20 April 2012

THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (Dir. Drew Goddard, 2012, US) – Old Testament Horror [spoilers ahead]

All the familiar horror archetypes are used inventively.
The Cabin in the Woods is a moderately sophisticated postmodern horror/science fiction hybrid and with Whedon as co-writer, the film has a lot of fun sending up various aspects of genre conventions especially modern horror films today. In many ways, The Cabin in the Woods shares notable similarities with two recent British horror films; The Descent and Eden Lake. The most obvious link to these two British horror films is the presence of composer David Julyan. This was slightly off putting because although Julyan is a credible horror composer, many of the cues used in the film recall, maybe deliberately so, The Descent and Eden Lake. The other common link between these three films is the centrality of Urbanoia as a sub genre and primary critical discourse. In its most simplistic terms, Urbanoia deals with a clash of cultures, namely the one between urban and rural ideals. Deliverance being the textbook for Urbanoia cinema. The Cabin in the Woods employs a familiar 1970s American horror narrative trajectory of a group of adolescent teenagers heading off into uncharted rural territory. Whedon and co-writer/director Drew Goddard smartly invoke a formulaic set up and first act of horny teenagers and gothic imagery which we interpret as a postmodern construct and thus participate in the intertextual humour it produces. Nonetheless, certain expectations attached to the horror genre tell us that the film will end in a recognisable way, but I guess, this is when Whedon and Goddard attempt to challenge the audience. If Urbanoia is characterised by the presence of the primitive warrior figure who emerges at the end victorious masked in blood then both The Descent and Eden Lake subvert such a convention by killing off the final girl. The Cabin in the Woods departs majorly from the Urbanoia template in the final third by constructing an ending in which our voyeuristic position as a horror spectator is turned against us by vanquishing a fictional reality. A clear difference between The Cabin in the Woods and much of the recent British horror films is the way American horror cinema still equates the genre with the youth and adolescent teenagers in particular. This is largely suggestive of the slasher film’s continuing influence on contemporary American horror films. Ideologically, it might be possible to situate The Cabin in the Woods as one of the first American horror films to reflect the politics of the Obama administration. If horror films have the innate capacity to tap into wider fears and anxieties then this one mirrors a key moment in the Obama presidency: the death of Osama Bin Laden. When Osama’s capture and execution was announced, the Whitehouse released pictures of President Obama having witnessed the events unfold through a live feed. A parallel can be found in the control room inhabited by the puppet masters (symbols of power and masters of ceremonies regularly displaced by reality shows) who cynically take bets on the killing games enacted. The image of the puppeteers shaping the parameters of a controlled reality for the unknowing contestants smacks of allegory to do with the way in which western power especially the American military acts with impunity and from behind a virtual screen to orchestra violence, murder and death. This is exactly what happened when Obama sat down to oversee the execution of Osama – it was a death that occurred within the dubious spectacle of a virtual and fake reality. The final third of the film is likely to polarise audiences as it segues into a somewhat preposterous discussion of ancient rituals and the existence of The Gods. This final ‘unveiling’ of the actual face of the puppet master invoked memories of The Wizard of Oz. In this case, the unveiling of the truth points to a reality that recalls an Old Testament interpretation of the rules of the horror film with transgression and punishment reinforced as puritanical values.


Post a Comment