Cabin in the Woods: the review
Cabin in the Woods is a horror film co-written by Joss Whedon that reinvents…err, reinterprets…uh, gives a new spin on the familiar summer horror movie. College kids go to a remote area in the woods, where they are picked off one by one by evil, possibly supernatural bad guys. Who will live? More importantly, who will die, and in which order?
The movie tells you right off the bat that Something Else Is Going On: it opens in a scientific facility somewhere, where three white-collar types have the world’s most boring and most content-free conversation in the history of cinema, signaling that they’re talking about Something Else, something that will be made clear later on. The conversation is so ridiculously non-specific that I can’t, in fact, even remember what it is they talked about.
Cabin in the Woods has some very funny things in it, and some very clever things in it, and it has one thing in it that bugs the ever-loving crap out of me, to the point where I think I’m more irritated by this movie than I am amused by it. All Sunday night and early Monday morning I happened to spend sick as a dog, and the whole time I spent vomiting or laying awake waiting for the next time I was going to start vomiting the single biggest annoying thing in this movie kept repeating on me, much like the previous night’s dinner.
Since I can’t talk say anything about this movie without using a gigantic SPOILER ALERT consider yourself warned: here there be major freaking spoilers.
The main thing that bugs me about this movie is the use of the word “whore.”
The setup of Cabin in the Woods is very clever: yes, this is your typical summer horror movie, except the entire thing is set up by a gigantic scientific facility with unlimited funding who are watching every single move the kids make at their cabin. This scientific facility is connected to other scientific facilities in Tokyo and Stockholm and Madrid. Each facility, though, while monitoring the ensuing carnage, isn’t in fact responsible for it: no, the kids have to bring the carnage on themselves, because it’s part of an ancient rite. The Ancient Ones below must be appeased, and they must be appeased in ways special to that culture. The Tokyo feed, for instance, shows a bunch of Japanese schoolgirls being terrified by a ghost in their midst (thereby referencing up all Japanese horror movies with one hilarious shot).
The American one, however, is different. In the US (as we discover much later on in the movie), there are five sacrifices:
- The Whore
- The Athlete
- The Scholar
- The Fool
- The Virgin, who may or may not live at the end; her death isn’t necessary.
There are 5 people who go up to the cabin. Any takers on which sacrifices the two women are? That’s right: the women are defined by terms defining their sexual worth to men.
There is no word more guaranteed to set my teeth on edge than “whore,” because the connotation of the word is “worthless woman who’ll abase herself to anyone.” The word is completely superfluous in meaning to other words.
- “sex worker” –> prostitute
- “sex worker in a high income bracket” –> call girl
- “woman who’s slept with one more guy than I have” –> slut
Yes, I guess I’ve heard guys called whores, but it’s always in terms of selling their business services to any bidder. Not their bodies. Not their lives Just what they do for a living. It’s not the same, and you’re not going to convince me it’s the same as calling a woman a whore, thanks.
The movie has a little fun with the term “virgin” — when the Virgin sacrifice tries to object to being called that, the Director of the scientific facility says, “We work with what we’ve got.”
(And, in fact, I expected the movie to have a little more fun at the end — since two of the sacrifices actually make it to the very end, I expected them to reveal that the other one was actually a virgin. But alas: no dice.)
Okay, so the Virgin isn’t actually a virgin and that seems to work okay for the purposes of this sacrifice… Why on Earth is the Whore being called a whore? What has she done that merits her being called, essentially, trashy and worthless?
I know that the “sexually active girl dies first” is a trope of horror movies. I still don’t understand why they’re calling her a whore. It’s a loaded word. It’s a word that grabs you and forces you to look down on this girl. The movie explains its use of Virgin. They couldn’t have taken one goddamn line of dialogue to explain why they were using the term Whore?
Whereas the guys are, y’know, an Athlete, a Scholar, a Fool.
For all of its “reinventing” of the various tropes of the horror movie and all of its hilarious and clever dialogue and setups, Cabin in the Woods is exactly what it appears to be: another goddamn Hollywood movie in which the women are defined solely by their relationships to men, and the men are the only ones who ever do anything.