Evan Dickson On ‘The Cabin In The Woods’, Write Your Review Now That You’ve Seen It!

Lionsgate’s wonderful The Cabin in the Woods was released on Friday and looks to have wrangled in about $15 Million for the weekend. While it’s obviously not a record breaking hit, those aren’t terrible numbers either. A Cinemascore of around C indicates that about half the audience loved it and the other half hated it. Fair enough. But for those of you who loved it, I’d encourage you to spread the word to similarly minded friends and horror fans. Every time a new and original horror film is released it’s a crucial moment – the studios are watching. And they know that while horror fans often clamor for new ideas and fresh blood, they often fail to show up at the box office. This is one of the reasons we get so many remakes and sequels.

You’ve already read Mr. Disgusting’s Review and David Harley’s Review, so I figured I would write less of a formal review and more of an informal (super-spoilery) addendum on why I love the film as well. As always, we love you even more when you write your own reviews.

In this R-rated horror film now in theaters everywhere, “A group of friends at a cabin retreat scratch the surface of something so massive and horrific that they can only begin to fathom it as time quickly runs out. If you think you know this story, think again. ‘Cabin in the Woods’ is a mind-blowing horror film that turns the genre inside out.

Head inside for my spoiler heavy remarks.

If you’ve chosen to click the link above and read my thoughts on the film I’m going to assume that you’ve seen the movie. So not only will I not be recapping the film, I’ll be spoiling the hell out of it as well.

The ideas behind The Cabin In The Woods are plenty. The miracle is how it turns those ideas into a movie.

The Cabin In The Woods isn’t a spoof, it’s not making fun of horror. It is a horror film that also wants to explain why horror films exist. It could have easily been only a commentary on the genre, but why commit itself to being a dry exercise when it could actually be the movie it’s commenting on? I think that’s where part of the genius of this film lies – not in the complicated mechanics of the plot (which are actually spelled out with remarkable simplicity) – but in the tone of the piece itself.

Cabin could have easily been all over the place tonally and it’s a miracle that it isn’t. I mean, if I broke down the film scene by scene and explained it to someone who hadn’t seen it, they would think I was insane. So many elements of the film are almost custom made to clash against each other, yet they don’t. In lesser hands it would be impossible for the opening scene to not feel like it belongs in a different movie, but it belongs here. In fact, all of the scenes in the control room, particularly the tequila celebration when Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford’s Sitterson and Hadley think they’ve got the ritual all sewn up, are potential disasters rendered miraculous. Aside from the fact that the movie is peppered with great dialogue and populated with well written characters – and even aside from its genuinely complex plot mechanics and structure – the true triumph of the film is not how far it goes into its deconstruction (and it’s a marvelous deconstruction) but how satisfied you feel by it on every level.

Let’s take the aforementioned scene at the party in the control room. There are so many elements that are just primed to go careening out of control. The betting pool, the intern, the quiet conflict between Brian White’s Truman and Amy Acker’s Lin. But it’s grounded by two elements: the semi-offscreen battle taking place and its subtext. Right there in that giant screen in the background Kristen Connolly’s Dana is being brutally beaten on the dock. Within an inch of the life she’s fighting for. And you can see it, even if most of the characters in the room are ignoring it – after all, as far as they’re concerned their work is done and it doesn’t matter if she lives or dies. But that visual remaining there never lets you forget that this character you’ve spent most of the movie caring about is in deep trouble. You’re almost anxious for the party scene to cut away fully to the dock so that you can attend to her. It’s a complete and total visual anchor.

The other grounding element of that scene – and every scene featuring Whitford and Jenkins – is the subtext. Why do they feel so relatable when they’re doing such terrible things? Doesn’t that make them terrible people? The fact is you know, hang out with and love people who do terrible things for a living in real life. Some of them are in your family. People work for cigarette companies, oil companies that pollute our planet, people build bombs designed to kill as many people as possible. This isn’t some idea I’ve just happened upon, both times I’ve spoken with Goddard he’s talked about how these people are very much informed by his experience growing up in Los Alamos, New Mexico. A town whose economy is centered around the Los Alamos National Laboratory, where some of the brightest minds in the country have dedicated their professional lives to constructing bigger and better nuclear weapons. Does that make them bad people? It’s not for me to say. In real life these questions aren’t easy to answer at all. But Goddard grew up knowing these people and I can assure you that you know people who do horrible things as well, no matter where you live. It doesn’t mean that you can’t or shouldn’t love them, it’s just the way it is. And that’s why these characters don’t feel out of place in the context of what they do or in the film itself.

