SPOILER REVIEW: The Cabin In The Woods

First, here's the "Spoiler Free Review" portion of all this:
"THE CABIN IN THE WOODS works on quite a few levels and works very well on each. Scary, funny, refreshing, twisty and smart. Ultimately, perhaps what it's best at, is that it leaves you in a state more movies should: Thinking About It Later! If you like movies, go see it! If you dig Horror movies especially, see it twice! 3 AND A HALF STARS!" 
            - Bill Sweeney, Wickedtheory.com
Okay, done. Now, go see it. The less you know the better. Seriously. It's rare that I feel that about a movie and THE CABIN IN THE WOODS begs this of you. Don't even watch this trailer I've put up right here, it's far too spoiler-ish in hindsight now that I know what I know. Instead, go to the theater with a few friends, get some popcorn, watch it and come back here. Afterwards.

For beyond this point lies SPOILERTOWN where everything is discussed as if you've SEEN IT ALREADY and where everything that's cool is about to be RUINED for you. UNDOUBTEDLY.

Remember, we gave you a chance to go. We'll wait...
Hey, you're back. Cool right? Since you've seen it, you'd agree that it seems we have some discussing to do, right? Screw the review format.

The Initial Set-Up: Sub Basement.
From the opening scene the film, you can tell that this is not what you expected. We're introduced to Hadley and Sitterson, employees of some vast, well-funded and rather unusual operation that is justabout to get started. This whole sequence sets us up for more than just some story points, it establishes the lighter tones of the film, the Done-it-a-million-times blasé attitude of these two and when the title card slams onto the screen almost cutting short a conversation, overlaying a title that is the quite different than the scene before you, one notes that they are doing things their own way here. And it raises the question: Yeah, what is all this - where are the kids and the cabin?  

The Second Level Set-Up: The Cabin
We meet the kids: Jock, Stoner, Whore, Virgin and Nerd. They have names but as with much of this, they are merely arc-types, forming the most typical of horror movie line ups, in the most typical scenario of horror movies, the creepy-ass cabin slaughterfest. The Cabin goes "live"  when the kids arrive and we see the Sub-Basement crew are manipulating the cabin itself. How many times have they done this? The pacing between our two stories/ levels doesn't get too far ahead of us as the kids find their way into the cabin's junk filled cellar. Here they find several trigger trinkets (locket, diary, Hellraiser-ish puzzle ball, ballerina music box, etc). One wonders what else was down there waiting to be found? Or what if they never touched anything, or never even went down there at all? How would Hadley and Sitterson have manipulated the situation then?

The Smart Left Hook:
Just when you think, ok, everything about the cabin is mechanically controlled, no magic, and there's probably no supernatural stuff here, it's all a show, a trick…that's when the dead rise.

Thanks to BAD for the pic!
The White Board:
Here's what the wagering was all about. Which "trigger" the kids would activate. They go for "Zombie Redneck Tourture Family" (shades of Texas Chainsaw Massacre?) Looking over that pic it seems like there were quite a few interesting options. Kevin? Angry Molesting Tree (from Oz)? Dragonbat? SNOWMAN? (In the woods?) And look, The Deadites from The Evil Dead are listed. A few other references may be found to that movie elsewhere in this one (walking zombie hand). So, are these all the monsters currently available? Is that because they are the only ones "running" at this particular location? How many locations was it anyway? We saw Tokyo, Stockholm, what else? My memory escapes me.

Small seeds and Red Herrings?
At a certain point it, perhaps, crosses your mind that one of kids might be in on it. A mole. It's a logical assumption for this kind of set up. Especially when Nerd Boy conveniently has Latin reading skills. Other random ideas I had included: Maybe this is how hollywood really makes Horror flicks? Maybe it's all a test for the new security guy in the control room?

The Meta And The Metaphorical or Is This The Meta-Explanation Of All Horror Movies?
Consider: What if every horror movie you ever watched was just another "sacrifice scenario" like this one? We see all the horror movie tropes and stereo types displayed here, and each under the (temporary) control of this unnamed "Uber Shadow-Group" We see the lab boys are monitoring several locations. Tokyo showed the classic "Creepy, wet, floating, screaming little girl". But did the  unseen Stockholm location feature captive/torture scenarios ala Hostel and Saw? Ultimately each local seemed to be trying to do the same thing (more or less?), make a final sacrifice, so is each of those locations, then, built atop it's own "gateway to hell"?

The Two Bones Of Which With I Am Picking
1) When Jock Boy (played by Thor) walks into a waft of "Mind Rewriting Mist" (my title). Seriously? A chemical specifically tuned to that exact need? And works Instantly+10? "We have to stick together." *Whffttffft.* "Nah, let's split up and die." It's in the trailer above. Now if that was "Magical Moron Mist" and I missed something, let me know.
2) Our Stoner hero returning from a Off-Camera death meant little if we saw almost ANY of the previews for this. We already knew full well he goes downtown in the elevator.

MONSTERPALOOZA 2012 or "The Purge"
This is what you've been waiting for. When all hell finally breaks loose it's almost too much to keep track of but it's all great fun. Box car after box car unleashing some wretched thing into the world, like an insane prison riot of released Horror icons and beasts. A homicidal robot, a Werewolf, a giant fucking snake, a Merman, the Hell-ish Raiser, a multi-mouthed ballerina, a killer Unicorn and many, many more… All enacting revenge on their captors. How awesome was that. A little convenient having such an important button so accessible, but hell I didn't build the place. By far, the highlight of the movie.

The Ending
Sequels won't be easy for this franchise. Once you let the whole world die, that pretty much wraps it up. This might one of the boldest endings in a long time. To have your main characters basically say "fuck it" says a lot about the commitment to doing the opposite of what's expected. The cameo appearance of a famous celeb as the "Director" was a nice touch too. Part of me wanted to see Virgin shoot Stoner not simply to save the day/world but because that's not usually done either. But I do like the final end better. It says more. A really great time at the movies because it was smart and tried harder than most others.

A thought about the Future…

As for the sequels, I guess it's all prequels from here. But we've seen the Cabin Scenario. How cool could other scenarios be if there wasn't a similar Monster Mash? And if this was the "END" then we know how all the other previous scenarios turned out - kinda, sorta. And if you do another location, do you end up with "Blackeyeballed Japanese School Girl: A Sequel To The Cabin In The Woods" as your title?

I know you people out there have your own ramblings brewing, I'd love to hear what you thought in the comments below.

(There's always this review, if this one was no good.)

By Bill Sweeney


  1. I wasn't sure if stoner survived due to some extra conspiracy, perhaps a second group who also sabotaged the bomb? And are seeking the end of the world. But who knows! Good film.

  2. I would have the "sequel" show what we saw for an ending was just a scenario test.