What I find novel and interesting about the whole movie is how it plays on our preconceived ideas of what constitutes the horror and subsequently turns it against us. It starts us out with this seemingly unrelated setting of an office building of what looks to be like a corporate power plant or factory. When we cut to the next scenes where we are shown what we soon identify as the unwitting participants in the source of horror, I find myself hard-pressed to not make the immediate distinctions between characters and the archetypes they’d possibly be filling in knowing full well this would be a horror film. That said, those initial preconceptions were easily displaced in the next moments that the characters revealed more about their personalities that somewhat left me wondering, “Whose trope would this person be filling in, really?”
The next scenes that feature the office workers and the control room monitoring the teens brings in this whole idea of a larger power at play which still leaves us largely in the dark ourselves but at that moment we are not without our own ideas how things could be playing out. And as the movie progresses you have these moments of ‘I knew this was going to happen’ but still it largely surprises and scares me because of the relative ease with which the events follow even at the control and behest of this secret unseen power that we as the viewers are privy to.
The elements that I think alienates us as viewers to this horror is the idea of how these people at the control room are able to take on this vestige of power over others. And its not completely fictional in how it goes about manipulating these teenagers; they’re using technologies possible to us already, which is the touch of realism that familiarizes us, yet it’s these manipulative applications that stand as unthinkable and horrible to us. On the idea of manipulation and fate, we see how the character’s personalities gradually change (made to change) over the period of the story and we see them getting hammered through their molds that were arbitrarily chosen for them. The idea of fate here still delivers that idea of helplessness with your inability to effect changes and choices to your life outside of the plans of this higher power.
A book written by a Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, in one chapter, had two of the three brothers discussing the concept of salvation with the price of the suffering of the innocents like children. In that chapter, one brother argues that no matter how much salvation is promised after suffering, it does not excuse the presence of suffering at all and does not erase the effects of suffering on the world since salvation is promised when we are no longer alive; which is paradoxical in its purpose. This I believe is mirrored in the final scene of the movie where the “fool” argues why they have to die to save the rest of the world and asserts that maybe man has had his time, if so.
The cabin in the woods is an insightful commentary on the relationship between the viewers of horror, the sources of horror and the unseen middlemen between them. The allegory it plays on is the idea of horror as a consumer product that can be manufactured for the entertainment of these eldritch consumers; in a way, those eldritch horrors who have to be entertained represents us as people who consume entertainment. The comical part about it is how the middlemen who make/facilitate the entertainment (i.e. Hollywood/film industries) have reluctantly turned it into a pseudo-art, an easily reproducible formula, complete with its own bag of tricks (monsters and horrors that were locked up). And funnily enough, they also tackle the relative difficulty to create good horror nowadays when one after another all their attempts to fabricate horror fails (the Japanese Ghost, the Monster, and their western occult).