Spoiler filled questions about Cabin in the Woods.
April 15, 2012 4:19 PM   Subscribe

Questions about the movie Cabin in the Woods (Spoilers, of course),

1. What was going in Japan? There seemed to be bet between the US team and the Japan team, yet the goal seemed different. Japan's goal was to defeat the evil, while America's was to complete a sacrifice. Were both of these goals for the Ancient Ones?

2. Was there anything to the glitch with the cave in? The team responsible for setting up said they never got the go ahead and there was implication that this was due to something "upstairs". Did the people upstairs mean for a mistake to happen?

3. Did the virgin have to die? Yes, it was clear the others would have to die, but did she have to die?

4. If the ritual called for a virgin, how could they use a no virgin? Wouldn't it make more sense to grab a younger kid or baby?

5. Unicorns, wtf? Is there a backstory about Unicorns being evil?
posted by Brandon Blatcher to Media & Arts (17 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I just got back from watching this, here are a couple of thoughts:

1. The different teams were all trying to sate the Ancient Ones by offering sacrifices. Initially it appeared that the Americans had "won" by giving the correct sacrifice. The Japanese (and all the other teams) had failed by having all the victims survive. I think the nature of the challenges reflects the culture of each of the teams, hence the Japanese team followed a Japanese horror movie script.

2. The glitch was caused by the geek/stoner who had figured out what was going on to some extent.

3. Nope, Bradley Whitford's character seemed sincere when he said he was rooting for her. It goes back to 1970s horror movies where the virgin would sometimes survive.

4. This was explained was Sigourney Weaver - they were using her as a virgin archetype. It's enough that she was the cleanest/safest of the bunch.

5. There are fantasy novels where unicorns (or evil anti-unicorns) are total bad-asses. In this movie, I think they literally just threw in every wacky archetype they could think of, and someone likely thought they'd like to see a unicorn gut someone.
posted by flipper at 4:29 PM on April 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

1. The goal of sacrifice was the same: youth must be sacrificed to the Ancient Ones. However, in Japan the mission failed because the children defeated the monster and turned it into a frog. Hence the FAIL stamp over the video clip.

2. Not sure about this one, would like to see others' input on this.

3. No, one of the two main operators said that the virgin didn't have to die, but she needed to suffer. If all her friends died, that's obviously suffering, so that would suffice.

4. You're looking way too deep into this, man. It was a joke about how it is more and more common for young people to have sex, so there are no more totally pure virgins left.

5. Unicorns aren't scary. That's why this part was so funny!

Also, this whole movie was a meta-commentary/spoof on horror movie cliches, I don't think it's meant to be taken too seriously.
posted by too bad you're not me at 4:30 PM on April 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

1 -- Definitely an archetype thing. Japan was a J-horror cliche (angry ghost), Sweden looked like a "Let the Right One In" sort of set-up. Japan failed to sate the Ancient Gods because the 9-year-olds beat the angry ghost, which is why it became more and more important that the U.S. team succeeded.

2 -- Yeah, stoner guy screwed it up when he was fiddling. "Upstairs" meant the kids in the cabin.

3 -- Remember, the virgin often survives horror movies (Jamie Lee Curtis, "Halloween"; Neve Campbell, "Scream").

4 -- Just like the Fool archetype wasn't really a Jester, nor the Whore really a prostitute (remember, they said they had to chemically bimbo her up), the Virgin is just the "more innocent" one.

5 -- That one was strictly played for laughs. Other amusing things on the board: "Kevin", "Angry Molesting Tree," "Deadites" and "Witches," right above "Sexy Witches."
posted by Etrigan at 4:46 PM on April 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

My thoughts, FWIW:

1. The goal in Japan was different than the US one, based on cultural differences and different horror movie tropes. The only real similarity was that "youth" had to die, but not necessarily the same archetypes as in the US. I think the goal there was to kill the school children - it's just that the girls they chose ended up defeating the evil, rather than die - which meant that they failed in Japan for the first time ever. [I think it's got to do with a sort of cultural fascination of corrupting innocence, where uniform-clad school girls make for good shorthand (e.g. Suicide Club).]

2. At first I thought the "glitch" was an issue with the power grid, caused by the bird flying into it at the beginning, and signals getting crossed. But I think maybe it did have to do with the stoner not dying as planned but hacking his assailant apart instead. The people in the booth didn't know this. Alternatively, SW/The Director had ulterior motives that we never really had explained to us.

