Why The Cabin in the Woods is terrible
Okay, maybe the title is slightly harsh. The Cabin in the Woods probably isn’t terrible; it’s just mediocre, below average, sub-par, not very good. When the film was first released in April 2012, it received overwhelmingly high praise from critics. Looking on critic consensus website Rotten Tomatoes, the overall sum up of the film states:
“The Cabin in the Woods is an astonishing meta-feat, capable of being funny, strange, and scary — frequently all at the same time.”
It has also been variously described as “the year’s best horror movie”, “remarkable” and, in a weirdly superlative review from CNN, “one of the best movies of 2012, in any genre”. Now, when The Cabin in the Woods first opened, I, being a diehard horror fanatic, read that the film would “delight fanatics” and got excited. The trailers suggested a film that would reference my favourite films while simultaneously pointing out the funnies in them. Though this has been done to both great effect (Scream) and bad effect (any Scary Movie film) before, the sheer love the film received from critics lead me to believe this would be a modern masterpiece, and, as horror fans knows, very few outstanding horrors exist anymore. After missing my chance to see it in cinemas, finally, it was released to the world on DVD and Blu Ray. Finally, I got my copy, sat down, and watched what was sure to be my favourite film of the year.
Disappointment is not the word.
I sat through the first half hour, thinking “Oh, ha-ha, look, they’re in a creepy gas station like lots of classic horrors. Granted, they aren’t making actual jokes, but the fact they’re there is funny…sort of…” Then, after an interminable amount of time, the twist was revealed. I won’t reveal it, because the only highlight of The Cabin in the Woods is the twist, but it is great. I will give it that, it was great, unexpected, and made the film somewhat more enjoyable. Herein lies the problem; the ending twenty minutes is so utterly batshit insane, it runs out of things to do. The ending is so built up that when it occurs, it has no impact. Quite simply, nothing could happen that would live up to the ambition of the script. Joss Whedon, the fanboy’s favourite after this and Avengers Assemble, can’t live up to the hype set by his own writing.
One of the brilliant things about Scream is that while they do admittedly make horror seem silly and predictable, the film itself is still creepy, gory and works as both a satire of horror and a horror itself. The Cabin in the Woods, to put it nicely, does not. The Cabin in the Woods, by its very nature, is not scary. They show us the humorous side of horror, but by doing so, they simply kill any chance of suspense or mystery. It’s the magician showing us his trick; once we know how it’s done, the magic is gone. Now, this in itself isn’t necessarily a problem; Scream did it just fine, even when pointing out things that were currently happening on screen. However, when Scream did it, it was funny, even for non-horror fans, and that is the heart of The Cabin in the Woods’ problems; it is simply not funny enough to compensate for its complete lack of suspense.
However, I must confess, there is a more personal reason for my dislike of The Cabin in the Woods. You see, a full year before The Cabin…came out, a smaller, less well known comedy horror came out. That film was Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, my favourite horror of 2011. I bring Tucker and Dale up because, like The Cabin…, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil is a deconstruction of the horror genre, or, more specifically, the ‘killer hillbilly’ subgenre. However, unlike The Cabin in the Woods, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil is riotously funny, incredibly gory, and has a real love and fondness for horror, something I felt The Cabin in the Woods was rather cynical about. And yet, nobody has seen Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, and everybody has seen The Cabin in the Woods. That, ultimately, may be why I think The Cabin in the Woods is terrible.
By Harry J. Ford
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