Hindsight is 20/20. Foresight is genius. (Stay with me on this- I’ll get to it…)
I just finished watching The Cabin in the Woods on Blu-ray. I saw it in the theater earlier this year and bought it the day it hit the stores. I’ve been waiting for the perfect night to convince either: a) my wife, b) my father, or c) my 14-year old son, to watch it with me. This evening my father was the big winner. My wife was watching Web coverage of the new Twilight movie and my son is at his mother’s house. Bonding time for Papa and me!
My father is an interesting character. He’s a smart guy. Growing up, it was a ritual for the two of us to watch Jeopardy! at 7:30 pm. It was a battle of wits (to the death!!) every night. He’s led a colorful life. He owned a bar as a younger man and has a million stories. (“I used to be in the bar business…”sets up a million jokes in our house.) He also, to the utter delight of my boys, lives with us. (Did you read this?)
Although it was the luck of the draw that had me watching the movie with Papa tonight, I figured he’d love the movie. He’s a smart guy. He loves television and movies.I couldn’t wait to share the brilliance of this movie with him.
Except- he didn’t like it! I am stunned. I slouched upstairs. My wife chuckled- not quite gloating. “I knew that he wouldn’t like it.”
Why? This movie is genius. It’s the smartest horror movie since Scream.
I’m not really a fan of the genre. I like cleverness and originality. So while I thought Saw was really smart, I thought the sequels were just pure schlock. I understand, and subscribe to, the willing suspension of disbelief. But the movie has to meet me halfway. Make it worth my time. Not a lot of horror movies do that.
Cabin is that rare story that is aware of and transcends its genre. It distills each element of a horror movie structure in a way that defines the genre. Genius. I wish I wrote it.
Hindsight being 20/20, it’s easy to look back at the movie and see the commonality of each of these elements in horror movies. The list is ridiculously complete. Here’s some elements- do they sound familiar?
- the menacing stranger warning off interlopers
- uncovering a secret that should remain hidden
- amazingly bad tactics (“let’s split up!” or using a weapon once and dropping it)
- the character archetypes: Whore, Fool, Scholar, Athlete, Virgin
The horror movie didn’t invent these elements. They probably resonate from our primordial instincts in the same way that Deliverance preys on our fears of the lands outside our own. It’s the same thinking behind “curiosity killed the cat”. They are the vestiges of tribal customs intended to discourage exploration and discovery. It is the story told around the fire that makes us fear the unknown- those unseen places outside the edges of the light. It speaks to the herd mentality that makes us huddle together for comfort and security. Horror movies challenge that sense of safety. They are taboo- and the forbidden has always enticed us, going all the way back to the apple (or fig, depending on your sources).
In hindsight, all of the pieces that Cabin spins are obvious. But it was the genius of Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard that saw those elements tying together the core of the modern horror movie- and found a way to explain why they are all there. Genius.
I’m amazed at the wit and subtlety of their story. Like I said- I wish I wrote it. But Papa didn’t like it. Too many layers. To each their own, as the cliche goes. He’s got another story to tell about my crappy taste in movies. I’m reminded why I started writing this blog.
I want to write something that good.