The horror genre of films is interesting because of how aware its fans are of the problems inherit in it, while still celebrating those flaws in ways that many people find incomprehensible. I’m a pretty big horror fan myself, but I understand the frustration that some people have with the overreliance on tropes and that tend to appear in some of the weakest examples of the genre. However, this dichotomy between the quality of the tropes and the love of them that fans have has led to some great examples of genre spoofing and exploration that’s been hard to match in other film genres. Movies like Scream and You’re Next have been able to walk that line between honoring what came before while also subverting and improving in ways that a lot of horror films fail to do. The Cabin in the Woods (written by Joss Whedon and directed by Drew Goddard) is the current reigning champ of these kind of self-aware horror films, and yet or some reason I haven’t gotten around to seeing it yet. Well what better way to fill that gap in my viewing history than to watch it for my MONTH OF HORROR MOVIE REIVEWS!? Can the movie possibly be as good as the hype has promised it is, or is it another overrated horror flick that’s inexplicably beloved by fans of the genre? Only one way to find out and that’s to keep on reading!!
The movie begins with two office drones (played by Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford) talking about childproofing methods when another employee at this hyper sterilized office building starts talking about anomalies with scenarios or something, but the two drones don’t seem to pay it much heed. They get on a little golf cart thingy and I guess they’re driving to wherever it is in the building they work. Then all of a sudden, the titles appear along with a loud noise and a scream.
We then cut to some college town where we meet a redhead (Dana) who’s packing in her underwear. We also meet her blonde friend (Jules), and the blonde’s boyfriend who’s played by Chris Hemsworth. I’m sure he has a name, but FUCK IT! He’s Hemsworth!!
IT seems that they’re planning to go on a trip to Hemmsworth’s cousin’s country home but the blonde and Hemsworth have ulterior motives to set up the redhead with a friend of theirs because her ex just broke up with her by e-mail. Right off the bat, these characters are more likable than almost any horror movie cast of teens, but they’re still not what you’d call memorable or three dimensional. They are very much archetypes, but they’re written with the kind of wit you’d expect from something associated with Joss Whedon. Speaking of archetypes, there’s also a stoner guy (Marty).
Out of all the characters so far, he’s easily the most unlikable because in his brief introduction he does several things that no functioning human being would do and treats it all like a gag. That said, he does have a pretty cool giant bong that turns into a travel mug. So the college kids hit the road (there’s one more guy in the van (Holden), but he hasn’t said a damn word yet), and head off to their vacation. While they drive off though, the camera pans up to some guy on the roof of the building who informs somebody through his ear transmitter thingy that the kids have left.
We cut to sometime later where the kids start driving into somewhere where GPS doesn’t work (I guess that whole “G” part of it is utter crap) and then the stoner goes on a rant about “Getting off the GRID man!”
Not liking this guy all that much. While the kids are driving, we see that the two office drones are up to something, but we still don’t know what. The kids arrive at a gas station that doesn’t seem to know what century it is, because the gas pumps don’t take credit cards and there doesn’t seem to be electricity in the store. One of the kids goes into the store and looks around to find jack shit, and then the owner of the place walks from behind a corner with seemingly no other intention that to scare the crap out of the kid.
The guy gives the kids some gas as well as cryptic warning about the place they’re going to visit, and all the teens are like “for real dude?” Even they know this guy is too much to be taken seriously. He insults one of the girls for no fucking reason, but no one punches him (quite deservedly) in the face and instead just leave. The stoner gets a moment to shine by having some choice parting words for the creep.
The kids continue their way to the country home, but it’s clear that at one point they enter… a force field? I don’t know, but the gang arrives at the place soon after. It does look awfully familiar though.
The teens pick their rooms (one finds a two way mirror, but it really doesn’t amount to much), and we find out that the office drones are watching them on hidden cameras. They start talking about scenario changes and adding chemicals to heighten libido, and even reveal that the blonde girl’s hair dye was spiked to make her hornier than usual. At this point it seems obvious what ‘s going on (even if they WHY is uncertain), and that’s that the company the office guys work for is controlling these people surreptitiously in order to get them to fill the roles of stock horror movie archetypes. First guess as to why is that classic “rich people want to watch others suffer” that we see in movies like The Condemned or The Hunger Games. The fact that the teenagers are being manipulated and forced to do things against their will (Jules is probably going to have sex soon) is a pretty dark take on the disposable nature of female actors in horror films who seem to be there for nothing more than to get their tits out.
