Cabin Fever


I made it to a 12:01 a.m. showing of The Cabin in the Woods late Thursday night – well, technically, very early on the morning of Friday the 13th.


Poster detail © 2012 Lions Gate Entertainment.

I loved it. But I can't really talk about it.

Honestly, I can't. You may have read that audiences have been urged by the filmmakers at advance screenings not to divulge any of Cabin's twists, and that's with good reason. If you have read that, you're probably enough of a movie (or media) buff to know whether or not you want to see the film; I'm guessing, furthermore, that you do.

I just thought I'd write this non-review to confirm your suspicions, to whatever extent you trust my taste, that Cabin is a can't-miss experience — and to give a general idea to those of you more removed from the "geek" world why it's been so anticipated.

The Cabin in the Woods was cooked up some time ago by screenwriters Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard. It was completed in 2009 but due to MGM's bankruptcy has been withheld from release a number of times; Lions Gate acquired its distribution rights in 2011. It's a familiar horror tale of five friends venturing out to a remote cabin in the woods... in part, more than which I dare not say.


I will say that it's a great kickoff to 2012 as the unofficial Year of Whedon. Joss directed the Avengers film hitting theaters next month, the culmination of five related flicks in Marvel's movie universe to date; later comes his micro-budget adaptation of Shakespeare's Much Ado about Nothing starring some of Whedon's most enjoyable recurring players.

Whedon is, my regular readers should know, the man behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer, its spinoff Angel, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, and more. He's a master of dialogue whose (mostly) television projects have brought to the fore many other such folks — from Jane Espenson (Torchwood, Once Upon a Time) to Cabin co-writer/director Goddard (Alias, Lost). So Cabin's pedigree was enough to sell many of us in the pop-culture ideosphere on it, especially given the tantalizing tidbits leaked out over the past few years as Whedon, also the film's producer and a second-unit director, talked about how it was both a return to the classic conventions of the horror genre in the wake of the disturbing "torture-porn" trend and a deconstruction of those conventions.

Folks who are familiar with those conventions, who can handle a certain amount of blood and shock and yuck, and who don't mind nearly insane levels of creativity will likely enjoy the ride. I'd say that you roughly have to be of my generation or younger to possess the requisite accreted lore (stuff like Friday the 13th and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, if not The Evil Dead), although I certainly know film fiends my parents' age who are up on the horror-movie tropes of recent decades and plenty more older fans of smart storytelling who would appreciate Cabin's sharp turns.


I was reminded all over again by The Cabin in the Woods how genius can be so maddening in doing so little with a great idea before throwing it away in favor of moving on to the next one. Alan Moore does that; so did Jorge Luis Borges. It's sometimes waved off, even by the authors themselves, as smoke and mirrors, paying a clever bit some lip service and getting of the stage before the reader realizes that (to pile on the metaphors) the emperor has no clothes. As a proponent of minimalism, however, and more broadly as someone who admires artists of all disciplines who've learned to apply just the right amount of detail for any given piece of work, I'm not convinced that such hand-waving is appropriate modesty. I won't tell you here exactly what in Cabin led me down this train of thought, but I wouldn't mind discussing with those who've seen it how it so satisfyingly engages in both restraint and excess — as well as the one big mistake I felt the movie made.

I hadn't planned on writing another piece that delved into the movie's plot, but in the couple of hours since I finished what I thought was the final draft of this post I've been mulling over some things I might want to say "out loud" after all. Since I'm not sure if or when that will happen, I'll allow spoilers in comments here; those of you planning to see the film should probably avoid them unless you're the first to reply or you're great at ignoring your peripheral vision.

If you purchase the single-disc DVD or Blu-Ray of The Cabin in the Woods from Amazon via the links in this paragraph, Blam may receive a small percentage of the sale of those items or any others placed into your cart during the session.


12 comments:

Joan Crawford said...

I saw it yesterday! It was fun and shocking, interesting and funny. Without saying too much, my favorite part was what happened in Japan at the end. So cute!

There were three small things that I thought were useless but I can only tap the side of my nose and nod at you for now...

El Qué said...

How awesome was the Japanese stuff?
I want to talk about this now.
Also: Didja see? Woo!

El Qué said...

I almost forgot — Happy Half-Birthday, Blam!

Blam said...


Joan: There were three small things that I thought were useless but I can only tap the side of my nose and nod at you for now...

I should probably just shut up and be thankful that those are the only gestures you're making in my direction. But you're welcome to actually talk about the movie here. At this point, while I'm leaning towards doing a post discussing the story, that probably won't be until the end of the week for various reasons; discussion here can't hurt.

El Qué: How awesome was the Japanese stuff?
I want to talk about this now.


The Japanese stuff was hilarious and you may introduce any topics you like.

Thanks for the half-birthday wishes... We had a party today, but that was actually for my grandmother's 96th birthday — I hope if and when I'm that age I'm surrounded by that much family and have that much goin' on.

Joan Crawford said...

