Drew Goddard’s debut, the 2011 movie The Cabin in the Woods, is metacinema at its finest: like the most inspired Wes Craven, who never missed the opportunity to talk about either himself or cinema at large, this film by Drew Goddard deals with horror slasher movies which normally have teenagers as their target audience. And just when you could think that the genre had nothing new to say, here comes the flash of genius and innovation reproposing it from a different narrative perspective and giving it new life.
Basically, if you are 15 years old and by chance you come across this film which presents itself as a standard post-2000 slasher, prepare to be slapped in the face. Your search for another Saw 3D (2010) or My Bloody Valentine 3D (2009) abruptly ends here. At first, the movie may seem like a bunch of the most classic horror cliches: the grumpy redneck, the group of friends formed by the hot chick (Anna Hutchison) / the athlete (Chris Hemsworth) / the smart guy (Jesse Williams) / the cute but not slutty girl (Kristen Connolly) / the nerd (Frank Kranz), the isolated house in the woods ready to be filled with blood… But right from the start something is wrong, something’s out of place: some elegant men use Doctor Claw’s cameras to spy on the group of stereotyped heroes lost in the woods.
And all of a sudden the movie reveals itself for what it really is: a horror parody (not unlike The Fearless Vampire Killers, 1967, Young Frankenstein, 1974, or Shaun of the Dead, 2004) which pokes fun at itself, its genre, and its apparent target audience. Our heroes must be sacrificed to a Cthulean (or Cthulesque?) God who feeds on young and unsuspecting kids killed by horrendous creatures that the heroes themselves summon due to the stupid curiosity which normally characterizes the usual protagonists of this kind of films. In order to ensure an easy and smooth resolution of the ritual, the executioners check every aspect of the playing field, which is basically an elaborated sacrificial pyre.
Do heroes drop a functional and functional weapon to the ground? That’s because of an electrical impulse that makes them do that. Better to split than to remain together? That’s because of hallucinogenic substances dispensers placed in the walls of the house. Is everything dark? That’s because the energy has been disconnected. Do the monsters attack those who have sex? That’s because the sex itself was triggered by pheromones released on the site. Is the car useless? That’s because somebody tampered with its engine.
Basically, the cliche is a way to tell the story and make the film work, but it’s also part of the commentary on the horror genre and breaks the fourth wall by declaring the whole movie to be a parody. The God of the movie is the mass of spectators who pay to see the same movie over and over again, but this time the stereotypes are overturned and crush this world of perpetual repetition of a genre numbed by commercial seriality. The character played by Sigourney Weaver represents the majors in search of blood (money) and she’s the one delivering the slap that I mentioned above. And probably most of that target audience haven’t even realized what hit them at the end of this movie…
The Cabin in the Woods is a true gem, it’s metacinema, it’s a non-movie movie, and Drew Goddard made a statement with it: pay attention to me. Well, as far as I’m concerned, Bad Times at El Royale (2018) is a damned good movie, so please Mr Goodard, make as many movies as you can! Ciao!