“It’s so totally meta!” has become The Flower’s watch phrase since seeing the Joss Whedon horror-comedy Cabin In The Woods. And it is. At least, this movie is, with Whedon’s trademarked (seriously! I think he has a trademark for Whedonesque™) genre awareness that skirts the border between hip and camp.
The core premise is simple, and familiar to the point of being not just tired, but exhausted, drained of all vitality, a veritable walking dead of a movie plot: Five college kids plan to spend a week in a cabin in the woods and—well, something bad is going to happen, to kill them off one-by-one.
Our characters are a kind of alpha couple, their more reserved friends they’ve set up as a blind date, and the stoner.
But wait, there’s more. In fact, there’s a larger, overarching plot (that reminds strongly of the later years “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” and “Angel”) involving a mysterious group of secret government office workers who are orchestrating the events of the week.
Now, it was pretty obvious to this old horror watcher what was going on, but it didn’t matter really. The meta-story allows Whedon to deal briefly with the traditional trappings of the teen-slasher flick (which he does well enough) in such a way that explains some of the stupider aspects of said genre.
And, he gets to contrast that with the banality of a cruel bureaucracy that exploits the hapless youngsters’ plights for yuks, thrills and voyeuristic frisson. And he puts the audience in a weird kind of situation where we almost have to root for the kids to die, too.
That’s kind of meta, too: When you go to a slasher flick, you’re enjoying the characters being slashed, presumably, but Whedon challenges you to actively root for them to die. This should be nihilistic, I suppose, but it’s all in good fun.
He even pulls out a decent ending.
The kids loved it.
I should note that the third act is an absolute bloodbath. It’s so over-the-top at that point, that it’s impossible not to laugh at it, but you may not want your delicate little 11-year-old girl watching that stuff. (My 11-year-old girl isn’t that delicate, on the other hand.)
Also: Sigourney Weaver.
Definitely recommended if you don’t mind some good-natured gore and are into meta.