The Cabin in the Woods

Thu Sep 20, 2012

In 2004, the first year I had cable television in a very long time, I watched a Labor Day West Wing marathon on Bravo pretty much the whole day. I like to think that I loathed Aaron Sorkin’s dialogue before it was fashionable, and, among the host of platitudinous shitheels and dim-witted cynicules on display, Bradley Whitford’s insufferability was truly distinguished. (Veep is almost a perfect antidote for the West Wing-style treacle, but I think the characters remain too sympathetic.) So, even though I didn’t immediately recognize him as one of the middle-managers in Joss Whedon’s and Drew Goddard’s The Cabin in the Woods, I did catch on and eventually appreciate this ingenious bit of casting.

The rest of the film has a mildly clever plot involving horror-film tropes. The twist, such as it is, is given away in the opening moments of the film, a welcome relief. Jokes and references aren’t labored, by any means. Probably this is a conscious decision to secure DVD and digital sales, where backgrounds and dialogue can be reviewed and documented. Whedon has a good reputation for advanced thinking on gender representations in popular culture, which I think could have been enhanced by choosing an actor with a more normal body type for the sex-object lead instead of the standard Victoria’s Secret praying mantis.

Speaking of casting decisions, I very much appreciated the ending’s invocation of extinctionism and the wisdom of Silenus,* though the guest appearance of Sigourney Weaver didn’t quite go in the direction I was expecting (i. e., yet another metalepsis). The combination of mundane technology (cameras, knobs) with magical (force-field) was also clever and well-staged. I look forward to great things from this aspiring duo.

*See Nietzsche, Birth of Tragedy.