The Cabin in the Woods (2011; directed by Drew Goddard; written by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard) is hardly deep; but definitely fun.
It’s often like something the ghosts of Philip K. Dick and H.P. Lovecraft have conjured up—cruel surveillance-paranoia technocrats meet Cthulhu—and on second viewing, I noticed the flick has a nihilistic streak a mile wide.
And maybe that’s a good thing.
[For a disturbingly detailed synopsis, please go HERE—otherwise we’re under the assumption that you’ve seen The Cabin in the Woods already, or don’t care about Spoilers.]
There’s plenty of awesome stuff to geek out about in this film, and the gore and madness is top rate.
Unfortunately, while there is a lot of food for thought, the film was almost too arch and cold in its irreverence.
Because I do love the concept of Old Dark Gods needing their blood sacrifices, but I couldn’t help but think that with all the wars and gut-crunching insanity in the world, the Old Ones would be satiated already. I was disappointed that the film didn’t comment on this in some way; which may be asking too much from an admittedly entertaining but snarky horror flick that had a “real world” more akin to some teenybopper comedy than “our” world.
Meanwhile, the hijinks of the tech crew in The Cabin in the Woods truly angered me—mainly their cruelty and indifference to the children who’ve they’ve tricked into getting slaughtered—but
they are to be additionally criticized for allowing sacred rituals to become so bureaucratic and full of lies, to the point where tricks must be used to feed the Nether Lords:
There is a certain honesty about a whole town knowing that every year at a certain time a virgin must be thrown in to a volcano.
The techies give lip service to “free will,” but then proceed to push the kids into the tightest of corners, where all choices are bad.
In their schizophrenic pursuit of a purely technological world, the Technicians have literally buried the Old Ones—but still must worship (feed) them regularly.
Heck, the Old Ones should be ashamed of themselves for being buried! No wonder they’re so full of rage.
Even though the Technicians employ a unique and eclectic menagerie of nightmare critters (love the lamprey-ballerina! Is that supposed to be “The Sugar Plum Fairy”?), these secret rulers of the Earth (the character of “The Director” and her ilk) are essentially conservative: they want status quo (the antithesis of chaos).
So while Marty the Stoner’s actions may cause the “agonizing death of millions of humans,” according to The Director (Sigourney Weaver in a fun cameo; although they should have gotten Jamie Lee Curtis, the template for the modern Final Girl)—is she to be believed? Isn’t her entire enterprise founded on subterfuge?
If appeasing the Old Ones is so important, so essential to civilization and even life on the planet, why do you keep it a secret?!?
(And maybe it shouldn’t be a secret; perhaps it would be better if the Old Ones wandered the lands and did some serious Earth scorching. Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!)
You would think it would be the other way around, instead of secret global cabals of quasi-military organizations tricking kids to their gory deaths, that the sacrifice tributes would be treated like kings for a period of time, just as some ancient civilizations used to do. The duped youths of The Cabin in the Woods should have been revered before their inevitable slaughter.
The stoner is being true to whatever ethics his parents instilled in him—he was (presumably) raised in the Judeo-Christian USA ethical system, and now BOOM: he’s shown that The Powers That Be have no morals—far beyond any of his previous petty conspiracy theories—and to a good all-American stoner, that is wrong.
It’s a bad system, and us good Americans have been taught to fight bad systems (even though that’s not what they really want in the “real” world, either, but we’re all victims of the propaganda machine), and Marty’s just doing his part.
Bring it down, man, bring it all down! Fight the Power!
Especially since What’s-His-Name and That Guy in the Control Room below the domed woods don’t even seem to be doing their job very well: all those high-tech borderline-supernatural gizmos and none of their equipment detects that Marty the Stoner is not dead? Tsk-tsk, boys.
Like all bureaucrats they slather on “technological fixes” instead of more direct approaches (virgin, meet volcano), and grow further disconnected from their purpose—until it all blows up in their faces.
The world needs to end because the people “behind the curtain” are such assholes.
Whedon’s The Avengers is a film I like a lot, and I thought Serenity was a damn fine space opera (I never caught the TV show, so the movie was a nifty stand-alone item for me), but other than that, I’ve never fallen under his spell, and have never been a follower of his TV shows—they’re all the stuff I should really like—I guess—but I think what’s kept me away is how darn clever they all seem to be….
In retrospect, I guess I prefer the more serious mind games behind the cruel tortures inflicted upon innocents, like
Peter Watkins’ criminally underseen and underappreciated Punishment Park from 1971 (reviewed HERE), and
“Nightmare,” an episode of The Outer Limits from 1963, written by series producer (and screenwriter of Psycho) Joseph Stefano, and directed by John Erman.
Earth is at war with the planet Ebon, and a team of astro-soldiers is captured by the bat-like Ebonites. All are interrogated, some brutally, and the team is cracking up—eventually “deciding” that someone talked, and that traitor should be “executed.”
Like The Cabin in the Woods, it’s a lie: there is no war, and the Ebonites are working for our generals, testing the stress levels of the captured astronauts.
The teleplay is very deep, while always mysterious and entertaining, covering racism, anti-intellectualism, repressed homosexuality, misguided patriotism and the inhumanism of the military mindset. The generals are like a combination of Cabin’s technicians and the dark, bloodthirsty gods: "How dare you interfere!" screams general Whit Bissell* at an Ebonite, "You'll spoil the game!"
I do wish the Tech Room of Cabin was switched into the lame and bogus control room supervising the killings in The Hunger Games, a flick that could’ve certainly used more violence and sick humor—but how about those weird creepy parallels between The Cabin in the Woods and The Hunger Games (besides the return of prepositions to movie titles)—is there some sort of “surveillance/young people dying for the old folks’ entertainment/bloodsport as control” zeitgeist going on?
Remember Kids, VOTE!
The Cabin in the Woods (as well as The Hunger Games) was previously commented on HERE.
* = who doesn't love Whit Bissell's uptight WASP power figures?