3. No, she had to suffer, but it would have been OK for her to survive. SW/The Director said that she could survive, given that the others died, which works with some of the early horror movies where being the virgin would protect you to some extent.

4. SW said that they worked with what they had. These days, not that many virgins that would still fit into the group dynamic as a participant, nor would a kid or a young teenager fit into that role really. So they worked with Dana, despite her not really being a virgin. (I liked the scene at the end where she kind of seems to accept that she's a virgin, then her mind rebels and says, "hey wait a minute, I'm not!" Showing how they were still being pushed into their roles even at the end.)

5. In the Diskworld series by Terry Pratchett, unicorns are evil. But it could also just be because people tend to think of them as good, so that seeing them killing things was an odd disconnect for most people. Also, remember that unicorns can traditionally only be tamed by virgins, so it's possible that there might have been some additional story there involving Dana that didn't make the final cut.
posted by gemmy at 4:49 PM on April 15, 2012

Re: 1. But only different in execution, not in intent. They were both sacrifices to the Ancient Ones, just taking different routes to get there.
posted by gemmy at 4:53 PM on April 15, 2012

I saw it today and loved it. Some of my answers will jibe with the ones above, but I'll be thorough anyway.

1. Usually, in Japanese horror movies, almost nobody survives, and that was the outcome the Old Ones were hoping for. But instead of being killed by the ghost, the schoolgirls performed the ritual and turned their scenario into a bloodless fantasy adventure movie.

2. I assumed that it was a genuine glitch, but now that you mention it, Marty certainly could have caused it while he was fiddling around with the panel.

3. The virgin isn't also known as "the Final Girl" for nothing. She's allowed to survive until the end, but whether she lives or dies she has to be the last one standing.

4. Where are you going to find a real virgin these days? She just has to fulfill the archetype by being kind and innocent.

5. The unicorn was a stroke of genius that came out of nowhere, but it was also foreshadowed in some dialogue while the bets were being placed. "I don't think we have one of those." "Zoology said we do." "Well, they would know."
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:53 PM on April 15, 2012

I think it's pretty funny to think of this kind of horror movie being made with a unicorn as the baddy though, since it's pretty easy to imagine getting away from it by, say, climbing a tree.
posted by aubilenon at 4:56 PM on April 15, 2012

1. Japan was trying to do the same thing as the US--get the kids to die as a sacrifice--but they failed, because the kids defeated the evil spirit. I was a little confused at first as to why the US team seemed unhappy about it--I'd started thinking that they were competing with Japan--but eventually I realized that it's in everyone's interest that everyone succeed in placating the ancient evil ones. The US team was upset that Japan failed because that placed the burden of completing the ritual successfully and keeping the world from ending entirely on them, which is a pretty big responsibility.

2. It was clear from the film that the glitch with the cave-in was caused by Marty. They said that it came from "upstairs," which meant the cabin in the woods setting, and then the next scene showed Marty fiddling with the electrics.

3. From the film, "The virgin's death is optional, as long as it's last." She did not HAVE to die, but if she did, it had to be last. Imagine you were writing a Master's thesis on American horror films--this is pretty much what you'd say when discussing the way the virgin archetype is historically handled.

4. Again, from the film, "We work with what we've got," the joke being that it's very difficult to find a college-aged virgin female these days. (As a sex educator working on college campuses, I know this is far from the truth, but that's the perception of the modern world.) Why not a baby or a younger kid? Because that wouldn't fit in with the "ritual"--that is, the tropes of American horror movies. Japan gets the kids. :)

5. That was just a joke--unicorns aren't supposed to be scary! But they are actually nightmare creatures! Same joke as the merman, actually--not something we think of as terrifying, but the one they discussed and we saw was over-the-top gross and scary.
posted by rhiannonstone at 5:13 PM on April 15, 2012

Can't comment on the movie at all having not seen it, but thought I'd at least trough out some ancient background on unicorns.

They where not always seen as mamby pamby as we have made them out to be nowadays. 7th century Spaniard Isidore of Seville describes them as savage beats that will kill elephants (and just about every single thing), the virgins where used to trap and kill the unicorn as hunters could not.
posted by edgeways at 7:59 PM on April 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

2. Marty caused it by fiddling with the panel.

3. No, but now I wonder what happens to any surviving virgins. Does anyone bother to get her out of the field the next day? How would they if there's always a tunnel cave in?

