I should stop you. I really shouldn’t even write this. Writing a review of Cabin in the Woods, talking about Cabin in the Woods in a public forum is like talking about the ending of The Sixth Sense in front of a movie theatre in 1999 or being the first person to shout “Snape killed Dumbledore” in July of 2005. Even the title, Cabin in the Woods is a spoiler once you know how to look at it. So please, for the love of god, if you haven’t watched this movie, do so now, before you read another word.
There are three layers to this movie. You can watch it as a tired old film cliche with boobs and a body count, the kind that most people attracted to this film probably wouldn’t mind watching but would definitely like to see something greater than. You can watch the film literally, as it prepares a ritual sacrifice to keep Cthulhu sleeping in R’lyeh (or a similar, unnamed Old One). Or you can take that step one step farther, peel back the layer of satire, and realize that you are Cthulhu.
An unnamed corporation with chapters all over the world is constructing a scenario. These are regular office workers, what you might call “average Joes”. They gamble, they drink, they do anything the boss will allow and are careful to keep anything they won’t under the table. They hate their client’s customers and they’ll do whatever they can to keep the client happy. And they’re working to save the world from certain destruction.
Their clients are “the ones who came before”, which means this is probably part of writer Joss Whedon’s “Buffyverse”. The fact that Tom Lenk and Amy Acker work here are only an added bonus. Of course, the twist is, the customers that they’re serving in order to satisfy the clients are human beings, whom they’re sacrificing in traditional horror movie fashion in order to keep the Old Ones aslumber.
Describing what comes next would just be too much detail. Cabin in the Woods is every horror movie ever made, in more ways than one. It’s a movie that distinguishes between “zombie” and “zombie cannibal family” and delivers on both. A man is gored by a unicorn, another is fed to a giant snake, and nameless Cenobites (the Hellraiser kind) make their appearance, among other things. If that’s not enough to sell you on this story, a secret stash of weed keeps Topher Brink from Dollhouse sober enough to upset everybody’s plans.
Not only is this a perfect homage and satire of ‘80s horror, but it’s a perfect 1980s’ creation in its own right. The only thing that’s more a child of the ‘80s than the horror film set in a cabin the woods is the evil corporation beholden to nobody. Lex Luthor isn’t in charge here, but the film loses none of its appeal as a result of it.
If you’ve never seen a student on full academic scholarship turn into an alpha male who calls people “egghead”, an equally studious blonde act in the role of the sacrificial bimbo, or a “virgin” who just broke off a purely sexual relationship with her teacher with an “I knew what I was getting into” attitude, then I’m still telling you too much. Watch Cabin in the Woods if you’ve ever liked a horror movie.