Cabin in the woods of your mind

Zombies as portrayed in the movie Night of the...
Zombies as portrayed in the movie Night of the Living Dead (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I  dislike horror movies. The world is full enough of  evil people to find the idea of watching sadistic cruelty on screen very unappealing. Perhaps people like the comparative relief that their own everyday hassles aren’t quite on the same scale. A nasty boss making you work late is after all not quite as bad as being eviscerated alive.

Last night, at a friend’s insistent suggestion, I watched Cabin in the Woods. It’s billed as a “knowing” horror movie, so I was expecting something similar to Scream. The basics of the plot are equally derivative: five good-looking students go to a deserted cabin for the weekend, and are pursued by zombies – cue lots of shots reminiscent of Romero’s Night of the living dead. It then turns, surreally, into a quite breathtakingly ambitious metaphor for global capitalism. It’s impossible to discuss in more detail without revealing the plot, but I’m giving away nothing more than the trailer by saying that the whole scenario is a kind of virtual reality set-up controlled by “administrators”; this is relatively obvious from the first frame of the film.

The characters are sacrificial lambs being offered up as a ritual, with different countries around the world setting up different horror tropes in the hope of catching and killing the correct number and type of victims. Screens flash up regularly, showing the progress of the world’s capital cities. “Only the US and Japan are still in the running”, one of the administrators comments. They run an office sweepstake on how the victims will die. They talk about probabilities and statistics a lot, and the necessity of maintaining the order of things within the horror genre – the virgin cannot die before the stoner. The order of things is clearly not just the genre, but our passive desire to be entertained, without reflecting on the hidden Pandora’s box of trapped individuals in other parts of the world that enable our lives to function smoothly. So there was quite a lot more to it than the mindless combination of blood and sex I was expecting – worth seeing in a totally wacky way.

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