It’s human nature. Which ultimately is what The Cabin In The Woods is really about. While Goddard’s specific personal experiences may have informed this, it’s not at all about those specific experiences. It’s about the big picture. The Cabin In The Woods is about our desire for blood. And our desire to punish youth. These aren’t straws I’m grasping at and I’m not pretending to have happened upon some wholly original take on the film – Goddard has more than hinted at this himself in various interviews.

We are the Gods that demand the blood of the young. The blood of the athlete, the blood of the fool, the blood of the whore, the blood of the virgin. The Director, as played by Sigourney Weaver, never explains why the Gods desire and demand these things – they just do. There have always been various theories as to why audiences enjoy seeing people killed onscreen. Some of these theories work and some of them don’t make a lick of sense. But there’s no one explanation – and the movie doesn’t pretend that there is. It just is.

It’s also worth noting that while Cabin very much uses the construct of the horror film to discuss this, the horror genre is by far the least harmful byproduct of humanity’s bloodlust. Compared to public executions, stonings, bullfights, wars and the way we use sites like TMZ to systematically exult and tear down youth culture – I’d argue it’s actually a remarkably healthy outlet, and I think the film argues that as well. It’s much less destructive than what happened in the Roman Coliseum. And with the apocalypse at the end it acknowledges that our bloodlust is so deeply ingrained that an attempt to circumvent it would probably do more harm than good. It’s just part of who we are, and if we deny that one component who’s to say that the whole construct of society won’t come tumbling down around it.

The Cabin In The Woods is both a question and an acknowledgment of a core truth. It simultaneously solves its own mystery but leaves it up to you to find the answers (however contradictory that may sound). That it’s able to say so much and leave so much unsaid is part of its genius. That it’s able to go to so many disparate places in 95 minutes and unify their tone into a complete and satisfying movie – that’s the real magic.

9/10.

Source: Bloody Disgusting
  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003226055711 Steven Byers

    It was everything I hoped it would be and more. By far the best horror film of the last 10 years, but that was expected. The DBOX certainly didn’t hurt matters. “The Cabin in The Woods” and “Drag Me to Hell” are my favorite horror/comedy films of the last decade.

  • Aaron Emery

    Great review, very insightful. Everything you said is right on par with my thoughts. No the film is not extremely scary, but it was never meant to be. There is so much subtext to be picked apart throughout the film that I’m not going to get into. To sum up my thoughts, I believe that the “Old Gods” are us, and the control room was simply giving us what we want. I loved the movie and will, for sure, see it again very soon.

  • Nothing333

    Exactly! This movie is the myth of the horror film. Awesome review.

  • djblack1313

    this IS a good movie but (at least going by my only viewing thus far) i didn’t love it. it definitely feels like i’m watching a longer ep of ANGEL/BUFFY and that’s cool because i loved BUFFY! i have a feeling that when i watch it again (whether on DVD or if i go see it again in theaters) i’ll like it more and more. i appreciate what Joss and Drew were going for and for what they did though. i don’t buy many DVD’s these days but this is one i’d buy if there’s decent bonus features. i’d love to see the making of’s/behind the scenes stuff for this and see the practical fx creatures etc etc!

  • djblack1313

    Evan, i’m not trying to sound like a suck up but your articles are ALWAYS excellent and interesting. BD better keep you around. this article/review is yet another great read.

  • EvanDickson

    Thanks! I appreciate that! I plan to be around for quite some time!

  • FleshofCaligula

    AMAZING

  • FleshofCaligula

    This is every horror persons wet dream. It had a lot of knods to horror movies and myths. Cube, It, evil dead, sirens, merman, zombie’s, I can’t wait to see this again, this movie and and the raid are the best of the year so far. Hey who else laughed their asses off with the unicorn part. I laughed so hard.

