Now that its been a few years since this movie was in theaters and a lot of the hype around it has died, I think it’s easier to appreciate what this film actually is. The film’s structure made it hard to review it without risking a trip into spoiler territory, so most of the early reviews hinted vaguely at something innovative and exciting and then didn’t say much more… But what we actually got was a meta-horror movie, which was mining territory that Scream had already hit upon ten years earlier.
I found that pretty disappointing, honestly, because horror has been one of the most consistently meta-genres of the last twenty years, between openly meta movies like Scream and Shaun of the Dead, but also through movies like the Final Destination franchise and Drag Me to Hell which understand the formulas of the genre and knowingly tweak them. Knowing how much smart horror was out there made a lot of Cabin in the Wood’s satire feel redundant to me… In addition to making it seem out of date, since a lot of the tropes that it was referring to had come and gone in the height of straight to VHS rental days, while what had transpired since then was much more nuanced.
Going into it a second time I knew that I wasn’t going to buy the meta-conceit as actually having much to say about what we want out of horror movies and I didn’t have high hopes that it would be innovative. Freed of those high expectations I was better able to receive what actually was there…. And what actually is there is a pretty funny movie, honestly. Most of the jokes land, whether it’s the wry asides of the nerds in the front office or the goofier lines that the stoner delivers. It moves briskly and is anchored by strong performances and I can’t argue with the merman’s appearance. Letting go of my expectation that this movie would be great allowed me to be fully satisfied with how good it is.