31 Horror Films (2014) #30 The Cabin in the Woods 2012 Dir. Drew Goddard

#30 Cabin in the Woods 2012 Dir. Drew Goddard

It’s difficult for me to talk about The Cabin in the Woods without discussing postmodern horror. I’ve discussed postmodernism in the genre before with The Blair Witch Project and Scream, however, Cabin in the Woods is a film based entirely around postmodernism following in the tradition of such films as Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil and Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon. These films serve as much to educate the audience about common tropes in horror as they do upend them. However, if your intention as a storyteller is to use well-trodden paths and characters to put a humorous spin on an old story, the line between sincerity and parody becomes paper thin.

If you’re a fan of horror, you’ve seen The Evil Dead. You know the horrible fate that befalls those young people who vacation in rustic locales. We also recognize the cast of characters who may or may not make it through the night of terror. And this is the knowledge that The Cabin in the Woods serves to capitalize on. We also live in an age when it seems the knowing wink or, the clever reference can be seen as a substitute for story or character. It is also worth noting that writers, directors and showrunners are becoming celebrities in their own right as the actors they work with. With that said, it is difficult for me to know whether The Cabin in the Woods is being too referential or if it is actually usurping horror expectations in a clever way.

The film begins in a NORAD-esque technical facility, following two desk jockeys discussing a multinational project of which they are a part. The film then switches focus to a group of five friends as they travel to a cabin for the weekend. The films continues to switch back and forth between the college students and the tech staff as it becomes revealed that the cabin, and the terrors contained within are part of an elaborate project on the part of this technical facility. I won’t discuss the film further, for fear of giving too much away, just think of it as The Evil Dead meets West World.

The Cabin in the Woods is clever, almost too clever. It is for this reason that I don’t know if the film can be enjoyed as anything more than a horror based Masters thesis. The filmmakers work in every trope, finding a spot for every monster, before finally culminating in a conspiracy of Lovecraftian proportions. Don’t get me wrong, this film is a great deal of fun, especially for horror fans. However, I’m not sure if the film ever escapes self-reference to become something more. Maybe it doesn't need to be anything but what it is, an examination an mash up of all things horror.

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