The CPL Readers Corner is devoted to books and reading, but I’ve been known to bend the rules considerably during Horror Month. I like to take a broader, more all-collection view of scary anyway. You
frighten reach more people that way.
Besides, movies are written. This particular screenplay won a Bram Stoker Award. So it counts. And really, it’s less of a stretch than my post about The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror.
So let’s explore Drew Goddard’s 2012 movie, The Cabin in the Woods.
Directed by Drew Goddard and written by Goddard and Joss Whedon, The Cabin in the Woods tells the story of five teenagers who are spending a weekend in a secluded cabin in the woods. Predictably, creepy things start to happen, and bodies start to pile up as the kids struggle for their lives against murderous ghosts.
The twist, though, is that they’re being watched. Not just watched, monitored. By Bradley Whitford!
Whitford plays a technician at the Facility. The cabin in the woods, it turns out, is a part of this Facility, and every terrifying event is being carefully orchestrated. Eventually it becomes the task of the surviving teens to uncover the exact nature of what the Facility is and the reasons for the terror.
In an interview with Total Film back in 2012, Joss Whedon described the movie as a “very loving hate letter” to the horror genre. He went on to add that, while the movie is fun, it’s also meant to be a serious critique of modern horror. In particular, he said:
“The things that I don’t like are kids acting like idiots, the devolution of the horror movie into torture porn and into a long series of sadistic comeuppances. Drew and I both felt that the pendulum had sung a little too far in that direction.”
Watching the movie you certainly get the critique. There’s an entire sequence, for example, where a drawn-out “series of sadistic comeuppances” are happening on the monitor at the Facility, with a scene being played right in front of it, the technicians largely oblivious. Modern horror inundates us with graphic violence and jump scares, and I’ll go ahead and state my opinion that that is LAZY. Lazy lazy LAZY. It’s much more difficult to write a movie that tells a nuanced suspenseful tale of terror, or even one that uses violence in a non-gratuitous way. So moviemakers don’t. It’s a discredit both to movies and to horror as a genre. I agree with Drew and Joss–the pendulum has swung way too far in the lazy torture-porn direction in horror movies, so it’s unspeakably refreshing to happen upon a movie like this every once in a while.
So I’m biased when I say I loved The Cabin in the Woods. The gore is there, but there’s a point, whether it’s in-universe or authorial critique. I thought it was clever and scary and endlessly entertaining, with a great cast and a well-told, genuinely creepy story. I like movies and books that are kind of a thumbed-nose to genre, and this screenplay fits the bill with its mix of comedy, horror, and satire.
You can feel the attention and affection that went into this movie with every frame. The monsters are lovingly crafted, the sets and the way they’re shot are a joy to see. The screenplay is a delightful mix of humor and horror, chock-full of references and homages. And the ending is pitch-perfect. If you’re after a little something different this Halloween, you should give The Cabin in the Woods a try.
Here’s the trailer, see if it appeals! Keep in mind, though, R-rated horror movie, so ye be warned.
I wrote this post as an introduction to a new Halloween Countdown feature. Fellow librarian and horror fan Hilary is going to be guest blogging soon about some scary movies for Horror Month! Stay tuned!