So I’m late to this film, but better late than never, and even with all the hype I wasn’t ready for its sucker punch, its fresh, raw take on story. For me, good horror is a showcase for story, the skin and bone of what makes us human. So here you have a story of five frisky teenagers alone in the woods where they’re preyed on by supernatural forces and you turn that into the story of what makes us in/human. Why that story is our sacrificial right/rite to the timeworn gods, those Big Giant Heads who keep us small in the universe, right where they can see us. And how between the Big Giant Heads, are some smaller, slicker heads who keep it all running smooth as a well-oiled machine gun, and how those small meaner heads try and drink or joke their own humanity into a space small enough to shoot through one of those plastic trash can hoops, but every so often that humanity rebounds on their asses and they end up gutted by it. Game over.
So there they are, these five kids: the jock and the slut and the nerd and the fool/foil and um, the virgin. Except that its not just supernatural forces, on their own, well it is, and that, friends, is what makes this story scary as hell. Because in spite of all our human interference, in the end monsters are real, and the Virtual Reality, sci/fi set up here makes the monsters realer than ever. We’re not manipulating the monsters, we’re manipulating for the monsters because it’s not a game, no, it’s a goddam sacrifice folks. A sacrifice we make over and over again, every time we crowd into a cinema/onto a sofa to watch this ritual sacrifice of youth to age, life to death, blood calling to blood. To watch the night through a one way mirror and tell ourselves, really, even after all this time, that it’s not staring back.
Why? It isn’t like Whedon and Goddard are saying, don’t. Hell no. This film fetishes every scene from Night of the Living Dead to Scream and with detours through Heathers, The Shining, Evil Dead, Hell Raiser and The Thing. Nods to the Norwegians, the Japanese, and British. To Carpenter, Cameron and Craven. Oh, and remember the Titans? Love your work.
Because the show must go on. It really must. Or hell will break loose. No really. It will.
But maybe, you know, just maybe. It’s time. Except who are we to say? What hubris, what false pride. Because in the end, the gods we take are equal to the gods we make. And that can be funny as hell. There are yucks in this gore, and an absence of piety in direct proportion to the presence of heart. Fran Kranz is a knock-out as the not so gentle stoner whose bong is a travel mug one minute, a weapon of mass destruction the next. Love is the drug, but in the end, even that won’t cut it.
Cabin asks more questions than it answers, which is what makes it a game changer. It asks more of story than any English language horror film that I can think of since Heathers. It asks more of the image—the actors are all impossibly beautiful and less stereotypical than allegorical. Dig: they’ve got heart. It asks more of scene. Blood runs down walls, monsters sweep across the screen like the invading hordes, hands reach out of graves, cellar doors fly open. And in the words of the fool, how exactly does that all make sense? Cabin asks that over and over. Every scene counts. Every scene asks sense of the one before and the one after. Like the flaky/creepy pump attendant who works for the man who puts him on speaker phone because it’s funny in the way cthulhu would be funny if he were on Speaker. We pick our poisons. We choose our monsters. Don’t check your brain at the door.