28 December 2013


Twelve Things about The Cabin in the Woods

12. I will be forever grateful to all the wonderful bloggers who prefaced their reviews of The Cabin in the Woods with a warning that anyone who hadn't seen it yet should not read any reviews until they do . . . so I'm paying it forward.

If you haven't seen this movie yet, stop reading now. I mean it!!!

11. And if you've already seen it, I actually recommend that you not watch it again! Surprised? Not as much as I was! =P My sister got me the DVD for Christmas, and a couple of nights ago I eagerly organised a screening for the uninitiated members of my family. And that was when I learned that the story relies so heavily on the elements of mystery and surprise that those who are already in on the secret won't get much from a second viewing. They might even be--if you can imagine--bored

10. There were a couple of scenes which still held my interest and got me to watch more closely than I had the first time. You know: the "behind the scenes" scenes. And if you don't know, because you continued to read this post although you haven't seen the movie yet, then you really should stop before I ruin the experience for you. For The Cabin in the Woods is definitely an experience. Like the initiation I've compared it to, it requires you to cross from the "in front of the scenes" scenes . . .

. . . and to pay attention to the man behind the curtain. Or rather, to the men and women behind the cabin.

9. One character calls them "Puppeteers," but a more accurate description would have been "Directors." I would have said "Filmmakers," but there's no evidence that the action is being recorded, although it is certainly being monitored.

While you're watching him watch the cabin, 
who is watching you watching him watch the cabin? . . . Oooooh!

Now this is the story worth watching over and over again: a weekend in the life of five people bouncing around in a bureaucracy which was founded to ensure that five youths are forced into a ritual ceremony to "the gods" every year, without fail.

8. So who are these youths? Anyone who has lived through the 1980s, Horror's Slasher decade, already knows.

And already knows which of them has the best chance of survival.

If you've ever complained about Slashers being formulaic and peopled with stereotypes, well, it turns out that you were being slightly sacrilegious. Apparently, that's like complaining that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is formulaic (which it is) and that only men can be priests (which is "as it ever was"--Ask Melchizedek!). What the gods demand of the United States of America is an offering of one athlete, one fool, one scholar, one whore, and one virgin.

A sacrificial model inherited from Prussia

It's surprisingly easy to reimagine The Breakfast Club and High School Musical as Slashers, isn't it? (If only because I juxtaposed those exact two images in an earlier Shredded Cheddar post! But can you remember which one???) The latter even comes with "Fodder" characters. LOL! But seriously, high school is a far more sinister sign than even I thought . . .

7. All child sacrifice is demonic in origin, which is how you know that any country with compulsory schooling and common standards has made an idol out of the state. But "demonic" is a strong word, aye? If you like, we can coin the word "Herodic" or appropriate the existing adjective "Herodian" to say the same thing, but the images these bring to mind will be no less graphic.

Omnes Sancti Innocentes, orate pro nobis!

You might remember that the Holy Innocents are the patron saints of Shredded Cheddar. I usually try to blog something family-friendly on this day, like My Top 5 Action Star "Au Pairs", Twelve Things about Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot, and last year's Charles in Charge live blog, but this liturgical year, I want to be a little more militant. Child sacrifice is horrific, whatever form it takes.

6. Making a career out of leading young people to gruesome, terrifying deaths can't be easy on the conscience, as we see from how decadent the corporate culture has become. You'd just never guess it from the strict adherence to the dress code.

No one was rooting for the dismemberment goblins???

Isn't that board fantastic? =D It reveals how interactive The Cabin in the Woods actually is . . . like a Choose Your Own Adventure novel . . . or a medieval Morality Play. So much rests on your personal preferences and on the way you answer the questions. Let's try one now . . .

Question 1: If you were an employee, which monster would you bet money on?

What's that, dear reader? . . . You wouldn't bet at all??? . . . Well, that's really admirable of you. =) . . . But if you think you dodged my trick question, look down again at where you're standing. You may not be part of the betting pool, but you're still an employee of a company that kills people. In a morality play, no one is sinless, least of all the audience. Strike one! But let's keep going . . .

5. The board has an "artistic" twin in what is probably everyone's favourite part of the cabin (See? We're all enjoying this!): the basement. I like to think that it was brought into the ritual so that "Puppeteers" who were starting to have difficulty living with themselves could have something to rationalise their sin away.

You see, when the youths go down there and start messing around with things they have a really bad feeling about, they are doing something wrong. It doesn't seem wrong, because we moderns don't have a proper word for "fooling about with the occult," but our psyches know that whatever form the basement takes for us should be off-limits. Since the youths don't listen to their own consciences in time, they become deserving of the "punishment" which is coming to them. They even, to make the Puppeteers' rationalisation complete, get to choose the form which the punishment takes.

Question 2: If you had been in the basement, what would you have been most drawn to and which monster would it have conjured up? Don't waffle and say that you can't answer because we don't see the whole basement and don't know which artefact activates which nightmare. We already know--and we know that we know. 

Me, you ask? Oh, I wouldn't have deviated from the script at all, going straight for the diary and reading aloud the Latin. Then I would have obnoxiously corrected the grammar and turned off the hot guy. But come on: "Dolor supervivo caro"??? Are you punking me, Joss Whedon?

4. Something new I picked up during my second viewing is the significance of the late cave-in. The demolition staff say that "a glitch up top" meant that they didn't get the order to blow up the only escape route--and that's plausible for any bureaucracy. But it's also hinted that there may be something more to this "power reroute from upstairs." When you serve ancient gods which dwell underground, you don't like the idea of "upstairs."