The movie quickly gets away from those disturbing implications when the office guys get a call from the weirdo at the gas station. He’s another part of this plan, yet he seems strangely into it. You’d think that someone working for this company might be a little jaded, but nope. He doesn’t even have a real reason to call other than to spout cryptic messages about lambs being sent to the slaughter and then getting embarrassed when he realizes he’s on speaker phone.
We cut back to the teens just to watch the lake scene (girls in bikinis and Hemsworth without a shirt) before going back to the office drones who are doing something much more interesting. A lot of people working there are currently taking bets on what’s going to come out and kill the kids. Some vote for zombies, others for werewolves, and Bradley Whitford hopes for mermen. This further compounds the despicableness of the people running the show, but we’re told that it’s kind of a way to relieve the stress involved with doing a job like this. Back at the cabin, the kids are playing truth or dare (Jules makes out with a wolf head) when the basement door flings open. Everyone’s freaked out and Hemsworth dares Dana to go down there and look around. For a while now, the cabin scenes have been incredibly conventional which is the point, but that doesn’t make them all that interesting to watch. Once everyone else joins her in the basement though, it gets a bit interesting again, where each one of them seems to be looking at different objects that are kinda suspicious looking. There’s a brief montage of everyone playing with whatever trinket their looking at (a music box with a little ballerina in it, a knock off of Lemarchand’s box from Hellraiser, etc) when everyone eventually focuses on a diary about the previous residents who were a bunch of hillbilly, religious nut, motherfuckers. Apparently they were a family being tormented by their zealot dad who ended up cutting off one of his daughter’s arms. After reading it, the zombiefied versions of those guys pop out of the ground, and the office pool has a winner.
You know that the people running this place are the bad guys, but I love how mundane their motivations are. It’s just a job for them, so they act like anyone else in an (admittedly exaggerated) office setting. Coffee breaks, office pools, and telling jokes, while they’re sending these people to their deaths and manipulating them with drugs. One more thing about this scene before we move on. Just look at the betting board they have. It’s fucking hilarious!
So now that the fun stuff is over, the guys now have to ensure that the plan goes off without a hitch. A really cool reveal here is that other countries are also doing this, but so far they’ve ALL failed this year and Japan and the US are the last ones. They still don’t tell us WHY they’re doing this, but now we have some global implications as well as some sort of tension as what will happen if they fail.
We cut back to the teens in the cabin who are done exploring the basement and are just chilling in the living room. Eventually, Hesmworth pulls Jules out into the woods to have sex and then Marty (who’s been smoking a lot of pot) tries to tell Dana that he thinks something strange is going on. He points out that Hemsworth is acting much more macho than he usually is, and the Jules’s ‘bad girl’ routine is completely out of character for her. He thinks that someone is manipulating them in some way, but Dana disregards the warnings. This might be an effect of whatever drugs she was given (causing her not being suspicious) but I’m not sure. The bland guy continues to be bland by the way (which might be intentional).
Speaking of Hemsworth, the two of them are now in the forest, but Jules isn’t too comfortable about actually having sex out there. Seeing that the woman isn’t DTF, the office drones jump right the fuck on it and release pheromone mist into the woods to MAKE her want to have sex! Sure enough, this gets here to take her clothes off and jump Hemmsworth’s bones, but then again, wouldn’t we all do that if we got that close to Thor?
This is by far the most disturbing thing in the movie so far. It’s despicable and insanely uncomfortable to watch these guys use her in this way and then to watch them just leer at the monitors. Of course, once she has sex, the backwards hillbilly zombies come out and start attacking them. Hemsworth does what he can, but the zombies over power him and force him to watch as they decapitate his girlfriend.
After the girl is dead, Richard Jenkins (who doesn’t look that happy anymore) offer a prayer to… Cthulhu I’m guessing? Then Bradley Whitford flips some sort of switch which causes blood to fall on some giant stone engraving. So this ISN’T an organization doing this for the benefit of rich fuckers, it’s because they’re a really messed up cult who believes in human sacrifice. GOD DAMN IT! Is this the third fucking movie in a row I’ve done that has a fucked up cult in it!?
We cut back to Marty in the cabin who’s trying not to freak out, but he’s keenly aware that something is up. He wanders outside to clear his head and runs into Hemsworth who was barely able to escape the hillbillies. The two of them run inside and lock the door before the hillbillies can reach them, but noticing that Jules is not with them, Dana decides the best option is to go outside and find her. Let’s blame that one on the drugs too.