4. It sounded like (according to Sigourney Weaver) they have to always use young people that fit with the cultural archetype. So no boy virgins, no 9-year-olds in America.

5. Diana Peterfreund wrote some good books about killer unicorns, Rampant and Ascendant. Makes me wonder if an actual virgin would be immune to unicorn.

Now, I've got a question for everything: when the big slaughter comes on, they show what appears to be Tom Lenk holding up a sign on one of the cameras. What did it say?
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:27 PM on April 15, 2012

I can only confirm that it was Tom Lenk. There are a lot of things I'll be doing a frame-by-frame on when the DVD comes out.
posted by Etrigan at 4:39 AM on April 16, 2012

when the big slaughter comes on, they show what appears to be Tom Lenk holding up a sign on one of the cameras. What did it say?

According to the IMDb FAQ, it says:

Trapped in a closet
Dragonbat has my scent
Send help!

Don't know if that's true, haven't seen the movie yet.
posted by i feel possessed at 6:29 AM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Alternate theory about #4: Dana is the Fool, Marty is the Virgin. She's a fool because she went to a scary cabin in the woods owned by Curt's cousin, even though she knows full well that Curt doesn't have a cousin (she mumbles this in passing at the very end). This represents a big error on the part of whoever "cast" this group of five (they got a virgin, but it wasn't a cute girl) and is ultimately one of the reasons the sacrifice fails.
posted by jbickers at 9:32 AM on April 16, 2012

Response by poster: Pretty sure that wasn't Dana, that was Marty. And the line went something like this "You know, I'm not ever sure Curt has a cousin." Which brings up the question of why Curt was saying his cousin had bought/rented the cabin, meaning he thought he had a cousin. The answer is because there wouldn't be a movie otherwise and that's ok.

Also, she wasn't the fool, because they were all being drugged and pushed towards the cabin and the cellar. Except for Marty. His blend of pot was counteracting the drugs from the control center.

Yes, the moral is that if you want to avoid society directing you on a thousand different levels towards a ritual sacrifice, smoke pot.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:06 AM on April 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

At first I thought the bit with the unicorn was just a bit of typical Whedon-esqe humour. A bit of visual shock humour of something unexpected (typically innocent creature does something horrible). Then I thought it also makes neat parallel of the bit where the innocent girl Dana accidentally impales Sitterson (the not-Bradley Whitford Other Guy) with the spiky trowel thingy.
posted by Eumachia L F at 12:43 AM on April 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, she wasn't the fool, because they were all being drugged and pushed towards the cabin and the cellar.

I thought there was going to be a reveal where Marty is the Virgin and Dana is the Fool. There's some possible foreshadowing that turns out to be red herrings:

at the cabin, they talk about her being a virgin, but we know she isn't - she had an affair with the professor;
Marty once made out with the other girl, but nothing more, and he spends all his time smoking dope - could be implying that he's actually a virgin;
having an affair with your professor could be seen as foolish (I'm reaching a bit, there, seeing as she generally isn't foolish.

I also thought the glitch was going to turn out be caused by Truman (the moralistic black guy in the control room) - thought they were setting him up to be a double agent of some kind.

Other than that, the previous posters have answered all the questions.
posted by Infinite Jest at 1:43 PM on April 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

hey. 9 months later. i just watched the movie for the second time tonight and the answer to #2 is kind of bugging me. i just came here to find out what the "i don't think Curt has a cousin anyway" comment was about. anyway... the glitch wasn't Marty messing with the panel. i mean, yeah, you *could* say "well, the rock-slide is electrical and the panel is electrical so they must be connected". admittedly, that is often how movies are moved forward... on the weakest of connections.
SOoo... i think the glitch was a result of Marty not being killed. that's it. in just about any workplace one department is always blaming the other department so in this case the operators think it's the maintenance departments fault. the maintenance dept. knows they did their job and the problem came from "upstairs" not sending the order --- "upstairs" meaning The Management (not the Cabin characters). and -finally- Management didn't send the order because of this event: the Death of the Fool's Ritual was activated, but without the Fool's actual death (unknown to the operators, maintenance, and the viewer). can't have that. that's no way to run a ritualistic sacrifice. the Ancient Ones noticed, Management got an earful, and that's when the control center got their call on the phone... in the midst of the party while the "Virgin" suffered. okay. i'm done. just wanted to get that out there. good day.
posted by swindlehorne at 2:55 AM on January 15, 2013

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