3. Which brings us to why anyone, "upstairs" or wherever, who understands what is at stake would want to mess with this ritual. Remember that unless the gods are appeased once a year, they will rise again to destroy the world. Five youths seem a small price to pay for the survival of billions of other souls on the planet . . . right? While you're holding that thought, one last morality play question . . .

Question 3: If you found out that you had been chosen to be a victim, would you let yourself be killed, for the good of the many?

There's only one right answer to that, and it is with all due modesty that I admit that I got it. So let me spell it out for you. The moral of this story is: "You should fight for your life, even if you end up killing them all in self-defense."

You know who didn't get it, though? The women who sat next to me in the cinema when I first saw this and who thought that the youths who learned the truth should have willingly given themselves up. Ladies, you have failed the initiation. But for your consolation prize, here's a Hunger Games DVD.

2. Now I must admit that I was absolutely mistaken when I said, in my Twelve Things about The Hunger Games: Catching Fire that the problem with Suzanne Collins's story is Katniss Everdene's special snowflake status. Every Slasher must have a special snowflake in its Final Girl, even Dystopian Slashers. So that's not it, and mea culpa.

But there's still something that The Hunger Games gets terribly wrong, and we see it in the contrast between its hero and heroine and the Cabin in the Woods hero and heroine.

Berries vs. Weed
(Choose your Communion symbol carefully . . .)

Katniss, honey, you're all right--and you started off beautifully by saving your sister. But when you let sticking it to the Capitol become more important than saving your own life (not to mention Peeta's), you lost the thread. Simply put, it's impossible to keep evil at bay by doing evil yourself. The Hunger Games fails by making suicide an option; The Cabin in the Woods gets it right by recognising that giving yourself up is okaying the deaths of everyone who will come after you. Don't be a party to murder, kids.

1. For its unexpectedly Christian reminder of why a "once and for all" oblation was the only one that would ever work, now and forever amen, The Cabin in the Woods deserves to be the 2012 entry in an updated list of "My Life in Movies".

Have a blessed Feast of the Holy Innocents!

UPDATE: A few days later, for the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God, I also wrote The Thirteenth Thing about The Cabin in the Woods.

Image Sources: a) Cabin in the Woods poster, b) Cabin in the Woods set, c) The Breakfast Club cast, d) High School Musical cast, e) The Massacre of the Holy Innocents by Duccio di Buoninsegna, e) The Hunger Games screen cap, F) Marty and Dana


cyurkanin said...

I had to drag myself away from writing to applaud this. A very well done 12 Things, ma'am. I especially agree with #11, I felt the same way watching it a second time. I didn't enjoy it half as much. And #2 where you stick it to Hunger Games? Yeahhhhhhh... :) Now, back to writing.

Enbrethiliel said...


Thanks, Christopher! =) This post, which had been in draft since March 2012, got new life jolted back into it once the contrast to The Hunger Games became clear. LOL!

r said...

Biblical child sacrifice predates Herod. In fact, my personal exegesis of the entire Old Testament revolves around the child sacrifice to Moloch and how the role of the nation of Israel is to stand against it. You can just look at Abraham and Isaac, though - the moral of that story is, God doesn't accept firstborn sons as sacrifice as in most of the local religions. He accepts animal sacrifice instead (and a Christian would add, "for now...").

The moral thing to do in the Cabin in the Woods scenario is to stop the sacrifices and try your best to kill those stupid ancient gods. It feels like this has been going on for a while, have they even tried modern weapons? Anyway, I like to think that's what ends up happening. I like to believe that, to paraphrase Predator, "if it's evil, we can kill it.".

Enbrethiliel said...


Your personal exegesis of Scripture doesn't contradict mine. I just wanted to give special honour to the Holy Innocents on 28 December, as Catholic tradition already does.

Are you serious about using modern weapons on the ancient gods? Since they're clearly demons, that's a little like saying that we should find Lucifer and the other rebel angels and nuke them out of existence.

If it's evil, it will also come back. That's what we learn from eleven Friday the 13th sequels, seven Nightmare on Elm Street sequels, and two Exorcist sequels plus two prequels. And those are just the ones I can do off the top of my head! =P Movies aside, I think that the only end to it will be the end of the world, when all things are made new. But this is not one of the things which is in our power to do.

r said...

If it's metaphysical, sure. I felt like the enemy here turned out to just be Cthulhu in the end - powerful but ultimately physical.

Enbrethiliel said...


My impression was the complete opposite of yours! =)

Bob Wallace said...

You do know that Marty was me in high school? And I didn't go to high school in the '80s. Before.

Try blond. Otherwise the same.

Enbrethiliel said...


Based on your stories, I knew that you'd identify with Marty, but you've always struck me as very assertive and more like Curt! =P

Bob Wallace said...

Nope, Marty. Even with the bong, only ours was made out of a coffee pot.

Kurt? Nah.

Bob Wallace said...

I forgot to mention these slasher films started in the middle '70s, specifically with "Halloween," which, believe it or not, I saw in a midnight showing because one of my friends was the theater manager. There were about eight of us there. The town mentioned, Litchfield, Illinois, is a real town and I have been in it several times. There's not a mental hospital there, though. Litchfield, however, pretty much means "boneyard."

Enbrethiliel said...


I wonder how the people of Litchfield felt after Halloween came out! In any case, it's an interesting name for a town to have. =)