Cabin in the Woods
Dir. Drew Goddard (2011)
Five college students head to a cabin in the woods to get some R&R. Little do they know that there are bigger things afoot.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
It's so damn difficult to find a movie that has a fresh, unique take on the horror genre, and even when a movie desperately tries to be original, it usually falls flat on its face or comes across as entirely derivative. What's interesting about Cabin in the Woods is that it strives to be derivative, and to add up the sum of those parts of other films that it copies from to create an entirely new beast, one that somehow works its way back around to originality. It delivers entirely on that premise, turning the old standard tropes on their heads to give us something that we've never seen before and creating a world that makes you wish this was a series as opposed to a standalone movie.
There are so many callbacks within CitW that it feels very much like a love letter to the genre a la Scream. It's a slasher at the edges, but at its core it's a meta mindfuck with shades of every horror movie from The Evil Dead to Hellraiser. There are two competing stories within, and it makes the movie all the more compelling because the audience is never entirely sure who we want to come out victorious. The scenes with the soaring score and anxiety-building action scenes alternate between the college students trapped at the cabin and the workers in the control room that are seeking to deliver them to their deaths to avoid the end of the world. It is within that latter world, however, that the primary fascination with the movie revolves around.
And somehow, these scenes were even more entertaining than what was actually happening in the cabin.
There is much to be argued about the morality of killing, a debate that permeates so many facets of our sociopolitical world; from the death penalty to gun control, the different sides feel that the baseline of their argument comes down to how wrong it actually is to kill someone who seeks to harm you. But what if the fate of the entire world was at stake? Would you kill five innocent people to save the every other life on planet Earth? If so, would you do it every year? At what point would you view it as too big of a sacrifice? These are questions that are only dealt with on the surface, but it's a fascinating subtext that is worth thinking about long past when the credits roll on this film.
The best (and most memorable) thing about CitW is that there was so much potential to ruin the film with a board full of options that sounded so much more interesting than the zombie hillbilly family that became the "main protagonists." The brilliance of this movie, and the thing that kept it from becoming just a standard slasher with an interesting twist, was the elevator scene and everything that came after it. The reveal of the things that they did not choose was so much more compelling than the fight that resulted from their choice. It turned the violence and gore up to 11 and paved the way for one of the most batshit crazy final acts of any film in recent memory. At the end of the day, CitW is a slick, gore-filled horror comedy that has become an instant classic in the genre, one that could easily be a several-times-a-year rewatch for me.
One final note: when this movie released, everyone was talking about how the ending "blew their minds." By "the ending," these people meant the fact that they were actually sacrifices to the elder god and that their deaths were being controlled in order to appease them. But like... they reveal that super early in the movie... Hey, if you were shocked that they avoided death and brought about the destruction of the world, or even that the always-amazing Sigourney Weaver is the director behind it all, sure, I could see that. But the fact that they were sacrifices? That's literally in the first twenty minutes of the movie. God, people are fucking stupid.
My face when people talk about the twist in this movie.
Who this movie is for: Classic "cabin in the woods" movie fans, Gorehounds, People who found The Little Mermaid unrealistic
Bottom line: Funny, gory, and with a batshit crazy finale, Cabin in the Woods is an instant classic that more films should strive to imitate. It's a genre love-fest, filled with callbacks and references to the films that we all know and love in the same way that Scream blew our minds with a decade-and-a-half before. Easily a great addition to a Halloween marathon.