The Cabin in the Woods is an ultra-self-aware narrative. The purpose of the film is to break down the tropes of horror films, and to both lampoon and celebrate many of the genre’s trappings. Underlining the metanarrative is a deep skepticism about the role of humanity in the world and the cruelty we can inflict on one another. Now, don’t get me wrong; that deeper reading is quite minimal in the film.
Instead, we have five idiots (okay, they aren’t really idiots, but are instead subjected to brain diminishing gasses from an evil corporation) in a cabin in the woods. The cabin is actually a ritual site where sacrifices are made to a dark ancient one. The five teens must choose their own fate by touching or interfering with an object in the cabin’s cellar. They end up with zombie-torture-rednecks (or something like that).
The people running the show behind the scenes are the most interesting aspect. We as viewers are indicted with them as, we, too are awaiting the gory kills and cheap thrills. We do get those aplenty, particularly as all hell breaks loose in the final act. I wish the narrative would have gotten to the high amount of chaos a bit quicker. Despite their intentions, the film more or less operates as genre for the first half.
I liked the film, but I tend to not like it as much as everyone else seems to. Something about the smugness of the writing seems a bit too self-congratulatory for me. Sure, it embraces the skepticism of postmodernism, and it does provide some smart commentary. Yet, at the end of the day, we are all relying on a burnout for our information. The filmmakers try to transcend the genre but still fall into many of the same predictable traps. I know some will say this is the point, and I am certain some of them are, but some are just corner-cutting writing.
Satire as a whole tends to irk me a bit, so this review might be too harsh to be agreeable to most. I would have liked the deconstruction of the narrative tropes to go further. Do something more than ending up in more or less the same place as so many narratives before. The film’s reach extends its grasp in some areas.
While this review might seem overly negative, it isn’t meant to be. There is a lot to enjoy here, particularly for a single viewing. There are some fun twists, and the spectacle will last as long as the movie runs. If you are like me, though, the film might leave you a little less than fully satisfied. 7/10