Cabin in the Woods

The weakassedest generation

Watch the first 98 minutes, walk out, and write your own, better ending.
Reported on 7th of January, 2013

The discussion around Cabin in the Woods seems to revolve around spoilers and what the trailer did or didn’t give away. This is especially annoying for so many reasons, not the least of which is that I’m so easily annoyed. It irks me especially that I’ve been talking about this forever, and it takes fanboys complaining to film critics for someone to notice. These are two groups I simultaneously despise and wonder why they aren’t noticing me.

Cabin in the Woods

13 April 2013 @ The Cineworld Brighton

$0.02 or, if one must be quotidian, and one must... 
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆


Worse yet the trailer for Cabin in the Woods trailer isn’t especially egregious in the giving stuff away department. Compared to say Last House on the Left, it’s practically a Matrix. No, it’s the movie itself that spoils the movie. And me, of course, but you’re not going to find that out for a few paragraphs. And no, the fact that you’ve found out about finding out it does not mean you’ve found it out.

In fact, one could say the good parts of the Cabin in the Woods, and there are so many, have to do with the fact that it’s a film, and the poor parts, and they are few but overwhelmingly destructive against the good ones, have to do with the way in which it’s a trailer.

I am reminded, as I often am, by myself of myself, about Silence of the Lambs. Someone once asked me why it’s one of the narrative greats, and I replied thusly. As it was written off the cuff, reading this also irks me, since its fairly concise few paragraphs have a lot of useful bits in it, and I always get jealous of my past selves. I can’t for the life of me remember how to write quickly anymore, witness that this piece is being finished six months after the DVD of the sequel has come out. I’ve also forgotten how to time travel, which apparently my past selves know how to do very well.

Oh, yeah? How else can you explain my presence here now?

In the case of CitW, the film parts are about letting us know. For the people who haven’t seen it, and the people who have, but weren’t apparently watching, CitW doesn’t have a lot of surprises. It tells us what’s going to happen, who the characters are and the situation they’re in. Against the tired Dick Wolf model, it is not about surprise but situation. The constant, and entirely idiotic, complaints about its self-referentiality are besides the point. This is not lazy filmmaking. The fact that it’s referring to filmmaking and horror movies is actually part of the plot. It doesn’t hurt that Mr. Joss Whedon knows his way around the writing of dialog, and has the confidence not to constantly explain the joke.

Certainly I want my films about government competitions to appease ancient gods with elaborate horror film tropes to be realistic...

In the department of keeping the audience clued it, the eponymous cabin is shown to be under the purvey of some weirdly comical/sinister government/non-governmental dealie…in the first scene of the film. I do feel bad for people who missed this fact, but it does explain why so often we forced to endure having characters introduce themselves by saying, ‘You’re my brother and we’ve entered this contest together, despite our loving the same girl, to avenge our father’s lack of contest making abilities about loving the same girl’, only to be followed quickly by the person next to you saying: ‘Who’s that?’. So when I say I feel bad, I mean hate, which is, technically speaking, a bad feeling.

The shit sandwich rule is that you compliment something, condemn it, then compliment it again, so that the creators of the movie, story, evil screaming child, or piece of art don’t feel bad. The fact that they only hear the compliments, and are hurt by, and then ignore, the criticism, is beside the point. It’s about making you feel less guilty, or at least less stupid that you know so many terrible artists. Or parents.

Not knowing Mr. Whedon personally, I present instead the shit open faced taco. The film is quite good, and absolutely involving. The writing is sharp, and it moves. This is the tortilla, a really nice homemade one, hot off one of those automatic tortilla making machines that I would put into my house next to the frozen Snickers maker and the snuglet to prevent everyone from finding out how fat I got.

Having enjoyed the tortilla, let us get to the shit. The exception, and it is an unfortunate one, is the way in which the film is a bad trailer for itself. A shot of a hawk flying into an invisible forcefield, also shown in the trailer, is revealed in the first minutes of the film, again, in keeping with the idea that the audience should know what’s going on. We now know that the characters are trapped in their environment.

