScore is a market research opinion poll thing the studios often use. It's basically polling of opening weekend audiences in large cities.

Oh, thanks, that's interesting. Especially this: "Seven films have earned the F grade, including George Clooney's 2002 remake of Solaris,[6] and six horror thrillers." I wonder if horror as a genre polls low on average or if it just has more low-end outliers. I'd sort of guess the former, but then, I dislike horror pretty consistently.
posted by restless_nomad at 3:05 PM on May 10, 2012


restless_nomad: "Oh, thanks, that's interesting. Especially this: "Seven films have earned the F grade, including George Clooney's 2002 remake of Solaris,[6] and six horror thrillers." I wonder if horror as a genre polls low on average or if it just has more low-end outliers. I'd sort of guess the former, but then, I dislike horror pretty consistently."

Well, of the six movies, I've seen Bug, which was ok, mostly because of Michael Shannon doing his maniac thing, which I never get tired of (see also Take Shelter, Boardwalk Empire and to an extent The Runaways, but I can see how a typical audience won't like it, Darkness, which was pretty bad but had a great last 10 minutes, Wolf Creek, the typical torture porn thing Cabin makes fun of, and which I can't remember anything about except that.

Also, while I haven't seen them, The Devil Inside is some sort of exorcism bullshit that's by all accounts pretty bad, and Silent House is a US remake of an Uruguayan indie, starring the younger sister of the Olsen twins.

So all in all, it doesn't seem that this CinemaScore thing is totally off.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 4:00 PM on May 10, 2012


(I'm one of the few people in the world who liked the Soderbergh/Clooney Solaris remake, though.)
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 4:01 PM on May 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Easily the best movie of the year. It was a great movie even before the third act, which was the most satisfying third act ever.
posted by painquale at 4:20 PM on May 10, 2012


(I'm one of the few people in the world who liked the Soderbergh/Clooney Solaris remake, though.)

Heh. I prefer it to the Russian one, primarily because I can actually make it through the thing. It's a very solid adaptation, though I'd love to see some of the weirder manifestations of the planet rather than a colored ball.
posted by Artw at 4:30 PM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, I'm not denying that those films are bad, just that there are remarkably terrible films in a lot of genres, but if 6/7 of the "failing" ones by this measure are horror, there might be something interesting going on. (Whether that's some sort of sampling error or that horror has a lower bar to production or what, I probably shouldn't try to guess.)
posted by restless_nomad at 4:55 PM on May 10, 2012


I deny that Bug is bad. I think it's a great existential horror film, since it's just genuinely about going insane. But I get why people thinking they're going to see a horror film would be put off by it.

I thought of it more as a modern update of Revulsion.
posted by lumpenprole at 4:59 PM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I left the theater pondering the significance of the final image: it's a HAND, not a tentacle or a talon or any other sort of appendage. A hand.

If it's good enough for Deliverance...
posted by Artw at 5:34 PM on May 10, 2012


(I'm one of the few people in the world who liked the Soderbergh/Clooney Solaris remake, though.)
It's a very solid adaptation


I'm not sure adaptation is the right word. They certainly kept the important plot elements intact though. Perhaps it's just a matter of different eras of art, but I think the Soderbergh/Clooney version actually improved on the original.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 5:35 PM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


The merman. Oh, how I loved the merman.
posted by queensissy at 5:59 PM on May 10, 2012 [9 favorites]


I was really, really happy about the ending - mostly because nobody in cinema lets their characters make that choice, the anti-greater good choice. So not only was it refreshingly different, it said something that I think needs to be said in this 24-esque morality driven world.

I watched In the Mouth of Madness recently, and it's a perfect parallel movie with this, more so in that the stoner and the protagonist of Mouth say almost the exact same thing, that humans have pretty much blown it, and it's time for something "else". Also that it ends basically the same. I really do miss old Carpenter, Mouth, The Thing, and Prince of Darkness, some of my favorite movies.
posted by usagizero at 6:52 PM on May 10, 2012


I interpreted it slightly less literally - more in the "if we have to do this kind of shit to save the world, the world isn't worth saving" - which is basically what Marty says at the end.

