This week’s Cognitive Dissonance Double Feature begins with THE CABIN IN THE WOODS, a twisty and postmodern horror movie from writer/producer Joss Whedon and his posse. New this week to DVD and Blu-ray, the film has been available via select video-on-demand for a while following its theatrical run this summer.
Whedon co-wrote the script with director Drew Goddard, a collaborator from back in the days of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Cabin shares some tonal DNA with Buffy and its mix of horror, comedy and imaginative rethinking of geek culture tropes.
The film begins with a puzzling sequence of cross-cutting premises. Two mid-level government functionaries (the perfectly cast Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford) appear to be planning some sort of covert operation from a high-tech underground bunker. With their lame office wear and bureaucratic banter, they look like the guys who get coffee for the real Men in Black.
Meanwhile, across town, a group of good-looking college kids load up the RV for a vacation to a remote, yes, cabin in the woods. The teens are straight out of slasher movie central casting: the blustery jock (Chris Hemsworth), the randy girlfriend (Anna Hutchison), the brainy guy (Jesse Williams), the wisecracking stoner (Fran Kranz) and the virginal good girl (Kristen Connolly).
What happens from here is hard to describe without giving too much away. But it’s safe to say that Whedon and Goddard have cooked up a playfully bloody project that’s both a satirical attack on lame torture porn movies and a notional reboot of the old-school slasher films that predated them.
The cabin in question turns out to be something more than a cabin, and the suits at HQ something more than bureaucrats. The filmmakers have a lot of fun playing with the horror genre’s creepy Puritan subtexts — where slutty girls are punished, drugs are a gateway to head trauma, and sex equals death.