Is 'The Cabin in the Woods' a horror film game-changer?
Last chance - spoilers ahead. You've been warned.
OK. I've read reviews of "Cabin in the Woods" this week and seen lots of hype tossed around about the twist and lots of talk about how it's a game-changer for the horror movie genre. So I went in expecting a new type of horror movie to blossom forth.
The way, for example, "Halloween" launched the slasher movie craze of the 1980s, or "Scream" launched the self-referential, in-on-the-joke scary movies of the late 1990s/early 2000s, or how "Blair Witch" did it for found footage, or "Saw" did it for sadistic realism.
I don't quite agree with the assessments from the reviews I read.
First off, what was the twist? I'm not being cheeky, I'm really asking what you guys think the twist was. The fact that Joshua Lyman, Winifred Berkle and co. were controlling the horror action wasn't a twist - that was actually in the trailer, and even if you didn't watch the trailer, that was revealed within the first few minutes of the movie.
The ancient gods thing wasn't really a twist - we were shown all along that someone/thing was behind it all and that just happened to be the deus ex machina explanation. I feel like a twist is something that absolutely blows my mind, the way Keyser Soze did.
Secondly, I'm not sure this changes anything about the horror genre. A knock-off of this movie isn't really possible, not without completely ripping it off. And regular old horror movies don't change - it's not as if now we will all be imagining a control room somewhere that has men in ties controlling the action. That was just the construct of this particular movie. That's just how it was in this world (which no longer actually exists, thanks Marty and Dana).
And this movie won't spawn a thousand sequels, which I'm sure is by design by writer Joss Whedon. It certainly could have (and I'll get to that in a second) but it won't, so what exactly changes about the horror movie landscape?
I think this was just a very fun horror movie with a creative premise. But my world is not rocked the way it was with "The Usual Suspects," which if you haven't gathered by now, is my favorite twist ending of all time and a movie that I think set a new bar for thrillers.
Now, about the movie in general.
I enjoyed it. Like I said, creative premise. The dialogue was snappy, the scares were there, the laughs were plentiful, and the homages were fun to look for (I think my honest-to-God favorite was when the camera panned out to reveal all the moving blocks full of monsters, because it made me think so strongly of "Cube," which is a very underrated and under-viewed movie. If you've never seen it, you should track it down).
I'm a little disappointed by two things.
First, the control room reveal could have been done later and I think I would've liked it more. If the movie had been rolling along for 30 minutes as your typical slasher movie, maybe the only hint of something weird going on is a more-subtle version of the eagle flying into the barrier. Then after the kids are in the cellar and Dana chooses the sadistic zombie religious whackjobs as the method of death, then the movie cuts to Bradley Whitford announcing that maintenance wins the pool and we are treated to discovering from that point forward what is really going on, instead of having it exposited to us under the guise of them explaining it to the New Guy.
The movie could have still been marketed as having this great twist of a premise, without putting the control room conceit into the freaking trailer. I wish that had been kept under better wraps and revealed later in the film.
The other thing I'm a little disappointed about is no sequels. I realize, like I said, that Whedon probably did this by design. And I also realize that studios run franchises into the ground until there is nothing left but suck.
Here's what I would've liked. Whedon makes this a trilogy and the big reveal of the ancient gods and all the other monsters are kept quiet until the third movie. Because I would have really liked to see two more groups of victims unlock something different.
I thought the concept of them choosing between all these different monsters was very cool, so I would have totally paid another $8.00 (yes, I live in a place where a nighttime movie is eight bucks, haha!) to watch five kids (who are variations on the archetypes in ways I trust Whedon to write creatively) go to the cabin (same or different cabin) and unlock some other horror. I think that would've been fun.
Because the reveal of all the monsters at the end was great. Even though it was a little gory for my own personal taste, that was a highlight of the movie. The gore bothered me less than it normally would because it was played for laughs and those people kind of had it coming.
But I would have loved if that was saved for part III and we got to watch different versions of the premise.
Finally, I think it's a rather awesome coincidence that "Cabin in the Woods" came out just weeks after "The Hunger Games." They share more than a passing resemblance in some regards. (For those of you who don't know, "Cabin" was filmed in 2009 and because of MGM's bankruptcy, saw major delays in being released, obviously).
And something I actually would've found more interesting than the ancient gods thing, which was not explained thoroughly enough for my personal taste, would have been if there actually was an audience. Some sadistic billionaire or whathaveyou stages these horror shows all over the world and has them competing against one another for a prize.
I think that would've actually been more interesting and could have been an intellectual commentary on the world we live in in regards to entertainment.
Please don't mistake all of this for my dislike of the movie. I enjoyed it a great deal. I actually am looking forward to the DVD because I anticipate awesome commentary and extras, which is something I rarely care about.
These are just some initial thoughts right after returning home from the theater and I hope to spark an interesting discussion in the comments. Thanks for reading, if you're still with me.