He even Chekov guns it earlier in the film, while on the ride there, he goes on how humans have borked it up enough that we don't deserve to go on. Forgot his exact words, but picked up on that. This is honestly where i feel the balls of the movie are, in saying that sometimes the end doesn't justify the means, which is so unlike the message we get fed (torture and war are needed to fight the big bad of terrorism). This took way more balls than the world not ending, to say that we don't have to sink to that, even if it means we all die horribly, takes guts.

I deny that Bug is bad. I think it's a great existential horror film, since it's just genuinely about going insane. But I get why people thinking they're going to see a horror film would be put off by it.

I loved Bug. Was very freaked out by it, and recommend it to every one i can. I also point out the trailers lie, and it's not a horror film as such, more psychological horror, if that. The part of the infectious insanity though, the way he just knew bugs were there, even if they weren't and the lengths he went to get rid of them, and it affected those around him, that was powerful.
posted by usagizero at 7:05 PM on May 10, 2012


I liked Bug, but it's definitely not what it's being sold as. It's also not very cinematic. It's based on a play (originally also starring Michael Shannon, bless his insane characterizations), and that really shows, in that the staging and so on is very theatrical and static.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 7:10 PM on May 10, 2012


I think I saw that Solaris was being advertised as a heartwarming romance, which, well... no.
posted by Artw at 7:29 PM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I loved Darkness.
I've only seen the unrated version, but I've heard the PG-13 theatrical cut was pretty bad.

And having seen both the unrated and R-rated versions of Hellraiser, I can totally see how that could be the case. The R-rated Hellraiser is an incoherent mess.

(Oh, yeah: Cabin in the Woods was fucking great. I need to see it again.)
posted by Mister Moofoo at 7:31 PM on May 10, 2012


I think I saw that Solaris was being advertised as a heartwarming romance, which, well... no.

Hey, George Clooney wishes his ex-girlfriend back from the dead. It's romantic!

Seriously, I don't envy the people who had to market that movie. Big director, big actor, independent plot...
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:40 PM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


That nice Mr. Clooney just did what to his ghost wife?
posted by Artw at 7:51 PM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Artw: "That nice Mr. Clooney just did what to his ghost wife"

It's like Ghost, but with airlocks instead of pottery.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 8:05 PM on May 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Bug getting such a low "Cinemascore" may be relevant to the proposed thesis for Cabin in the Woods, in that Bug is not so bad, I think, but if you just want a conventional horror film, you'll be very unsatisfied.
posted by RobotHero at 8:09 PM on May 10, 2012


I'm one of the few people in the world who liked the Soderbergh/Clooney Solaris remake, though.

We love it 'round here too.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:50 PM on May 10, 2012


Oh, are we talking about sci-fi now?

I saw 2001, Sunshine, and Moon in close succession recently. Mind: blown. Moon is the best movie I've seen in years.
posted by miyabo at 9:11 PM on May 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm one of the few people in the world who liked the Soderbergh/Clooney Solaris remake, though.

I'm quite fond of it, and that's as a fan (on balance) of the Tarkovsky version. Soderbergh's is much more consistent and restrained. It never comes close to the high points of the first one, but it also avoids the pitfalls. The falls in to pits of self-indulgent editing and ten minute highway sequences.
posted by Mike Smith at 10:32 PM on May 10, 2012


I can't say I liked the Clooney Solaris particularly... It was enjoyable to watch but I felt no need to see it again

but the soundtrack is awesome.
posted by gryftir at 11:50 PM on May 10, 2012


I would totally read the book again, particularly if I could get hold of the new translation. Not sure I'd make any fresh assaults on Mount Tarkovsky again though - maybe Stalker, which I've not seen. Though there's a new translation of Roadside Picnic, the source novel, which if Solaris is anything to go by might be a better use of my time.
posted by Artw at 11:57 PM on May 10, 2012


We saw Cabin in the Woods in a theater that was about 20% full of stoned teens and twentysomethings and there were two older folks sitting up front.

The olders didn't last through the first act, so yeah I could understand reports of walk-outs.

