Why Cabin in the Woods is the Best “Horror” Movie Ever
Let me start by saying that I do not watch horror movies. It’s not that I’m a scaredy cat or that I’m afraid of the dark (although I will admit, I was for many years). It’s the fact that I have a very sensitive stomach and I don’t feel comfortable being intentionally afraid. For me, there is a distinct line between suspense and gore. Suspense is about seeing how someone is going to make it out of a situation. Fear is waiting to find out what body part is going to be hacked off before the end of the film. It’s something that almost all my friends know about me, and it’s something I’ve mentioned before in posts.
It’s surprising, then, that Cabin in the Woods was suggested as a film that I might enjoy. And not just by anybody, but by one of my best friends, a horror movie-loving, serial killer-enjoying fan who once spent a day marathoning the Saw movies back-to-back in preparation for the newest one’s release later that night. She, whose opinion in movies I take as seriously as my own, said that I should watch it.
“Don’t worry, there’s not a lot of gore… except for maybe a few scenes,” she said. I was a little tentative, but since it was also written by one of my favourite writer/directors, Joss Whedon, I thought I would give it a shot.
I am so glad I did.
If you haven’t seen the film, let me sum up: five friends head for a vacation at a cabin in the woods. Soon, bad things happen, and the mystery of the cabin itself comes to the front. Almost sounds like the plot for the Evil Dead movie, doesn’t it? Teenagers, cabin, bad stuff. In fact, the cast itself looks fairly stereotypical and common for the horror genre, doesn’t it?
That, my friends, is the beauty of the entire thing.
The brilliance of Cabin in the Woods comes from those stereotypes. It wants you to know that there is a monster under your bed, that no one is safe, and that yes, some people really are going to make those same classic horror movie mistakes. But Joss Whedon knows his audience, knows exactly what the audience expects and goes above and beyond to deliver it. But he doesn’t stop there. And only by seeing the movie can you fully appreciate it and the conventions that it somehow manages to both fulfill and break at the same time. There’s a very good reason why the tagline reads “You think you know the story. Think again.”
One thing that I do hesitate about is that Cabin in the Woods is categorized as a horror film. I don’t like horror films, but I like Cabin in the Woods. Sure, you have the classic cut-em-up moments. But it’s more than that. In addition, and I mean no offense by this, it’s smarter than that. This is a smart horror film. It knows its audience, knows its material and the expectations that it needs to deliver. And it succeeds at it tenfold.
If you haven’t seen it, watch it. But just to be on the safe side, don’t eat first.