The Cabin in the Woods portrays the horrific fate of a group of young adults as they embark on a one-way vacation to hell. Little do they know that what they are about to experience is actually orchestrated by a large underground organization that aims to keep their so-called “gods” satisfied by remaining loyal to their rituals. In the end, however, the convention was disrupted and saw the whole organization crumble from its own doing as the monsters they kept were the ones that ultimately brought them down to ashes.
Initially, the film focuses on the ideas of entrapment and fatalism with its plot and setting. Aside from being stuck in the “woods” that is actually more of a controlled facility, there is really nothing that the characters can do than to try to possibly escape their fate. However, given that they are stuck not only with a hunting zombie family but also in the larger scheme of the whole forest itself, they can really do nothing but just to prolong their lives in the hope of a sudden twist of fate – which eventually did happen. While the characters remarkably are given more control of their fate towards the end of the movie to the point that I thought they will actually survive, we still realize that dying is still the only inevitable option given their fate and they really cannot escape it. Now, imagine the helplessness that the characters felt especially at the point of knowing that no matter where they go, no matter what they do, they are stuck to die in the hands of something greater than them. This sort of entrapment and helplessness in the face of one’s fate brings upon true horror in us.
The Cabin in the Woods remarkably becomes a “metafilm” as it progressed near the end, offering a third person view point of the movie, more so of the horror genre. It delves into the idea of the ritualized factors of the conventional horror film, particularly stereotyping the American slasher film, to suit the “gods”, who are not so different from the mainstream audiences of horror like us. It subliminally attacks the usual conventions of the American horror film by bringing us to light on how it is actually orchestrated. Specifically, the film mentioned that the group, usually of five archetypal characters, die in the following order: the whore (who usually is having or just had sex), the jock or athlete, the scholar, the fool, and the virgin. Those who went against this recipe will inevitably suffer death at the hands of the horror gods. The film, having not followed the convention, saw this through the sudden outburst of a giant hand destroying the cabin in the end.
One can see this imagery in two lights: that any horror film that goes against convention will either suffer from the hands of the mainstream audience or be freed from the limiting convention of horror movie making itself. After watching the film, I would like to believe that it is the latter.
The destruction of the cabin in the end can be seen, personally, as a metaphor for a certain kind of freedom: an escape from the limiting conventions of popular horror. The audience, assumed to be the reference of the gods in the film, is freed from their comfort zones of merely being satisfied with the standards and is released to a whole new world of horror, something that transcends slashers and serial-killers. In the same way, the horror film is also freed from its limiting conventions to explore a whole world of horror out today. This can be supported by the striking notion in the film on how the same so-called “ritual” has failed elsewhere around the world, signifying that other cultures have their own and possibly better way of portraying what is true horror with respect to their own context (like the Japanese ghost horrors).
In the end, the film shows to us that the notion of helplessness and entrapment can still be portrayed in a very wide manner through different styles, which may include a bit of comedy as seen in the film, to evoke the natural feeling of true human horror within all of us. The Cabin in the Woods is very special in such a way that it tries to free us, the so-called “gods”, from merely being satisfied with what we are comfortable with. I would say that I actually liked the movie because it offered something fresh to the table – not an everyday thing from the mainstream Hollywood movies of today.