Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Psychobabble's 150 Essential Horror Movies: Addition 30

Every day this October, I'll be adding a film to Psychobabble's 120 Essential Horror Movies to bring the list up to 150. This year's final addition is:

150. The Cabin in the Woods (2012- dir. Drew Goddard)

Even those familiar with Joss Whedon’s penchant for yanking the carpet from beneath his viewers will be sent loopy by The Cabin in the Woods. In the quite brilliant script he co-wrote with director Drew Goddard, the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and other cult T.V. favorites establishes the usual slasher movie clichés only to draw attention to and subvert them. I know, I know; Scream did that very same thing some fifteen years earlier. But it didn’t do it like The Cabin in the Woods does it. Scream was clever because it finally acknowledged the silly decisions and sillier archetypes common to slasher pictures. The Cabin in the Woods is genius because it explains why those clichés exist, and the explanation is a stroke of such unfettered imagination that it makes the appearances of massive force fields, a merman-fixated scientist, a murderous unicorn, and a universe-annihilating god fist completely logical. Like the Evil Dead films, which it references often and lovingly (keep an eye out for that “angry molesting tree”!), The Cabin in the Woods works as both incisive parody and visceral horror. The one thing it lacks—and this is highly unusual for a Whedon creation—is empathy. The writer is usually a master of manipulating his viewers into caring about his daffy characters. The ones in this film are stereotypes by nature: the stoner, the slut (well, sort of), the jock (well, maybe), the virgin (ummm, not quite, but for all intents and purposes…). The thinness of these characters certainly serves a plot function, but it also makes the film feel a little hollow since we don’t get quite as broken up when they’re dispatched as when, say, Buffy died that one time, or when she died that other time, or when she died all those other times. What The Cabin in the Woods lacks in emotional depth, it more than makes up for in intellect, originality, and a menagerie of geek-pleasing references to 90 years of Horror cinema.

See this piece in context as part of Psychobabble’s Essential Horror Movies of the 2010s here.
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