Friends, I saw The Cabin in the Woods over the weekend. It’s rare these days that I actually buy into hype and get excited about a movie, but this one grabbed me. It just looked mysterious and cool, like that kid at a high school party smoking weed right out in the open, wearing sunglasses, and you’re fifteen and you see him and think, shit, if I could just hang out with that dude I’d be set for life.
So, this isn’t a review. I liked the movie a great deal, but everyone in the universe is reviewing it and breathlessly praising/criticizing the twists and turns and the premise, which is so huge and ungainly it either works for you or doesn’t, frankly. It worked for me. Enough said.
No, what I’m most excited about is the five minute sequence towards the end of the film where everything goes batshit insane. I think of this moment as the Natural Batshit Moment. Warning, I’m a gonna spoil the heck out of this movie.
The Natural Batshit Moment in a story is when you come to a point in the plot where something you’ve set up long before is sprung into action and the pace of the story goes into overdrive for a bit, careening off into complete joyous insanity – but it feels natural, like a piece clicking into place instead of a desperate attempt at injecting life into your moribund plot. Towards the end of The Cabin in the Woods, our two surviving sacrifices make their way down into the corporate offices. On the way they encounter a selection of the supernatural horrors kept in cages for use in their ritual sacrifice to the Elder Gods – it being revealed earlier that the evil they summon to destroy them all are trucked up in an elevator – and when pinned down by a cleanup SWAT team of sorts, they notice a huge, candy-like PURGE SYSTEM button. So they press it, releasing the horrors hidden under the cabin in waves, delivered promptly every few minutes by the dinging elevators.
Put aside the silliness of a PURGE SYSTEM button like that – we’re talking a universe where giant spiders and Pinhead-knockoffs are kept in glass cages to be delivered unto unsuspecting, drugged teenagers. Forget the silliness, and just sit back and enjoy the insane spectacle of the buttoned-down corporate environs being invaded by the nightmare creatures they’ve been serving upstairs as part of their jobs. This is batshit territory, but the story earned it. One, we’re shown how subdued and corporate the basement areas are – these fucks are killing innocent teens as part of their jobs. Two, we pretty much know the creatures are selected and delivered already, so the “storage system” isn’t too much of a stretch. Three, it doevtails nicely with the protagonists being pinned down with no way to fight back – except to purge the system.
The sequence that follows is fantastic. The quick shots of nightmare fuel killing the salarymen and women are quick and creepy. The throwaway scenes of people committing suicide rather than be taken by their worst nightmares are brutal and done with the right touch of blank affectlessness. The chaos, the panic – it all feels right. These people might work for some ginormous conspiratorial nightmare factory, but they woke up that morning, drank some coffee, went to their day job, and started making plans for diner. And then someone released the monsters, and the place became a massacre.
The rest of the movie is OK. Better than most, worse than others. This one sequence, however, will always raise The Cabin in the Woods up beyond the mediocre for me. When structuring plots it’s always hard to come up with a Natural Batshit Moment. You always want that crazy moment of freefall, that exhilarating sequence where plot points come together and send the reader/viewer on a brief gravity-free mission to fuck yeah. But it’s hard to pull off. The Cabin in the Woods pulls it off, and for a few minutes there every time the elevators dinged I almost cheered.