@El Que - Is that your blog? The Japanese stuff was great! Have you seen the movie? Since becoming a mom, I have become fairly lame and overreact to any situation where children are in serious trouble (couldn't watch Apocalypto after the Bad Man grabbed the baby away from its mom and had to close my eyes and curl into a ball during the recent "baby killing" episode of GoT) and so I was all "Aiye! This goes beyond my comfortable enjoyment of horrible things happening to random people!" when the little girls were screaming and pounding on the door for help. But then when they showed them again at the end and they were singing(so brave and cute! See, Dork Mom) and defeating the evil spirit I was like "That is the best thing ever!" and I was okay with everything again. "Bring on the awl through the back of the neck and out of the front of the throat" I thought as I smiled and ate my popcorn.
Really annoyed with the whole "Oops, I forgot I had no underpants on! I'm so flighty - and sexy (right guys *winky face*) and not only that but my roommate was totally cool with it when her boyfriend came in! Oh, us college girls, always f*cking our profs and just being cray-cray*!" I can accept (and welcome!) the obligatory "sexy couple goes to have sexy time in the forest of doom" (replete with boobies being shown, aw, yeah!) because, while cheesy, it works. Also didn't understand the whole "Beefcake Johnny doesn't even have a cousin" thing. What? Again, what? How the hell does that make any sense, at all, to anyone, ever? What was my third thing? Oh, right. Stoner was obviously a very bright boy who found it easier to endure being around these dullards by self-medicating - but I hated the forced and stupid "My parents will think I'm such a stoner" line followed by the idiot-face. It was out of character and not in line with the rest of the humor (which had been pretty goddamn good, really - the guy on speaker phone! Ha!). I loved the razor-faced demon who just regarded Simple Suzy impassively as she flailed about like the weak (and delicious!) little human she is. Things that are bad and don't show emotion are the scariest! I wish we got to ride around on the Elevator of Despair longer; I could have watched that for hours.


*This is what the kids say these days, yes?


Also, I got carded to get into this movie. Yes. Then I got a discount! Woot! The kid was 19 and it made me feel like a cougar :/ but I loves me a deal!

Teebore said...

I loved it. But I can't really talk about it.

Exactly.

One word: Unicorn.
Two words: husband's bulge.

I will forever be in this film's debt for introducing me to the latter term, and for giving us the delicious visual of a unicorn impaling a dude with its horn.

I was reminded all over again by The Cabin in the Woods how genius can be so maddening in doing so little with a great idea before throwing it away in favor of moving on to the next one.

I know exactly what you mean. As much as I feel like just the right amount of information was provided in the course of the film, I want to know more about it's world. I'm envisioning commando teams going around the world capturing the various beasties, regional horrors exclusive to the different countries, etc. I want to know exactly what each of the items in the cellar would call forth.

There's just all kinds of stuff percolating beneath the surface or at the edges that isn't necessary to the story, but that I want to know, and that's what makes for a great story.

While there were certainly some loose ends and plot holes (ie I thought it odd that for all their sophisticated tracking, they didn't realize Marty didn't actually die, and it seems like a bad idea to have an unsecure way to release all the monsters, located right next to where all the monsters are held; at least require a password or a key before you can release them all) the movie was just so much damned fun that in the end, none of that really matters.

@Joan: Really annoyed with the whole "Oops, I forgot I had no underpants on! I'm so flighty - and sexy (right guys *winky face*)

Women should always spend their time at home pants-less. I appreciate this movie attempting to steer society in that direction. :)

How the hell does that make any sense, at all, to anyone, ever?

I took that as either an off-the-cuff "this situation is effed up" kind of comment, or else a further indication of how manipulated the whole setup was: they even managed to convince the kids that one of them had a cousin he didn't actually have, but it did strike me as being an odd, out-of-place line.

Teebore said...

PS Happy Belated Birthday Blam!

(Whew, that's some nice alliteration in the Mighty Marvel manner!)

Joan Crawford said...

@Teebore - I wholeheartedly agree, pants-optional is a code I live by, but I am acutely aware of when I do or do not have my knickers showing (despite what I tell the Fed-Ex guy).

Blam said...


@Teebore: Apr. 14th was my "half-birthday". El Qué was being cute. I appreciate the sentiment, though.

@Joan: You must've seen a different version of the movie than I, because in my screening she was definitely wearing underpants.

I have more to say re the movie and specific comments here, but I'm trying to put together a post that given Blogger's latest changes may very well be the last one here for the foreseeable future (or the second-to-last, at least, since I'll want to give notice in one final post). Sigh...

Teebore said...

I'm trying to put together a post that given Blogger's latest changes may very well be the last one here for the foreseeable future

Yeah, not surprisingly, I'm not too wild about Blogger's latest round of forced changes. While I kinda like the ability to see how many hits each page is getting easily, it's really not worth it for what we lost (especially since it takes far more clicks to do simply things like start a new post or look at drafts...).

El Qué said...

@Joan (since we're all apparently using the symbol now): I couldn't watch Apocalypto after Mel Gibson called a cop "sugar tits" and said that "Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world". Don't get me wrong; Sugar Tits would be an awesome cereal, but you gotta respect a woman in uniform. And you're allowed to say stupid shit when you're drunk and/or stuff that you'd never say when sober, but if you say stuff that reveals you to actually be a stupid shit then I reserve the right to not see your movie. Plus, and I admit that this might not fit the timeline, using ethnic slurs in repeat phone messages to the mother of your latest child and threatening to beat her? Kind-of a turnoff.

El Qué said...

@Joan: I wholeheartedly agree, pants-optional is a code I live by.
All is forgiven. Slumber party at Joan's place!