Drinking With The Dread: The Cabin In The Woods

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Before Chris Hemsworth cracked the sky as Marvel’s God of Thunder and before Bradley Whitford wanted to vote Obama in for a third term (or so we thought), Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon enlisted the two actors for a meta-horror fiesta that’d be shelved by MGM and later released under Lionsgate’s banner. The Cabin In The Woods, ever hear of it? You f*$&ing BETTER have. This “loving hate letter” to at-the-time genre stagnancy (torture porn) benefited from Hemsworth’s timely 2011 catapult into Marvel’s frequently-debated stratosphere of “Chrises” but we mustn’t forget, Cabin filmed first (2009). Hemsworth chipped his teeth on an ambitious genre fare fit for Friday-night fright clubs and 24/7 deadheads alike. It’s a party and everyone’s invited! Even the killer robots and evil clowns!

As any group-pleasing watch should, The Cabin In The Woods has something for *literally* everyone. Self-referential humor that’s practically one feature-length genre in-joke? Bastardizations of oft-abided “rules?” A cubist zoo full of creatures? Dancing Richard Jenkins? It’s a headbanging harbinger that delivers on *every* promised exploit; a chaotic union of apocalyptic absurdity. What starts as generic “cabin in the woods” initiating ends on another goddamn planet altogether. One with gigantic deities who order rituals inspired by every zombie, slasher, and monster flick you’ve ever seen. Good for a billion and one “I could survive that!” drunken debates.

Performances are – without argument – necessary contributions to experience, but horror fans needn’t more than Goddard and Whedon’s scripted string of genre-bashing masterworks. A typical character introduction meetup occurs: Marty Mikalski (Fran Kranz) rolls out his collapsible bong, and then we get to Mortecai’s (Tim DeZarn) gas-station-attendee warning. Something feels amiss. A movie that calls itself The Cabin In The Woods couldn’t be this simple, right?

Of. Course. Not. Dummy.

It’s not long after that some poor birdie slams head-first into a cloaked force field that flickers exposure and our minds begin to race. What unfurls is anything but an Evil Dead knockoff as Rubik’s Cube poster designs reveal hidden meaning – and only embellish an outrageous takedown/homage of every horror blueprint known to learned disciples. Explanations abound, treatments less puzzling and more precious. For every action, Gary Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) and Steve Hadley (Bradley Whitford) are there to blame. Bantering about Hadley’s at-home wife drama or calculating their perfect evil Sims game with cackles and company man charms.

Jenkins and Whitford’s crowd-favorite control technicians manipulate Hemsworth’s clan as sacrificial lambs for their godlike bosses. They operate as white-collar office workers whose job is to guide unknowing souls into horror-film-inspired demises. An underground (literally), international network that pits subjects against cultural arenas of horror (e.g. Japanese schoolchildren vs. a Ringu-like ghost), nudging them slightly with hornifying fogs, caved roads, anything that veteran horror fans would deem a consequential cop-out. Blame immediately lifted from mindless characters – hilariously, I might add.

American departments place wagers on which monster will be unleashed like your office Super Bowl pool, keeping things lighthearted between knowing corporate drones who deal in death for a living. Some horror fans balked at such “distracting” humor when their slasher expectations were not met, but I argue the opposite – The Cabin In The Woods is a demented court jester that understands how both elements can work severed hand in severed hand. Satire by way of reinvention, commentary in an Earth-shattering new direction.

The Cabin In The Woods, for my bloody dollar, is more than 2012’s most accomplished horror offering. Think larger. Goddard and Whedon challenged not only themselves, but other filmmakers to approach horror with new mindsets. Enough Saw-inspired traps and hapless theme-baiting. These two sliced the genre beast at its throat and flipped its now-detached head for all to see. A trophy displayed, crowds chanting their approval in droves who thirst for this new stench of victory. In 2012, The Cabin In The Woods felt like a restart button for horror fans – and goddamn did that piercing chill feel something oh-so-good.

Party-starter moments include but are not limited to:

  • Jules’ mounted wolf-head kiss
  • Marty the stoner prophet
  • Curt’s bird-brained crash reenactment
  • Steve’s merman wish being granted
  • The entire betting pool scene, complete with monster dry-erase board
  • The very first wave of elevator doors opening

What’s that, Curt? You want to start slugging keg beers and see where the night heads? Sure thing – here are the rules for Drinking With The Dread’s The Cabin In The Woods drinking game!

  1. Drink every time an obvious horror trope is busted.
  2. Drink every time Curt goes alpha-bro.
  3. Drink every time Marty does something stoner-y.
  4. Drink for every horror movie reference (found here, in case you need help).
  5. Drink TWICE every time Sitterson and Hadley manipulate the situation.
  6. Drink TWICE whenever a significant party member dies.
  7. TAKE A SHOT when the Buckner family is summoned.

At the expense of my own folly, I did *not* get a chance to test this month’s game out. Preparation for South by Southwest dominated all pockets of free time, so I don’t have an exact beverage count for necessary game completion. Maybe that’s where you can help this week? Gather your Scholar, your Athlete – summon your cast of characters and forge up some silver bullets. Believe in the unknown and let me be your personal Harbinger I MEAN GUIDE BECAUSE YOU’LL TOTALLY BE FINE HAHA WHAT CAN GO WRONG?!

As always, I must encourage you to drink responsibly and not become a sacrifice to your own foolish devices. The gods of barley and hops should not be tempted by the faint of heart or tolerance. Goddard and Whedon created some sixty creatures for their “kitchen sink” assault – let’s not introduce Vomitron 2000 as the sixty-first?

Once again, I cheers to you my warriors of the alcoholic underworld. Someday we’ll do this in person, but for now, keep fighting the good fight in the name of inebriated midnight madness. The Cabin In The Woods, now immortalized as a Drinking With The Dread entry that will surely rest in my Hall Of Fame. If only because any belief in humanity feels more in-line with the film’s finale by the day.

Written by Matt Donato

Matt is an NYC internet scribe who spends his post-work hours geeking over cinema instead of sleeping like a normal human. He seems like a pretty cool guy, but don't feed him after midnight just to be safe (beers are allowed/encouraged).

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