The greatest thing about The Cabin in the Woods is that the ending assures us there will be no sequels. It’s the film’s way of telling us that despite the chaos we have been through for two hours, everything will be fine at the end. But I’m genuinely disappointed. It’s been a long while since a good horror film came along and I had heard that this one would buck the trend; that it would be a surprise. The only real surprise is how terrible the film really is.
- Cabin’s biggest problem is its tonal shifts. The film hovers above comedy and horror, flirting with both but never fully committing to either. It eventually starts to move in the same direction that most horror flicks do with hot young students wearing their underwear around dorms in college getting together for a trip to a haunted house and all that jazz. And its banality is only concealed by an orgiastic finale that is intended to surprise but instead provides yet another confusing misdirection. The first half, which is full of gory sexuality and devoid of comedy, doesn’t justify the sudden transition to the over-the-top idiocy of the second one. And that’s not even to say that the second half is all that hilarious. It attempts to be and there are scattered chuckles, but then it gets lost in the shallow stiffness of its dialogue and decides to overcompensate with the cacophonic introduction of unicorns and mermen and a whole bunch of horror cliches. Had it started things off with the right tone – think of the opening of Zombieland, so beautifully balancing comedy and horror – or if its humor had been wittier throughout, I would have given it a pass, but I can’t over the fact that Cabin is incredibly self aware of how ridiculous it is and somehow imagines that it’s really, really cool to be so chaotic.
- The entirety of the film is spent waiting for a clever final twist. To be fair, the ending is not expected. It’s ballsy and it’s definitely not lazy. We know from the beginning that the main characters are essentially being manipulated from the outside, so that’s no surprise. What the film lacks in its final act is a justification for the whole ordeal, something that is smarter that what we get. It’s interesting to see so many familiar horror tropes re-imagined (particularly the really funny nod to Japanese horror) but sadly, it’s this surprise that works adversely to undermine the film. If one expected to see that final amalgam, it’d be easier to cheer on, but if you waited to see a thoughtful reasoning – say, properly explaining the audience that is alluded to – you’ll be disappointed by how messy everything gets.