It's no lie that moviegoers often grumble about the state of modern horror - and who can blame them. It's the one genre that really has its work cut out - audiences don't scare easily, at least not anymore. And as the years go by, this gets harder to do, especially as we become more desensitized to the things that scare us.
But this isn't the only problem - many horror films are actually pretty bad, for the most part relying on loud noises, unnecessary CGI and jump scares. On the other hand, though, it's not all about the fear factor. Some of the best horror films aren't even remotely scary - at least not in a direct sense.
Take Scream, for example - the fact it isn't particularly frightening doesn't matter because what it lacks in scare value it makes up for in its genius 'meta' approach to the slasher genre. But Scream isn't the only film of its kind. What's even rarer than a scary horror is a smart one, and there might be no horror with brains as big as 2011's The Cabin in the Woods.
While Scream is a commentary on slashers, The Cabin in the Woods has just as much to say about the wider genre, and it uses the age-old 'cabin in the woods' subgenre to do this. At surface level, the film is very familiar, adopting the age-old setting of a literal cabin in the woods, not unlike The Evil Dead or the Friday 13th movies. But is The Cabin in the Woods worth watching?
Warning: There are some minor spoilers ahead for The Cabin in the Woods.
What's The Cabin in the Woods about?
If you've not already seen The Cabin in the Woods, its premise is actually quite tricky to navigate without getting into spoilers. But if you're reading this article, the chances are you're after its most basic synopsis so that you can make the decision as to whether it will form part of your Halloween marathon.
The film follows a group of college students who embark on a weekend getaway to a - yes, you guessed it - cabin in the woods. The five teens seem like your typical bunch - there's the jock, the pretty girl, the nerd, the oddball, and the shy 'final girl' - but there's really more to them than meets the eye.
And there are other things going on, too - which the film isn't shy about revealing from the getgo - employees at an undisclosed location (also seemingly normal) seem to be 'manipulating' the students' every move, as part of a grand scheme that requires the youngsters to show up at this remote cabin in the mountains.
But don't worry - we have no intention of spoiling the movie for you. What we will say, though, is that it's most definitely a horror, and once it gets going it's a pretty brutal affair. But it's also very tongue-in-cheek, and while we've already alluded to the fact that it examines the horror genre, even delving into any of the subtexts would bring with it a whole bunch of spoilers.
Is The Cabin in the Woods worth watching?
If you love movies like Scream, then The Cabin in the Woods is right up your alley. In its most basic form, the film is a surreal, blood-splattered, tongue-in-cheek rollercoaster of a movie, and horror comes in all shapes and sizes. At a deeper level, it's an extremely smart meta-horror that casts a lens over both the horror genre and we, the audience.
Don't worry, though - you needn't be a student of film to grasp what's really going on in this movie, as for the most part, it's pretty obvious what the film is trying to say to its viewer. After all, it hardly takes a rocket scientist to figure out that Scream is poking fun at the tropes and cliches of the age-old slasher while writing all the otherwise unwritten rules from the very films that inspired it in the first place.
While The Cabin in the Woods shines a light on fellow horror movies, unlike Scream its examples are non-specific. And the most thrilling thing about this movie is that it's got just as much to say about you and your bloodlust for horror, as it does about all its neighboring movies, and the kind of horror it couldn't possibly exist without.
All in all, it's fair to say that The Cabin in the Woods has it all. It's not necessarily scary per se, but the concept shoulders an almost grander sense of horror, the idea of which is enough to fill you with dread. But make no mistake - even though it's got as many brains as it does guts, this is a popcorn movie. The only difference between this and many others is that it's worth every kernel.
Where can you watch The Cabin in the Woods?
The Cabin in the Woods is currently available to stream on Amazon Prime Video and Hulu.
The film was directed by Drew Goddard and written by Joss Whedon (both of whom worked together on Buffy the Vampire Slayer), and was met with critical acclaim within the horror community, and upon its release in 2012, went on to gross over $66 million worldwide. It stars Chris Hemsworth, Kristen Connolly, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford, and Sigourney Weaver.
For more articles like this, take a look at our Fantasy & Science Fiction page.