  • mav07

    I liked it, mainly because of the Buffy/Angel connections, but it was basically a different version of Scream with a twist on reality television. But they even tackled that in Scream 4. I know this was made before Scream 4 but still.

    • EvanDickson

      What’s the twist on reality television? I don’t think it was commenting on that all that much. IMO the difference between this and SCREAM was that Scream’s characters were more aware and it was a deconstruction of the genre. This is also deconstruction but it’s more about *why* horror is than *what* horror is.

      • mav07

        I just mean how the people are watching the events play out on screen. Betting and controlling who stays and who goes, like American Idol in a way. And these characters were totally aware, well at least the stoner was. The scene where Thor decides they need to split up and the stoner says “really?” I understand your point of the difference between ‘why’ and ‘what’ but I just think I would have been blown away IF there was no Scream

  • Keegsta

    I loved this film. I wrote a brief review for it at http://www.keegsta.com if you wanna check it out. I loved this assessment of it here at BD, sums everything about it up!

  • HeavenSentCastiel

    Loved it. It was everything I was hoping and more. Really loved the ending too, it was pretty much a giant “fuck you” moment. Those are the best kinds, I think. Will write a review in the future, after I watch it again.

  • Danny-E

    Am I the only one who thought this movie was kinda dumb? I mean it tips it’s hat with the very first scene. It’s like showing the Wizard behind the curtain in the opening credits. Also, I thought that it ruined every gag. The Eagle flying into the electric fence totally ruins the scene where Thor tries to jump the canyon.

    • EvanDickson

      I think of those moments as both being good setups with good payoffs. What would your reaction to the result of him jumping the canyon be if you didn’t know what was there? You would feel cheated.

      • Danny-E

        What would your reaction to the result of him jumping the canyon be if you didn’t know what was there? You would feel cheated.

        No, I would have been like … holy crap that’s cool. That’s why they had to blow up the tunnel. An extra layer to the onion. Very nice. Instead, that whole scene is wasted cause I know Thor is going to die.

    • nyrebellion

      You’re not the only one…but they’ll just bash you and assume you don’t watch horror movies or that you missed all the nods to old horror films. At least I know I’m not the only one.

      • Danny-E

        I understand the movie but I don’t think it’s a game changer and the best horror movie in 10 years. I’m just not a fan of Wink Wink horror. I find those movies to be cop outs. Look how clever we are cause we are making fun of horror movies. I didn’t care about any of the characters, there were no scares, I already knew the surprises causes they told us before. I just felt that the movie would have been better if we didn’t find out until the stoner dude found the camera. The movie felt very cute and just a mediocre version of a Buffy episode.

      • zaglewiz

        Agreed. God knows I didn’t subscribe to a horror movie website to talk about horror but god forbid if you didnt enjoy what the masses are calling the greatest horror flick of the last 10 years. I watched some movies called Martyrs, Inside, Frontiers, The Descent etc that could have been good but they didn’t have the nods or winks to other horror movies I’ve seen a 1000x before errr I mean have never seen before and I just couldn’t find myself enjoying them because of that. My new thing now with movies that if they aren’t self aware then I’m just gonna turn my ass around and fart at the air….ever so gently.

      • Nothing333

        You guys are really off base with your comments here. I didn’t read anywhere in the comments where people insulted you or persecuted you for your dislike of the film. It’s very insecure. Be proud that you didn’t like the film and stop spamming rants to reassure yourselves that it’s ok.

  • EvilAshTwin

    U sir didn’t understand this movie at all. Ur suppose to know that the force wall is their. ur suppsoe to know whos going to die. its a horror movie that makes fun of horror movies while still being an awesome horror movie.

  • staindFAN

    I saw this Friday night and honestly didn’t care for it and didn’t get what all the hype was about. ( I was also not in a very good mood which I know for a fact didn’t help me to give the film my full attention) So, with that in mind, I went and seen it again today with my brother, (in a much better mood) and I liked it a lot more. I still don’t think it lived up to what I was expecting it to be, (im not even sure what I was expecting, lol) but I know I liked it way more on the second viewing, it’s a solid film for sure and I loved all the nods and references to past horror films.