The younguns behind us were vocally into the movie, talking back to the screen, gasping at the right parts, screaming a bit. Normally this would bug me but I liked having them there. They added to the horror movie ambiance. Then, when Sigourney appeared -- THEY CHEERED AND APPLAUDED! I had no idea that Sigourney Weaver drew water with people who are younger than Aliens.
posted by Sauce Trough at 12:05 AM on May 11, 2012


Note from someone who was there with Sauce Trough: The younguns had also pretty much hotboxed the entire theater by the time we got there. This may explain both Sauce Trough's enjoyment and the Sigourney thing.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 12:23 AM on May 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


This has not been the case with anyone I know who has seen the film at all. Everyone, from goth to geek, horror-hater to slasher-school, has loved it! When I read that last bit about audiences walking out or giving the film a low rating...well, I was just gobsmacked. I want to see some serious citations, because I'm not buying it.

I found this comforting, as I'm apparently the only person I know who didn't understand all the fuss. One explanation for this, quite possibly, is that I'm just missing something, or lots of things. The more self-flattering/pretentious explanation would be that all sorts of movies are commentaries on moviemaking and movie-watching to one degree or another; why do people consider it so much more awesome when it's done so relentlessly and heavy-handedly (and at the expense, I thought, of proper scary moments)?

As for all the talk of "spoilers"... the trailer, never mind the film's first five minutes, made it incredibly clear that this wasn't a traditional horror movie. The ending just seemed to me to be fleshing out the details. Coverage of the movie had led me to expect a total, perspective-shifting twist. So maybe the absence of that added to the sense of underwhelm.

This isn't intended as a "meh" comment. I have had a genuine feeling of dissonance talking about this film with others.
posted by oliverburkeman at 2:15 AM on May 11, 2012


I think you are not alone, Oliverburkeman. Certainly, you are right about the trailer. Perhaps the whole idea of metafiction feels much newer or more exciting to some people than to others. I would tentatively suggest that the people who like stories about stories tend to be people to whom genre fiction is very important and a significant part of their self-identity.

Joss Whedon also tends to evoke passionate responses of defensive support or irritable dismissal, neither of which is entirely fair. His work does not always succeed; neither is it entirely geek-pandering and derivative. But he is a funny and intelligent man with an experienced competence in delivering popular scriptwriting.

So all of these features may have led some people to make extreme statements about a film that others might find nice, but unremarkable.

One thing I do find interesting is that many people are reading THE CABIN IN THE WOODS as an expression of dissatisfaction with modern horror movies - an attack on them for being too derivative or a criticism of their audience for being too aggressive towards novelty.

I am not sure that something so metafictional - so, in practice, flattering of its audience - can really function effectively as a rebuke. It seems more likely to make the audience nod along to the cliches and references. Or, if they are younger, and do not pick up on the references, it will probably encourage them to find them out - and turn their attention towards the past, towards things already within the horror community, towards a pre-existing canon of "greats". If anything, it seems like a way of injecting an appearance of life into those cliches (but without much real vitality).

Where Whedon seems to be on stronger ground, to me, is in his criticism of misogyny.
posted by lucien_reeve at 6:19 AM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am not sure that something so metafictional - so, in practice, flattering of its audience - can really function effectively as a rebuke.

I actually think the criticism was undercut a little bit by their unwillingness to push the torture-porn aspect of it too far. (The final act notwithstanding - that was just funny, in my opinion.)

The misogyny aspect - specifically, the "sexually active girl initiates sex and gets immediately punished" scene - worked really, really well for me as a criticism because they totally went there, upstairs, and downstairs the cheering audience was, well, creepy. Way creepier than the zombies - I was thinking "Wait, they all know what's going to happen and they're still totally into this. That's kind of... gross. No, that's really gross." (The actual death scene was surprisingly mild, as were they all, really.)

Since they didn't make a torture porn scene to criticize, that doesn't come across in the metafiction. They chose to criticize that by making the kind of horror movie they like, which is totally fine and Lord knows I wouldn't have watched it otherwise, but it doesn't have that extra layer of meaning with a visceral effect.
posted by restless_nomad at 7:57 AM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Since they didn't make a torture porn scene to criticize, that doesn't come across in the metafiction.