After getting definitive proof that their friend isn’t gonna make it (the decapitated head isn’t breathing) the remaining teens push the fucker out the door and try to figure out what’s going on. Marty tells them that he saw a one armed zombie girl, and the figure out that they are the family described in the diary. Hemsworth decides that they have to barricade the house and make sure to stick together no matter what. It’s a good plan which is why the office drones have to spray some… stupid idea gas?
The bland guy agrees, while Dana says nothing, but Marty is confused as hell. Maybe being a stoner makes him immune to the spray? I don’t know. The zombies try to break in and they go to their own separate rooms (why didn’t Marty try to stick with one of them?) and get promptly locked in by the ALL POWERFUL OFFICE DRONES!!! Marty ends up knocking over a lamp and finds a hidden camera inside of it which he doesn’t have long to contemplate about because one of the zombies pulls his ass through a window. Luckily, he was able to grab something to fight the zombie with.
Despite his valiant effort to fight a zombie with a giant bong, he ends up biting the dust and Bradly Whitford flips Marty’s switch (the one that releases blood into an engraved stone thingy). Oddly enough, the control room starts to shake, which might imply that Cthulhu IS somewhere nearby and that they are actually RIGHT to be doing this? Huh. Let’s hope that’s not what they’re going for. Anyway, Dana and Holden (oh hey! He gets to do something!) make a break for the basement in which they find a secret room that has a lot of torture devices, which goes along with the story in the diary. Hold on, I’m guessing that a torture room doesn’t work for EVERY monster they could have summoned. What the hell is a merman gonna do with that? Does the ‘secret room in the basement’ change depending on what scenario they choose? Soon after they get down there, one of the Hillbillies (in the room above the basement) throws a bear trap on a chain at Holden, and grabs him by the back. The Hillbilly then tries to pull him up through the basement door, but Dana tries to pull Holden back down which is probably not a great idea.
She eventually pries the guy lose which leaves the zombie open to attack, and so she starts stabbing the mother fucker in the face. The drones are getting tired of this whole “survival” thing and pull another one of their tricks. Somehow, the knife she used to kill the zombie is in their control, and they send a small electric shock through it to make her drop it. It never occurs to her to pick it up again or maybe pick up another weapon, but let’s blame it again on the drugs (again). Hemsworth finds them, informs them of Marty’s death, and takes them to the R/V (the vehicle they used to get there) to drive away. We cut to the Japanese scenario where the girls have just defeated the monster they were supposed to get killed by.
Richard Jenkins is losing his shit over this because it apparently means that everything rests on his team to finish the sacrifice thingy. I still can’t bring myself to care about their problems appeasing their (hopefully) bullshit god, so when things start to go wrong for them again, I root for them to fail miserably. What goes wrong exactly? Well the kids are trying to escape in their R/V, but like in every other horror movie, the tunnel is blocked to prevent their escape. Wait a minute, NO IT’S NOT!!! SOMETHING WENT WRONG UPSTAIRS AND THE TUNNEL IS STILL OPEN!!! Richard Jenkins runs his ass upstairs, fucks with some wires, and then the tunnel is blocked just as the teens are about to escape. They’re not about to just roll over and die though! See, the road they are on and the road the tunnel leads to are actually a pretty close distance apart. It’s too far to jump, but what about on a motorcycle? Now I’m not sure where they GOT the fucking motorcycle, but I’ll let it slide and assume it was in their big ass R/V to be used during the vacation. Hemsworth promises to get help, gets a good run up distance, and then flies right over the canyon, surely to reach the other side. Except he doesn’t.
Aw MAN it breaks my heart to see that! Hemsworth smacks headfirst into a fucking force field (presumably put in place to prevent such a situation) and just tumbles down to the canyon below.
Bradley Whitford pulls the Hemsworth switch, and another sacrifice has been collected. Back at the cabin, Holden has the idea to drive the R/V in the opposite direction through the forest, but Dana is just fucking tired of this and is starting to realize what’s going on. There’s no hope because no matter what they do, something will stop them from succeeding. Holden is a bit more optimistic which is why he gets a knife in his throat from the zombie who was apparently hiding in the R/V this whole time.