Unfortunately, this spoils the entire bit where Mr. Christopher Helmsworth attempts to jump his motorcycle into the same forcefield. Where he, you know, dies. Characters dying in horror films is par for the course, but please God, please, not after five minutes of arguing about what a good idea this would be. Suspense is built from wanting to know what’s going to happen, not from showing what could only happen. But I wanted the shot of the hawk in the trailer, he cries. Deus Ex Cool Shot In Trailer!

Which leads us to the ending. Up to the last few minutes, CitW was one of the best films in pretty good year, but the final moments spoil the film structurally and ethically. In both cases, it is an extreme violation of the I, Robot rule, wherein the life of one person is more important that, you know, everybody else. As Ms. Sigourney Weaver explains, in damn fine line: You can die with them, or you can die for them, so in this case the life of one person is more important than the lives of everybody else and him. When our nerdy type character is given the choice of sacrificing his life for all of humanity, he flounders. He gets to live an extra ten seconds, and then dies, with, well the rest of the world.

Ice Cream eases pain.

Ice Cream eases pain.

Let’s just talk about structure first. My new favorite term, no surprise that I coined it, is I(S)Q, or Intelligence (Sympathy) Quotient. When characters behave stupidly, we are disinclined to be invested in their future. This may in fact be why so many horror films work; people who go alone into haunted asylums that used to be abattoirs for the buffalo from an Indian burial ground…of zombie…wait for it…children…wait for it…steampunk…wait for it…movie executives cleverly making a comment about comments about zombie steampunk children movie executives kind of deserve to die (read it again – it’s a sentence). Now, all you have to do is actually wait for it. It’s coming out in 2013.

Various characters saying: ‘Having just slightly knocked our villain on his head, let’s not take his gun, check to see if he’s dead, stay together, or remain silent about what our otherwise inexplicable intentions are’ works in a horror film. It’s a form of reality television: we paid to watch characters die horribly after all, and, Lord knows why, we might feel a tad guilty about that. Their stupidity lets us off the hook. I mean, walking in the dark, I’m pretty sure the penalty for that should be death. Why they don’t make a movie about tailgaters is beyond me.

And back to the delicious tortilla, it bears mentioning that said Cabin makes a point of seeping stupid gas into the characters’ lungs (it’s meta!). It’s a funny bit and neatly dodges the I(S)Q question. At least until the end. Hey, I liked 99% of the film. Sometimes that isn’t enough, and sometimes 1% is.

But let’s say that said character is merely selfish, albeit also quite stupid. This, unfortunately, merely makes such a moment a wasted opportunity, a movie unto itself. As with many cases of the WWGD rule, we can imagine an innocent faced Mr. Arnett appearing and asking Michael: ‘What exactly do you mean by “the world”?’ What works so well in comedy (not getting it), fails miserably when it changes the outcome of the story.

Ah, but ‘such is life’ goes the excuse. This character is merely a representation of our increasingly dull nihilist culture (what will it take to make us tired of nihilism? I mean what’s lower than nothing? Less than Zero. Right). And if this is ‘about’ something, say the way we destroy the world with our immoral stupidity, that’s fine with me, mostly because I’m looking forward to seeing the surprised look on your face when you discover that ‘finite’ is not the same as ‘infinite’.

Certainly I want my films about government competitions to appease ancient gods with elaborate horror film tropes to be realistic but I doubt very much that Mr. Whedon and Mr. Goddard have gone the neo-Mike Leigh route. I suspect they have other reasons to have made such a weak decision. I suspect that they desperately wanted to have the giant hand of ancient gods rising up to destroy the world as the last shot of the film, and did whatever they needed to do to shove the characters to get there. No, if it’s a horror film, I want to see boobies, and my panicky character to say something iconic like ‘Game over, man, game over’, then be the first to be killed. In real life, I want to see boobies, and my panicky character to say something noncommittal like ‘that’s real life, man’, and then be to first to be greenlit.

Lucky me.

The Take


Solid Jokes About Afterschool Specials
Mr. Richard Jenkins
That Cute Girl from Dollhouse who needs to be in all movies
Government Conspiracies
98 Genuinely Entertaining Tension-Filled Minutes
Total Profits
The Feebleness of the Last Minute
Total Losses


The Lonely Comments Section


Annoyed? Prove it!

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.