Thoughts On: The Cabin In The Woods - Why Watch Horror Films


The Cabin In The Woods - Why Watch Horror Films

Thoughts On: The Cabin In The Woods (2011)

A group of teens wander into a real-world set of a horror movie.

Why do we watch horror films? The Cabin In The Woods has an answer: ancient evil gods need to be placated. Translation: the shadow upon the collective human soul requires them.

Cabin In The Woods breaks horror films down into 5 archetypes: the virgin, fool, athlete, whore and scholar. These are the five archetypes of youth, and each--at least four--must be destroyed. The reason for this is seemingly due to the fact that youths transition into adulthood, and with their archetypal death comes the death of certain values not admissible in the individuated person. These inadmissible values are ranked. Firstly, infidelity and a lack of respect for oneself as embodied by the whore - not welcome. Second, a reliance on brute physicality as embodied by the athlete - not welcome. Third, foolishness; fourth consciousness; fifth innocence. Each of these values, the archetypal horror seems to suggest, must come under attack for an individual to become whole. The complete person is then reserved sexually, physically, ethically and intellectually, conscious yet not naive. This person is the virgin who faces their shadow - which explains why a virgin does not have to die in a horror film (according to Cabin In The Woods).

This value system, in my estimation, seems rather solid considering its symbolic underpinnings. Alas, Cabin In The Woods has one major critique: real teenagers are not archetypes. This is why there has to be 'puppeteering' put in place so that the actual individuals of this narrative are made into archetypes; the 'whore' made loose, the 'athlete' made stupid, the 'fool' made dumb, the 'intellect' made weak and the 'virgin' made naive. Each of our five characters, despite not being the archetype they're manipulated into being, are faulted but pretty much the polar opposite of what they're made out to be. Maybe this explains why the 'value system' as represented by the organisation running the horror show is shown to be corrupt and indeed falls; maybe this is why the world had to end: our values are, in essence, corrupt.

I cannot agree with that final assertion, however. The ending of Cabin In The Woods is tremendously nihilistic - almost beyond belief. Convinced that the world must end if he does not sacrifice himself, the fool decides to see the world burn. And the naive virgin is fine with that. Maybe the archetypes emerge out of the individuals, maybe we do need them to die, to not become aware of the role they play?

If this is true, then Cabin In The Woods is a horror film so meta that it becomes classically narrative. That is to say that it is so self-consciously trying to destroy the messages of an archetypal horror that it ends up only reinforcing its meaning. We then see through the self-consciousness and witness the true shadow upon the human soul: ego and consciousness. Aware of the roles they are made to play by their chthonic puppeteers, our main characters become self-fulfilling prophets of doom; the antithesis of the virgin who confronts their shadow and emerges whole. The virgin confronts her shadow in Cabin In The Woods and crumbles; decides to die and become the death of humanity.

In many senses a critique of postmodernism, of the self-conscious youth, Cabin In The Woods gives the know-it-all teen all it wants; sees them struggle, sees them suffer, and all for nothing, all to collapse.

Or is that so?

Why, if archetypal evil is defeated in the constructed horror realms - as occurs during the many rituals across the world in Cabin In The Woods - would evil have to rise? Why if youths prove themselves capable of confronting a shadow (evil embodied by some monster), should humanity have to be destroyed?

Maybe it is this logic that reveals the value system to in fact be corrupt. Maybe, however, the transcendence of the games of evil played in the horror realms has proven humanity prepared to face real evil. That is to say, if youths can all confront their shadow in the rituals across the world, maybe humanity as a whole is prepared to do just this; to see ancient gods rise and defeat them collectively, not as archetypes, but as individuals, faulted, but real. This may just be an appraisal of the growing consciousness of youth in the modern day. Maybe Cabin In The Woods challenges us with just this? Maybe it asks us if we, in reality, are ready to be tested by the horrors of reality; to confront our own shadow?

I leave all these possibilities in your hands. What do you think of Cabin In The Woods?

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