Holden’s dead, and the R/V careens off the road and right into the lake. The office drones are celebrating now because the ritual is complete despite the fact that Dana is still alive. Apparently the final victim (the virgin) is optional, so it doesn’t matter if she lives or dies. Dana crawls out of the R/V and barely makes it to shore, but a zombie is there waiting for her. The zombie is beating the shit out of her, but we only see it on the monitors within the control room where everyone is partying their asses off because they succeeded.
It’s such a dark and funny scene, but I still hate all their guts for doing this. I can still laugh at them and what they’re doing, but I’ll be laughing even more when they get their comeuppance. That comeuppance might be coming soon though, because Richard Jenkins finds out that the problem with the tunnel earlier wasn’t due to any problems within the control area, but something that went wrong in the cabin environment. It’s almost like… someone SABOTAGED it!? At that moment, the red phone rings (I’m assuming the fact that it’s red means it’s important) which informs Richard Jenkins that something has gone wrong. Dana is trying desperately to crawl away from the zombie before it deals its final blow, knowing that it’s a futile effort. Just before the zombie attacks though, he gets smacked in the head by a giant bong!!
The two of them are able to subdue the zombie (What works? TEAM WORKS!) before Marty leads her to some trap door in the woods which looks to lead to the rest of the facility that the office drones work in. They hope in the secret elevator and get a ride throughout what appears to be a bunch of holding cells. What’s being held inside them? MONSTERS!! That’s right, all the various monsters that could have been chosen are kept in here, and they would have been sent to the surface had the cabin dwellers selected their item.
The office drones eventually find where they are and redirect the elevator to go where they need them to be. Once the elevator opens, there’s ONE GUY waiting for them who is easily distracted and gets taken out pretty quickly by Marty and Dana. They’re in some room that appears to be an elevator hub when a voice on the intercom informs them that they must die for the good of humanity. FUCK YOU WHOEVER YOU ARE!!! Marty and Dana seem to be of my opinion, so they run into a security room (that’s unlocked) and press some buttons when a bunch of military style goons show up. The buttons apparently control the elevators, which now seem to be headed to the elevator hub where the military guys are standing. But what’s going to be inside those elevators!? You know what’s going to happen don’t you? It’s gonna be fucking great!
YES!!! For the next five minutes, the movie just goes ape shit with all the monsters set free to take revenge on their cruel masters! HA HA HA HA HA!!!!! Okay fine, it’s a bit odd that Marty and Dana were able to free EVERY monster with a few button presses in some random room. I also have a few questions about some of the monsters who are just humans. Do they have any sense of awareness? Can they only act based on what horror movie icon they represent, or do they have higher brain functionality? Are they created by the company, or were they picked up off the streets? Some APPEAR to be immortal, but then where the fuck did they come from? Hell, where did ANY of them come from? Oh well. WHO HAS TIME FOR QUESTIONS!? LET’S JUST SEE SOME SHIT GET FUCKED UP!!!!
The carnage eventually reaches the main control room where Bradley Whitford finally gets his mermen!
Marty and Dana eventually make it to the deepest level of the facility where they see the stone statue thingies that the switches were pouring blood into. Out of fucking nowhere, SEGOURNI WEAVER comes out to explain to us what’s going on. Apparently she’s the director of the facility and she tells them that there has to be a sacrifice made every year to appease some stupid fucking god monster, and it has to follow a specific pattern. Five people have to suffer and at least four have to be killed. The whore (Jules), the athlete (Hemsworth), the scholar (Holden), the fool (Marty) and the virgin (dana). Yup, the classic slasher movie formula is used as a modern day interpretation of ritualistic sacrifices. Pretty clever idea, but the problem is that Dana is NOT A VIRGIN. Mrs. Weaver though just brushes that off with “We work with what we have.” WHAT!?!?!? Really? You’re god damn blood ritual has some leeway? The evil gods will go “meh, close enough” when you give them a NON VIRGIN SACRAFICE!?!? Mrs. Weaver claims that if they don’t kill off Marty very soon, then the gods will rise again and destroy humanity. Okay, gonna have to stop you there miss. Bradley Whitford already pulled Marty’s fucking switch. The stone slab that represents him is already filled with blood! I don’t know WHOSE blood, but SOMEBODY’S! Isn’t the ritual already fucked up? Do you have to clean out the blood from the slab and put the blood in again after Marty dies? What about the fact that Hemsworth didn’t die due to the scenario but because he ran head first into your god damn wall!? If you could sacrifice them without resorting to a monster, then why the hell did you keep so many dangerous creatures around when you could have just locked them in a box and poked them with sticks until they keeled over!? You know what? Fuck it. Fuck your stupid rules and your stupid cult.
