The Cabin in the Woods has always been a movie I have been apprehensive about since I first saw its trailer years ago in a movie house (I swear, there should be a law restricting the showing of horror movie trailers in theaters showing non-horror movies). When I learned that it was being shown in horror class, I knew I would have no choice but to man up and watch the movie.
Personally, I did not find the movie frightening. For one, zombies are a horror-creature that I never found particularly horrifying. I mean, they move like continents and can be punched, eye-poked, and butt-kicked unlike say, ghosts (the penultimate in horror for me). The main reason I was not frightened though was because I knew that behind each flickering light, each zombie, and each stupid decision by a teenager was a fellow human being pulling the strings. Whether it was the spreading of pheromones, the horror objects, or the layout of the cabin, I knew that ultimately a tangible, living, breathing human being was in control, not a supernatural entity.
I believe that this took away from the sense of fatalism and inevitability that makes other horror movies terrifying. In Triangle for example, the apparent futility of the protagonist to change her fate really added to the overall horror of the film. No matter what she did, she was trapped in an unending loop. In The Cabin in the Woods, it is true that from the point of view of the unsuspecting, free-spirited vacationers, they were trapped and were subject to horrors beyond their imagination. From my viewpoint however, I knew that it was no cruel twist of fate or some unexplained occurrence of the fantastic causing their torture, but that it was merely the cruel manipulations of a group of controllers.
For me, the really “scary” part of the movie is the loss of humanity shown by the controllers. They went about their job of essentially murdering innocent people with nonchalance – gusto even. They bet, they laughed, and they high-fived each other on various aspects of each person’s demise. Essentially, they treated this murder merely as a job and even derived some nasty form of pleasure out of it. It was their cruelty which obviously contributed to the decision of the final two surviving teenagers to allow humanity to die, seeing that humanity has become even worse than the monsters they have been hiding. For me, the leaving of the fate of humanity in the hands of a pair of teenagers is true horror.
Because of the deaths of the controllers, I would say that the stream of horror that this movie most falls under is that of allegory. The movie is reminding us that just because we are humans and thus “civilized” and rational doesn’t mean that we aren’t capable of doing horrific things and becoming monsters ourselves. We may think ourselves better than the other beings in the world, but when it all comes down to it, many people are monsters themselves.