The Cabin in the Woods is a post 9/11 horror film by Josh Wheaton and Gilbert Gottfried. When this movie was happening for the first time, I wasn’t sure what to make of it because the trailers made it look like nonsense. Watching it, the movie does, at first, SEEM like nonsense, but it begins to play out in a very real way. Initially, it contains two parallel and seemingly unrelated story lines with no apparent links- but by the end, they converge and make total sense.
The first story focuses on two NASA workers who are obsessed with Japan. Their scenes all take place at NASA HQ, and involve lengthy dialogs about how cool Japan is, things that are cool in Japan, and how powerful and great Japan is. They don’t talk about anime or anything, just Japan in general. It’s clear early on that they have great respect for Japan. One of these two men is played by Bradley Whitford, who you will remember from The West Wing, which made me really appreciate his role in this film. In The West Wing, he was very pro America, and in this movie, he’s very pro Japan, and I think that’s a really great dichotomy. Whitford really breaks away from his old persona, and it’s truly outstanding.
The second story focuses on 5 teenagers who move to a cabin in the woods to escape their bourgeois lives in the city. Although it’s never explicitly stated in the movie, each of these teens obviously represents an archetypal class: there’s a Warrior (played by Channing Tatum), a Mage, a Priestess/Healer, a Thief, and a Regular Woman. I don’t know why they are friends.
So, while the teenagers are driving to the cabin (in the woods), the men at NASA continue to expound on Japanese superiority, eventually inviting all of their NASA friends over to their office for an Otaku party. When we return to the teenagers, they have reached the cabin, and have discovered a treasure trove of magical artifacts in a secret dungeon, which they use to summon a group of zombies (presumably to grind some EXP). While they wait for the zombies to arrive, Channing Tatum and the Regular Woman go outside to smooch and rub their bits together, but they accidentally breathe in some zombie magic, which poisons them. Tatum escapes and the Regular Woman gets eaten by zombies.
Back at NASA, everyone has segued from talking about Japan to talking about monsters while they watch a Japanese horror film about children fighting a ghost. Suddenly, a phone call interrupts the “Otacon” (see what I did, there?), informing Bradley Whitford’s character that 4 teenagers are fighting zombies in the woods. Instead of being excited about this, though, he seems to become depressed by the news.
At the cabin, Tatum jumps his dirt bike into a gorge, but no one knows why- this leaves the sole survivors, the Thief and Healer, confused. The Thief then figures out that he’s on a TV show because he finds a power cord hidden in the cabin, but then he dies… but also, he wasn’t on TV, he was in this movie. This is one instance of the movie breaking the 4th wall, and it is very well done. All alone, the Healer fights the remaining zombies, but she almost dies because she can’t cast healing spells AND fight at the same time. Luckily, the Thief shows up and saves the day- he had 1 HP left and wasn’t dead at all!
The two of them find a tunnel leading to Area 51, and accidentally release all of the monsters. Everyone in the famous military base dies. Whoops! It turns out, though, that there’s a secret temple below Area 51 that’s even older- the Thief and Healer, nearly out of MP and HP don’t know where to go from here… suddenly, Susan Sarandon shows up and reveals that they are all simply toys, brought to life with a child’s imagination! Their entire world is make-believe!
Then, a werewolf and a zombie throw Susan Sarandon into a well. The Healer and Thief accept that they are just characters in a child’s imagination, and start smoking weed. Just then, the child blows the cabin in the woods up with a firecracker and the movie ends. Oh, and the NASA guys were at Area 51 the whole time- that was the big twist. Pretty cool.
I give the movie 4/5 regular triangles and an upside down triangle.
Get it on Amazon.