SOMEHOW Mrs. Weaver was able to convince Dana to point the gun at Marty, but she doesn’t get a chance to shoot because a werewolf comes from behind and bites her. Marty gets the gun and shoots the werewolf, but Mrs. Weaver isn’t about to let it end here. She starts kicking the crap out of Marty and almost throws him down into… the pit of death? I don’t know. It’s hard to describe, but the place they’re standing on seems to hover over some giant hole of miasma which is supposed to be where the gods are resting. She gets stopped though when the one armed zombie from earlier (remember her?) shoves an axe into Mrs. Weaver’s head.
Marty takes this opportunity to push them both into the pit of death and despair. That’s it. Marty and Dana have a final moment together where the contemplate their actions up to this point and then a giant fucking hand shoots out the hole, presumably kills them, and then smashes through the titular cabin before cutting to credits. Humanity’s done for. THE END!!!
God damn it. I HATE the fact that the ending of this completely ruins the movie for me. Seriously, I was actually enjoying this for the most part, but throughout there was the niggling feeling that the movie would end this way, and I was so hoping it wouldn’t. I finished watching this and one thing just keeps going through my mind. “According to the movie, it was a GOOD thing that they victimized, tortured, manipulated, and murdered these randomly selected people who did nothing wrong in their lives.” We’ve seen movies where people get fucked up for no apparent reason, but how often do those movies tell us that humanity in its entirety is dependent on that happening? How can I enjoy a film where the act of fighting for one’s life against a monstrous and overwhelming power is the wrong thing to do?
“Well, you didn’t let us murder you. Guess that means that 7 billion people have to be destroyed. Guess all those children will never have a chance to grow up. Guess everyone’s sweet grandma has to be incinerated by the wrath of ancient demons. Why are you acting so selfish by not letting us murder you!?”
ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME MOVIE!?! That’s not even getting into the awful fucking messages that the death of Jules implies. The Whore (as they call her in the movie) isn’t ACTUALLY one, so they have to DRUG HER to make her one. Once she’s designated a slut (losing all her innocence and being corrupted because she had sex) it then becomes OK to punish her for that by MURDERING HER!!!! That’s god damn despicable of an implication, especially when the movie establishes that all this is FUCKING NECESSARY AND FOR THE GREATER GOOD!!!!
It’s not a STUIPD ending. Hell, it’s downright inspired to equate the idea of ritualistic sacrifice with the overused tropes of horror films, but I’m not about to accept that the good guys (the ones fighting for humanity’s survival) are the ones DOING the sacrificing!!! Marty has a line in there about how humanity might not deserve to live if it requires us to do such horrible things, and I think there might be a bit of truth in that. I like to think that the gods aren’t actually being “suppressed” by the sacrifices. They’re sitting back and being amused by how they were able to turn humanity into the monsters they fear the gods to be. They were able to convince humans to kill their own in an attempt to avoid utter annihilation. It’s a sick twisted joke that the gods are playing on humanity, and the only way this will end is with the gods eventually getting bored and completely destroying us. Rather than think of Marty’s survival as a failed attempt to save humanity, I like to think it’s the final act of resistance from a species who are willing to face the inevitable if it means they can retain what it means to be human instead of just being let to live as monsters and slaves.
Whether or not that was the original intent, that explanation helps a little. Still, even with that, it’s a fucking downer ending that hurts my enjoyment of this film immensely. Even if the ending was different where the power of friendship and harmony were able to destroy the ancient gods, this movie still has problems. I know they are INTENTIONALLY making a run of the mill crappy horror film with the cabin scenes, but they still are the weakest point of the movie. Toward the end it gets better when the office drones are scrambling to maintain control over them, but overall the scenes are boring to sit through. Also, the CG in the final act is way too noticeable (most of the blood is CG too) but that’s something you almost have to expect with modern horror.
So if you don’t have a problem with the way this ends, and everything else I mention above seemed awesome (DEATH BY UNICORN), then you’ll definitely love this movie. It’s smart, funny, and has a third act that just kicks the crap out of almost any horror movie in recent memory. The ending sucks for me on a catastrophic scale, but I’m pretty sure I’m the only one with a problem with it. Check it out this Halloween and more likely than not, it’ll become a one of your favorites.