  • Danny-E

    I understand the movie but I don’t think it’s a game changer and the best horror movie in 10 years. I’m just not a fan of Wink Wink horror. I find those movies to be cop outs. Look how clever we are cause we are making fun of horror movies. I didn’t care about any of the characters, there were no scares, I already knew the surprises causes they told us before. I just felt that the movie would have been better if we didn’t find out until the stoner dude found the camera. The movie felt very cute and just a mediocre version of a Buffy episode.

  • ThunderDragoon

    It was definitely worth the 3 years of waiting. I loved it so damn much. I’ll write a review soon.

  • Samhain2010

    Just more hipster stuff. I enjoyed it for what it was, but this is not a great horror movie.

    • Nothing333

      How hipster of you to point that out.

      • Samhain2010

        Probably my favorite argument as a defense mechanism for hipsters. If anyone questions something that is part of the hipster culture, then they are in fact a hipster. Probably the weakest argument one could ever make.

        • Nothing333

          Well basically the whole hipster asthete is to be against things that are mainstream and to exalt all things indie. You are using the term improperly. The only thing Cabin could be termed is geekster. Perhaps you’re just a tad dumb.

    • zaglewiz

      I’m with ya on that one Samhain. Its a good movie but its far from being a great horror movie.

      • morrisseylikesburgers

        I don’t think you know what a hipster is.

        • Nothing333

          I agree the op needs to spend some more time downtown near urban outfitters to get an idea.

  • BloodyANJ

    It reminded me of many horror movie cliches all in one spot XD i loved it though very unexpected which was nice not too bad :)

  • St.Anger

    Loved every minute of it. Ill write up a review soon.

  • FleshLives

    I loved it. Cabin shakes things up and is one hell of a satisfying movie. The scene of the monsters/elevator was a real treat! In fact, the movie itself is a treat. I never thought a movie could go any deeper in fun and cleverness. It’s like watching something throught different scopes… From a close-up to a wide angle. Hey. this movie made me watch Stay Tuned (1994) again! So, when our world will come to its end, sit back, relax and enjoy the ride! 10/10

  • FleshLives

    STAY TUNED (1992) ******

  • Accident-with-power-tools

    I thought it was a really good film, but not really a great horror, more like a good comedy… All the ‘game changer’ comments are horse shit, it is like Scream and Tucker vs Dale and lots of other things I’ve seen, but it was really funny and great nods for a horror fan… Like watching Eerie Indiana… the reason it isnt a great horror is that despite how enjoyable and fun it was to watch, despite the humour and clever writing… It forgets to be scary!

  • Aaron Emery

    Just saw this again with some friends. Did anyone else notice at Marty had the same wide- eyed stare through the third act as Marty Feldman? Not sure if that was intentional or not, but interesting none the less.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000078380389 Joshua Kelly

    Waited three years and wasn’t disappointed. What a great film!

  • turtlenipple

    For any fool to say this wasn’t a ‘game changer’ is truly silly.. for any fool saying this isn’t a horror movie is equally mental.. this shit was for us, by us and delivered on all levels. I have a feeling that the people being so critical of this movie went into it expecting to dislike it, but hey, that’s just me….. I personally loved it regardless the idiotic crowd populating the theater I was in and cannot wait to see it again and catch all the cool shit I missed, i’ve been looking at the whiteboard image and reading lore since I got home from it.

  • Boonraiser

    I was completely satisfied after leaving the theatre, (except having to deal with the usual idiots talking behind me). I know there were things I missed that I need to pick up on with more viewings. The Merman and Unicorn moments were hilarious. This for me was the equivalent of a summer blockbuster of horror. It’s not supposed to be scary and brutal, just fun and entertaining. I still have my Martyr’s and Inside’s to watch when I want something more serious. Thank you for making a movie for horror fans.

  • davidbleezy

    Loooooooved it! I’m a H.P. Lovecraft fan, so I enjoyed the nod, or heavy lean. Favorite part was when Thor dies trying to be a hero. This movie is witty.

  • cjames

    I thought this film was simply brilliant. By far the best horror film I’ve seen in a lot of years. Mainly for the build up to the end. I give this film a 5/5 and its on my top fav list now. I’ve seen in twice already and loved it the 2nd time just as much as I did the first.