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Please don’t think there’s something wrong with me, but the film I find most comfort in is one in which a pain-worshipping zombie cuts off a young woman’s head, picks it up, then throws it into a house filled with her friends.
When The Cabin in the Woods first came out I had just moved to a new state. I had no friends to throw my decapitated head at, and so when my birthday rolled around, instead of watching Game of Thrones in bed, I headed to the cinema where I’d recently been employed and settled in to see a weird, long-delayed horror film I’d heard almost nothing about. By the time it finished its cinema run a few months later, I’d watched it at least eight times.
As someone who sat through Hereditary with her hands clasped over her eyes telling herself I can do this I can do this don’t leave the whole time, I can confidently say horror movies are not normally my thing – but then The Cabin in the Woods is not a normal horror movie.
At first it ticks all the trope boxes. A group of young conventionally attractive friends, each pretty much embodying a different stereotype, heads off on a trip to a secluded cabin. They get warning sign after warning sign that things are going to go bad – the art on the walls is disturbing, one of the bedrooms turns out to have a one-way mirror, a creepy man warns them off – so when they find themselves in a spooky basement you feel like you can pretty much guess what comes next.
And therein lies the strange genius of The Cabin in the Woods – because the joy of the film relies on the fact that you both can and cannot predict what’s going to happen. This is where I stop talking about plot because anything else pushes us into severe spoiler territory.
Despite all the blood and all the jump scares, The Cabin in the Woods is also a comedy. It’s horror in the way Buffy (which is where the film’s writers, Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, first worked together) is horror, with monsters and jokes getting almost equal airtime – although The Cabin in the Woods’ gore is a lot more pronounced and visceral. This is why, to me, it isn’t that scary – you get to step back a bit and look at things through a protective layer of laughter.
Sure there’s a bit of decapitation, but there’s also a bong that with a few twists and slides converts easily into a thermos. Fun fact: at the peak of my first The Cabin in the Woods viewing binge I interviewed Fran Kranz who plays Marty, owner of the thermos bong in the film and he told me that the bong was real and actually really did also function as a thermos.
“I mean the one thing is, after smoking out of it, your coffee would taste like shit, but you know, it was still a working bong. And it was pretty amazing,” he said.
In keeping with the meta nature of the film, I did this interview over the phone during a break in a shift at the cinema in which I had first watched the movie.
Here’s another fun fact: it was filmed in 2009 but after almost two years in limbo was very nearly left on the cutting room floor. This delay meant that when it finally did come out, the casting didn’t align with the actors’ fame. At time of filming, Chris Hemsworth was more known for Home and Away. By the time it was finally released, he was Thor.
Since its 2011 release, I haven’t gone more than six months without a rewatch. While nothing can ever match the first viewing, which is a true sucker punch of an experience, The Cabin in the Woods never gets stale because it is so filled with references, homages and tiny details that there is always something new to pick up. It isn’t comfort in carnage; it’s distraction and escapism via full immersion in a blood-splattered world that navigates horror, humour and the occasional merman.
• The Cabin in the Woods is streaming on Stan
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: The Cabin in the Woods: hilarious blood-spattered escapism, Joss Whedon style | Culture