01 January 2014

+JMJ+

The Thirteenth Thing about The Cabin in the Woods

"That moose over there . . ."
What great--if not very subtle--forshadowing!

After I wrote my Twelve Things about The Cabin in the Woods, I started poking around the movie blogosphere to see what other Horror lovers had to say about the film. And I was amazed at the number of people who came to the exact opposite conclusion I did: they thought that the ending, far from being the result of a moral choice, was a function of an incredible lack of morality in the characters. Well, let's explore that a little more, shall we?

Again, if you haven't seen the film yourself, please don't read any further. First watch it yourself, and then come back. I've just given you golden advice, so I hope you take it.

That weremoose over there . . .

In my first post, I asked three questions. There was a fourth one staring me in the face, but I completely missed it. Here it is now . . .

Question 4: If you learned that the fate of the entire world (including, of course, yourself) depended on the death of one of your friends, would you kill him?

My naive assumption was that the vast majority of people would stand by their friends to the end--even if it were a literal end. Apparently, I had no idea that the popularity of Katniss Everdeen was less a sign of things to come than the logical conclusion of centuries of philosophy. As crazy as this may sound, we as a culture really have started to believe in human sacrifice again. 

And we would, if backed into a corner, stab our friends in the back to save ourselves . . . or commit suicide to maintain the illusion of "control" over our destinies.

One of the comments which haunted me was: "Bizarrely, Whedon seems to think 'everybody in the whole world dies' actually is a better outcome than 'girl doesn't stand by her friend.'"

"Bizarrely"? If he meant that it's unexpected, then I'd agree. Whedon did make Vampire Slayer Buffy murder her lover in cold blood to prevent the destruction of the world--and she was supposed to be his ideal heroine, not to mention the vindication of all the Pretty Blonde Girls who have ever been powerless to save themselves in Horror movies. Now he creates a Final Girl who has the chance to do the same thing, but "punishes" her for it? Yet this is not necessarily a contradiction. Perhaps it's even a sign of growth! Let's give Whedon the benefit of the time stamp. Besides, it's not what the commenter meant.

Given the context of the discussion, what the commenter found bizarre was that anyone would think that friendship is a better outcome than communism. The only thing I found bizarre was that someone would be so casual about revealing he would sell out one of his own friends . . . or maybe his spouse . . . or even their child . . . if the price were right. 

Remember that human sacrifice works only when the person offered up to die is completely innocent.

Then there was the vehement commenter who said of the ending: "It's Hollywood's valorization of the individual taken to utterly perverse extremes."

After reading that, I wished I knew her in real life so that I could find out (through some indirect means) her thoughts on unborn children. But in my ignorance, I'd still bet this entire blog that if anyone described legal abortion as "valourisation of the individual taken to utterly perverse extremes" within her hearing, she'd erupt in rage. But I admit that that has nothing to do with this particular issue.

It would be enough to tell her which characters in The Cabin in the Woods truly represent the audience--and therefore, her. It's not Dana and Marty, who are left to make the best possible choice in a bad situation . . . nor is it Sitterson, Hadley and the other employees of the corporation, who exploit innocent people in order to produce the perfect movie ritual. It is those who demand the movie ritual in the first place. 

Do you know who you really are in this story, dear viewer? You are the ancient evil gods. Think about that the next time you cry "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" in the anonymous darkness of your fancy neighbourhood cineplex.

Image Sources: a) "That moose over there . . ." b) The weremoose

8 comments:

Dauvit Balfour said...

Strangely, it wasn't until several months after seeing the film that I came to your conclusion. It was a commenter on Leah Libresco's blog that changed my mind.

My first reaction to the end: hollowness, dread, the futility of good, the completely absence of any force for good or hope in the world of the film.

That was what I saw. It left a bad taste in my mouth, but later...

You pretty much nailed it, I think, but I like to think that Whedon intentionally tried to elicit reactions like mine and the ones you have seen elsewhere on the net. Hopefully, later, we realize that our gut reaction to the film was wrong, that we were tricked into being the puppeteers/ancient gods, demanding the sacrifice. That should cause a horrified reaction. It did in me.

The ultimate hopefulness of the film that I was unable to see on first viewing was the final refusal to take part in evil, no matter what that means for you.

Question 4 is the obvious question, it is the right question, and apparently it is a test that too many people (myself included) failed as we watched the movie. I hope I don't fail it in real life.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Maybe I've been a little too harsh on the people sharing their knee-jerk reactions to the ending. I've certainly had similar experiences of not figuring something out until much later.

I don't know about Whedon's actual intentions, though I wouldn't rule out your reading without more comprehensive knowledge of Whedon's ouevre. As my Twitter buddy @NoelCT suggests, the ending could also just be "a sarcastic joke keeping in the film's tone", and was definitely done that way "to guarantee that there'd never ever be a sequel".

Dauvit Balfour said...

Oh, I think your analysis of people's knee-jerk reactions is probably quite right. And knee-jerk reactions do reflect something of the state of culture and the condition of a person's moral instincts. Even if my moral instincts are strong (which they may not be) they may not be sharp or quick. All three of those are necessary in order to have good moral instincts.

I'm not sure that the interpretation I like to give is an accurate one. I think it's a worthwhile one to ascribe to the film, even if it's inaccurate (oh, how I love "The Death of the Author"... only when it lets me have my way with the work).

I also like the other suggested interpretations, and think they are more realistic ones.

cyurkanin said...

Rule #1 of Movie Club: Never EVER rule out a sequel.

Rule #2: Don't talk about Movie Club.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Dauvit -- Well, I'm sure there were more than a few converts who had taken up the "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" chant that day. A knee-jerk reaction has diagnostic value, but it's not the last word.

Instincts are great, but you're right that they need formation as much as reason does.

Christopher -- What I wouldn't mind is a prequel. =P

Bob Wallace said...

I saw the movie and not surprisingly for me I identified with Marty, who I thought was dead. I agreed with the ending, because if humanity had turned into sacrificing the young and partying about it, then it's time to give someone else a chance.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Marty and Dana were my favourite characters, so the movie became extra meaningful for me when both of them made it as far as they did.

What do you think of Sigourney Weaver's character turning out to be the one running the show? (She's actually the reason I recommended The Cabin in the Woods to you?) My personal "fan theory" is that she was once in Dana's place as the virgin sacrifice and killed someone else. And if Dana hadn't been attacked by the werewolf, she would have grown up to be like that, too.

Bob Wallace said...

If she had shot Marty she might have turned into Weaver. But she didn't.