This review also contains spoilers.
The Cabin in the Woods (2012), directed by Drew Goddard – along with production and script credit to Joss Whedon – initially presents itself with a bog-standard storyline. In a nutshell: a group of 5 teens head to a remote cabin in the woods (whoa, it’s the name of the film!) and find they’re severed of all communications with the outside world as they know it. A door to the basement opens itself up, which leads the group to a bunch of ancient relics as well as a spooky book. Dana (Kristen Connolly) reads a passage from the book which, of course, gives rise to a bunch of murdering zombies. Same old horror tripe under a new yet somehow unoriginal name, right? Wrong.
Now, I should mention that, for the most part, I really don’t care for horror films, with their overused tropes and unimaginative, predictable arrangements – and this is exactly why I enjoyed The Cabin in the Woods so much. The film quickly leaves the generic and dull premise behind as it shoots off into what I perceived as a satirical deconstruction of the stereotypical concept of a horror film; but what makes this even more enjoyable is that it manages to entertain the viewer with a film which is both serious and clever whilst doing this, and thus toying with the horror genre.
Beneath the cabin are two experimenters with control over the cabin and its surroundings. Manipulating both the group and peripheral variables, they get to decide on which monsters from a plethora of choices will hunt and kill the kids, and what might happen should this annual ritual fail in appeasing the beasts.
As the film progresses, it’s revealed this ritual is part of a worldwide ritual, and that the current situation in the cabin is the entirety of humanity’s last hope of survival. Dana encounters the prison of monsters, which are let loose, and eventually winds up meeting the leader of the facility, known only as The Director. And, of course, as a homage to a classic horror – another frequent feature of this finely-crafted film – The Director is played by none other than Sigourney Weaver: Alien Killer.
The Director explains that an annual ritual is performed to appease what she refers to as “The Ancient Ones”, – also described as literal giant Gods – with each facility’s region adhering to the local lore of their geographical location. And, sure enough, the participants in this American cabin are selected based on archetypes of young people – namely jocks, “w****s”, athletes and other such titles. With every other location having failed to appease the Gods, this region must be successful in performing – and completing – the specific ritual, the punishment for failing to do so being the extermination of the entire human race. Eventually, deciding that humanity isn’t worth saving, the two remaining characters smoke a doobie before the ground beneath them is literally caved in by the hand of a massive and evil God who then, presumably, destroys the rest of the world.
And it’s about damn time.
I mean, really – a film which flips the stereotypical horror genre on its side, AND ends with the complete annihilation of the human race? I am sold. A cliche-crushing concoction of comedy, cleverness, originality, satirical mockery of the horror genre, and, at times, the ability to provide a genuine feeling of peril and omnipotent power beyond us mere mortals, The Cabin in the Woods covers all corners and checks all boxes in providing a thoroughly entertaining watch from start to finish.
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