Not true - the entire background of the company party at the end (before the big red phone rings) is a single, protracted, farcically over the top shot of the last zombie (sorry, pain-worshipping redneck zombie, that's different) just WHALING on the 'survivor girl' for like five minutes straight, throwing her around like a sack of sad potatoes. I thought that was about pitch-perfect as a mockery of the 'torture porn' ouvre.
posted by FatherDagon at 10:23 AM on May 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


That's true, I didn't think about that scene. I don't really think of that sort of thing when I think "torture porn," but I can totally see that as fitting that role in the metacommentary.
posted by restless_nomad at 10:56 AM on May 11, 2012


Semi-related, but... One thing that really got me about CABIN was the undertone of sadness as the characters lost parts of themselves (metaphorically, not literally). When Final Girl is kissing the guy and says "I've never done this before... Wait, why did I say that?", or when Stoner Guy is yelling that his friends are NOT like this, they were not one-word caricatures of people before they got here, I hear a larger critique of horror movies, and maybe teen life in general, a mourning for all the parts of human character that get smoothed away to fit an archetype.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:56 AM on May 11, 2012 [7 favorites]


It still sort of annoys me that this sat on a shelf for three years. Also I wish I'd skipped the trailer as I already since it kind of spoiled the fact that "The Virgin" and "The Fool" make it into the underground complex.
posted by the_artificer at 9:26 PM on May 11, 2012


Well I just got back from it after having avoided any foreknowledge and while I enjoyed it (oh god, that ending sequence) as a burlesque on horror conventions - I had figured out all the "twists" by the title sequence . The kind of horror fan I think the movie is targeting it, the kind of horror fan that would notice all the shot by shot callbacks to Evil Dead and the like, would be clued in by the opening shot what direction the movie is going to take.

Also I think putting HER in at the end there was the ultimate call back to the OTHER successful movie interpretation of the Lovecraft mythos.


that being said I am getting a bit tired of the Lovecraft stuff, no matter how much parts of this movie seems like a Laundry or SPC series put to live. I have some possible Lovecraftian elements in my next thing I am doing everything in my power to reverse or tone down all the tentacle madness ritual monster stuff
posted by The Whelk at 4:19 PM on May 18, 2012


But yeah, my take away was a kind of scathing "Okay Horror genre, now you have to do SOMETHING ELSE, okay?" rebuke.
posted by The Whelk at 4:21 PM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, while I found the actual teens kind of boring, I would raptly watch an entire sitcom based on the corporation.

*quietly waits for a Laundry BBC series*
posted by The Whelk at 4:25 PM on May 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I had figured out all the "twists" by the title sequence . The kind of horror fan I think the movie is targeting it, the kind of horror fan that would notice all the shot by shot callbacks to Evil Dead and the like, would be clued in by the opening shot what direction the movie is going to take.

Yes, but to be fair, The Whelk, even though you tried not to be spoilered too much, you had some idea that this was Not Your Average Horror Movie, so you made a mental connection right there with those opening credits. So did I, the second time I saw it--but the first time I saw it was opening weekend, before I read *any* reviews or coverage of the movie at all (including cleverly-worded hints from other Whedon fans).

I wanted to see it right away because I'm the kind of person who tries to figure out plots twists in advance (I accidentally ruined Shutter Island for my spouse because SPOILER ALERT FOR SHUTTER ISLAND!!!! I leaned over right at the beginning and whispered, "Geez, talk about unreliable narrator!" when DiCaprio's character was all green and seasick. END SPOILER!!!).

And also, though I love you, I doubt you had them all figured out. How the fates were determined, for example, though you might have guessed at why, and what little nudges had the characters acting in certain ways (how's that for cryptic, spoiler-free people?). Blonde? No way you guessed that. Significance of the mirror placement? Tunnel glitch?

Lots of good stuff there. I think I'm the only one who didn't rejoice over the Surprise Celebrity, but you can't please everyone!
posted by misha at 5:30 PM on May 18, 2012


Well not everything down to the very detail but I got the overall within a few minutes, although to be fair I am the RUINIER OF NARRATIVE, leaning in and going " misdirection!" and "foreshadowing!" at every moment. As with a lot of Whedony stuff, it's not so much the plotting of the Fun Genre Excerise, it's the little touches and highlights and this movie was nothing but little touches and highlights.

But yeah even the poster primes you to be on the lookout.
posted by The Whelk at 6:44 PM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


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