I’ve always been fascinated by horror movies but, for some reason, never really been much of a fan. I remember being intrigued by Fangoria magazine when I was young, and I love me some monsters. As a kid I had a ton of books about movie monsters, but, for some reason, that’s never translated into an enjoyment of the genre for me as an adult.
There are a couple of reasons for this, I think:
First of all, horror films tend to wallow in human suffering. It’s sort of the point. You can’t really make a horror film without something horrible happening to the characters. A nubile 16-year-old blonde getting disemboweled with a machete? Horrifying! A nubile 16-year-old blonde getting asked to the prom by the perfect boy? Not horrifying! Horror content doesn’t play nice.
MINOR SPOILERS BELOW
But, it seems like in recent years horrible circumstances are largely all horror movies have to offer. For instance, I get what Eli Roth is onto with the Hostel films, that there are fates worse than the fast and usually immediate death most horror film characters receive. But, what’s supposed to be fun or entertaining about watching people be tortured to death? Isn’t that what the Final Destination series is all about? Watching attractive young people meet their elaborately choreographed ends, like some Busby Berkley splatter move? Like the Friday the 13th series that came before them, the whole point of these movies is just elaborate kills and nothing else and where is the fun in that? I don’t mind extreme violence at the service of a story, but when extreme violence is supposed to be the main entertainment attraction, I tend to check out.
Secondly, horror films are almost always poorly made. Let’s face it, when your audience is made up primarily of teenagers with questionable taste to begin with, why would anybody really try all that hard making a movie? Yes, there are artists like Carpenter and Romero who make good films and have something to say, but generally speaking horror movies usually suck. It seems like in recent years there’s be an increase in my friends inviting me to see some new horror movie only for them to tell me later on how bad it turned out to be. And, they almost always seem surprised by this.
The Cabin in the Woods doesn’t suck. In fact, The Cabin in the Woods is a tremendous amount of fun. And, when was the last time a horror film had a sense of humor and wasn’t some dour, overly serious Saw knockoff?
I have to admit to being a bit of a mark for anything Joss Whedon does. I even sort of liked Dollhouse. Anybody familiar with Joss’ body of work will recognize his love of horror. And, like the aforementioned Mr. Carpenter and Mr. Romero, Mr. Whedon is using horror tropes for commentary. What was Buffy if not a show using those tropes to comment on the horrors of high school and young adulthood?
Co-written by Joss and directed by Drew Goddard, Cabin will likely remind people of what the Scream films did years ago – it takes a horror sub-genre (in this case the college kids in an evil, isolated cabin deal), takes it apart, and then re-shuffles all the pieces. Unlike Scream, however, the college coeds being tormented in Cabin are not aware that they’re characters in a horror film. No, it turns out there’s an entirely other set of characters who are aware of the genre strings being pulled and why. It’s inspired storytelling.
And, I’ll stop with any other plot descriptions there. I don’t want to spoil the experience for people. The last act is nutty in a great way, and I wonder how many Buffy fans will notice some similarities to that series’ Season Four.
The Cabin in the Woods is a movie that really should be seen cold, with as little prior knowledge as possible. I think the trailers give away way too much of the film, but which trailers in modern Hollywood don’t?
Fans of horror films are likely to love this, but I think non-genre fans will dig it, too. I don’t think it’s too “inside baseball” for people who don’t know Freddy Krueger from Jason Vorhees. Whedon and Goddard are making a very meta film here, but it doesn’t trip over its own references.
Also, Richard Jenkins is in it, and I love Richard Jenkins.
The Cabin in the Woods is stupendous fun. But, unlike a lot of modern horror films, it’s not just about the killings. It’s smart, funny, and exceedingly well constructed.