Watching The Cabin in the Woods made me feel like I did in eighth-grade biology class when I did an autopsy on a frog. It felt novel and different and coldly fascinating — I’d never cut into the chest and stomach cavity of an animal before — but it was basically a clinical exercise that I knew I wouldn’t repeat. I wonder if the frog felt any pain? Too bad if he did. He’s only a little dead frog and I’m big and alive, and biology class will be over in 20 minutes so who cares?
I know for an absolute fact that I’ll never watch The Cabin the Woods again…ever. Because for all the “fun” of wading into a horror flick that fiddles with old cliches and scatters the cards in a way that feels fresh and smart-assy while spilling many gallons of blood, this is one of the coldest and creepiest films of this sort that I’ve ever…uhm, endured.
Yes — director Drew Goddard and producer-cowriter Joss Whedon have taken the old Friday the 13th/Evil Dead “sexually active kids alone in a cabin getting slaughtered by a fiend” formula and tricked it up and turned it into a kind of horror-hotel concept. With — SPOILER! SPOILER! — several older, cold-hearted creeps in shirts and ties and lab coats keeping tabs on the carnage like bored, professional-class cynics watching a dull football game that they couldn’t care less about.
No horror film is about basking in the humanity of the characters and taking emotional saunas. All horror films say to the audience, “You’re fucked.” But even for a genre that has revelled in blood and torture and sadism over the last 25 or 30 years, Cabin In The Woods is a stand-out. Horror isn’t about “scary” this time — it’s about an ice-cold spectator game that will deaden your soul. Nobody cares, everybody suffers, blood everywhere, take the pain, life hates you, we hate you, God hates you, Lionsgate hates you, fuck off, we want to hear you scream for mercy. Oh, and one more thing: you’re so much more fucked that you know.
Goddard and Whedon are saying to us, “Are you enjoying the game we’re playing here? Pretty cool, huh?” Well, sort of…yeah. You’ve shaken things up, guys, and done it differently…fine. But you and your film are so detached from any shred of feeling or a facsimile of human reality (except in a few anecdotal ways) that you make me want to inject novocaine and embalming fluid into my veins. So I can feel like I’m part of the fun and the coolness. Thanks, dickheads.
The Cabin In The Woods reminded me of an eternal truism — never, ever trust excited geek buzz coming out of South by Southwest. The people who go there are invested in SXSW geekdom and celebrating their own aroma and determined to whip themselves into a lather about any film that half does the trick.
I wouldn’t have mentioned this but Village Voice critic Mark Olsen writes that “at the end of The Cabin in the Woods, the world is destroyed by an apocalyptic hand of fate — an actual hand, mind you — yet that is not a spoiler, not really.” Compared to this the “guys in shirts and ties and lab coats” thing is mouse shit.