“She has no face, just a circle-mouth with a ring of teeth.”
As anyone familiar with his filmography could have expected, Joss Whedon’s 2011 meta-horror-comedy Cabin in the Woods was witty, quirky and incredibly self-aware. Also, heavy on dialogue.
An ode to horror, the film features all the elements of a good entry in the genre: final girl, monsters, suspenseful atmosphere, clearly defined rules (sort of), viewer/viewed dynamic, plenty of characters worthy of being killed off etc etc. The film itself was constructed to lean into the genre and so these elements were purposefully forced into the script. That script follows a group of college friends heading to a cabin in the woods (hence the name) where they summon a group of zombie killers and are picked off one-by-one by their chosen destructors. Overseeing these deaths are a governmental organization who orchestrated the entire encounter for the purposes of a grand ritual meant to appease the gods (i.e., the audience).
I’m a fan of Whedon’s work (Buffy is my favorite television series of all time and is the only media I would actually fight you over), and as much as I enjoy rewatching Cabin every other month or so, as far as meta-film’s go, its somewhat lackluster. It’s a fun ride, don’t get me wrong, but compared to say Tucker and Dale Versus Evil, which subverts horror AND does so with some actually engaging and sympathetic characters, Cabin’s one-note protagonists, either the college crew or the government bureaucrats, don’t feel all that compelling. Maybe their one-dimensionality was purposeful but even slasher films tend to have one or two truly memorable characters that define the movie or franchise. Take the Hatchet series; seeing Victor Crowley rip people apart on screen is is as fun to watch as it is seeing Parry Shen play a weasley bayou tour guide/EMT.
But, one thing Cabin has in abundance is MONSTERS! And for the first monster of the film, I figure it would be best to start with something tame – the ballerina with the lamprey face, the Sugarplum Fairy. Barely glimpsed in the movie, her image was nevertheless pretty memorable and offers a nice little horror encounter for you D&D table.
Like music? Me too – a song that sounds suitably gloomy and mesmerizing, Mr. Kitty’s After Dark seems like a good match.
The Monsters beneath the Cabin