Ford On Film

Chronicles of a silver screen addict

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.

The Cabin in the Woods

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.

tucker and dale

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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  1. Fan of actual horror films, not cheesy comedies

    Yeah, I agree, massively over rated. Major plot flaws, overly cheesy characters, no disturbing scenes whatsoever, and whilst the concept was decent the realizing of it fell short…massively. I also found the government sector to be a pathetic joke, and not a funny one. It annoys me that crap like this gets put on ‘Best horror of 2012’ lists when it’s not really even a horror (due to it not actually being horrifying in any way), it shouldn’t be in any ‘best’ lists apart from peoples’ who rate things like Road Trip as their favourite films.

    You’ll have wasted your time if you’re looking for a real horror movie.

  2. Jack

    This is without a doubt the WORST movie to ever come into production. I have never had to deal with such crap in my life. I have no idea how anyone can have liked this movie at all. I sincerely hope that anyone that liked this movie in the slightest is sent to a mental institution and kept away from my family.

  3. Seriously, the Cabin in the Woods is the worst movie ever. Can’t get any preaachier thn that. The audience is God? What about hte perople in the audience who disagreed with teh plot? You wouldn’t be surprise at how many TRUE horror fans wants something new and different. It’s merely the studiios that refuse to deliver. However Cabin in the woods decided to follow the same ol’ cliches. Really bad, guys.

  4. Eduardo

    totally agree, finally someone else that has not drunk the kool-aid

  5. GSR

    I saw the movie, and being a horror movie buff, had high expectations. But I was really disappointed at how bad the plot, acting and setting were. Really over-rated. Agree with you 100%.

  6. Very late to the party here, sorry. I’ve been struggling to express some similar thoughts about how people I know react to horror. Some of my friends who AREN’T horror fans love Cabin in the Woods and I think it’s a reflection of this very cynicism you point to at the end of this review. I think people who dislike horror and/or believe that every horror movie in existence is made up entirely of cliches believe that Cabin is a particularly clever deconstruction of horror film and that’s simply not true. As you rightly point out, the gas station just IS. It’s not really commenting on the ubiquity of these gas stations in horror films, it just EXISTS. I found most of the so-called “clever” elements of the film to run the same way. There’s nothing really said about the fact that these teenagers change because of chemical manipulation. If the movie is trying to tell us that these horror movie character types don’t exist, then all I can say is, “Well duh.” In some ways it insults the very audience it seeks to appeal to by telling us how horror narratives work. We KNOW how they work. And then, having shown us, the movie doesn’t say anything ABOUT those tropes and character types. The mass release of the monsters in the third act is a perfect metaphor for the failure of the movie itself. It’s just an on-screen litany of horror villains. At no point are the villains addressed or deconstructed. It’s just, “Oh hey, Cenobites. Oh hey, The Strangers. Oh hey, Japanese floaty hair ghost girl. Oh hey, Anaconda.” etc. Which makes the movie no better than a Friedberg/Seltzer comedy in my estimation. It’s like a Britney Spears lookalike showing up in Meet the Spartans. Yeah, okay, that’s Britney. Anything you want to SAY about Britney? No? She’s just a punchline? Good to know.

    • That’s a very good point, the humour does border dangerously close to Friedberg/Seltzer levels of parody. I think the reason the film didn’t work for me was because it never really works as either comedy or horror, in the same way Shaun of the Dead or Tucker & Dale vs. Evil worked because they were funny over scary.

  7. Thank you very much for this article. I’ve been wondering why people love the film so much. I think the fact that those who love this film tend to be the ones who are NOT horror fans (but they claimed to be). Any intro-level horror fans would have known that Wes Craven did meta-horror in the 90s with the Scream series–and did it much better. I think the difference between Scream and Cabin is that while the former referencing the horror movie tropes, it does not look down upon it as if it were any higher. Rather, it re-created the very horror tropes that it cleverly referenced. One of the major points of the horror films is to let the audience experience moments of true vulnerability; in theoretical terms, the moments of “abjection.” Scream, while joking about the horror genre, still put its characters (and us audience) in various vulnerable positions. Cabin ruined it by letting its audience knows that “you are safe” and “you are in control” by letting the audience identifies with the tech guys instead of those “dump kids.” I find Cabin a very, very condescending film. It’s like saying “WE ARE THE ONLY MEN WHO KNOW AND CAN LAUGH AT THE HORROR GENRE.” Well, they weren’t.


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