The year is 2012 and horror movies are rarely fun. The roller coaster thrill ride of shocks punctuated by gore have been largely superseded by prolonged scenes of human bodies mangled through torture and “inventive” mutilation. The sour cynicism of the ‘70s has been shorn of its acerbic social critiques and, thus intellectually neutered, amalgamated with the featherbrained Xerox-machine splatter cash-ins of the ‘80s, but sans whatever onionskin charms they possessed. The current films considered transgressive by impotent sociopaths are merely the equivalent of the Taliban execution videos crouching in the corners of the internet like ravenous trapdoor spiders. In a world rife with suffering, to seek out increasingly more graphic visual depictions of it seems pitifully suicidal.
The ceaseless cavalcade of clichés that have defined the characters and scenarios of the horror genre since shortly after the birth of cinema have inspired knowing groans from audience members for just as long. The Cabin in the Woods (TCitW) embraces clichés ripe to the point of splitting and succeeds by transcending those clichés with unfettered exuberance and the audacity to see its incrementally revealed premise through each absurd permutation.
The joy of this movie — and there is smirky joy saturating every frame — is one best experienced with as little foreknowledge of what one is about to see as possible. In writing about a movie, I customarily make no effort to avoid spoilers, as I hope to craft a review that stands on its own as a piece of writing and retains its validity as a critique after one has seen the film under discussion. In the case of TCitW, I don’t believe any analysis of subtext, political underpinnings, social commentary, auteur theory, or mise-en-fucking-scene are in order. It ain’t there and in this case its absence doesn’t work to the film’s detriment at all. What is instead on offer to the viewer is 95 minutes of gleeful adoration of the genre and an unrelenting celebration of it. That is, truly, all you should know about this movie. TCitW rewards the jaded viewer who’s seen it all by providing her/him with everything they’ve ever seen and lots more of it. For a viewing public deluged with a fetid tide of mean-spirited dismemberment and sexual mutilation as vacuous metaphor, TCitW is a monster mash of charmingly epic proportions.
Cabin in the Woods opens today in Philly-area theaters.