Movies, Plot

How the Cabin in the Woods Should Have Ended (SPOILERS FTW)

Yes, we are going to talk about this movie again. Shut up. It was amazing.

But, it was not perfect. There is one thing about it that rubs me entirely the wrong direction, and it’s at the very end so I couldn’t write about it in my review. So now that I’ve been pestering you to see this movie for almost a week (which is like decades in internet time), I think it’s finally been long enough to pick that bone now.

On the off-chance that you still haven’t seen the Cabin in the Woods (seriously, why have you not seen it???), consider yourself warned: this post is spoiler-tastic. Just to ensure that no one glances down and sees spoilers by mistake, here’s a picture of a shoebill who’s disappointed in you for not having seen this movie yet:

Are all the cretins gone? Yes? Good. Let’s talk about the Cabin in the Woods.

As you know (or should, since if you haven’t seen the movie you shouldn’t be reading this), the whole idea behind Joss Whedon’s latest masterpiece is that, long ago, the Ancient Ones–fearful gods who live deep within the Earth–ruled over all the land. Of course, in true deity style, they ruled with malice and savagery, bringing horror and terror everywhere they went, causing the land to boil and the stars to wink out, and forcing every living thing to spend every waking moment screaming, yadda, yadda, you get it. Basically, hell on Earth.

Thus, it is the job of Sitterson, Hadley and the rest of Sacrifices, Inc. (not their actual name–just what I choose to call them) to ensure that we never return to those dark times by performing an annual sacrifice, horror-movie style. It is of the utmost importance that each horror character trope (the slut, the athlete, the fool, the scholar, and the virgin) is forced to suffer and die in the correct order, ending with the virgin. This is especially important this year because every other sacrifice has failed, including the usually flawless Japanese branch.

But the American branch fails, too. At the moment of victory, the fool–Marty–re-appears and proves himself to be not only alive, but on to them. He takes the virgin, Dana, down into the main compound of Sacrifices, Inc. and they unleash the horrific beasts trapped there upon the employees. A delightful bloodbath ensues, ending with Marty, Dana and the Director of Sacrifices, Inc. in the building’s basement, where they can stare down into the dark abyss and hear the gods crying for their sacrifice.

The Director explains the situation to them: either Marty dies, or everyone does. Dana has the gun. The decision is hers. She raises it to shoot Marty–and is attacked by a werewolf, giving him the opportunity to kill the Director. Ultimately, Marty and Dana, bloodied and beaten, end up collapsing onto the stairs, share a joint and conclude that humanity is fucked anyway, so might as well let the Gods take over.

…what.

While I understand how the deliciously Lovecraftian cynicism of this ending is appealing (@JesseBWendel–I’m looking at you), it is also entirely inconsistent with their characters. Or, at the very least, with Dana’s character. Let all of humanity suffer, burn and die at the hands of merciless gods for all of time rather than just pull the freaking trigger and kill her friend? Up until this point, true to type, she’s been the sympathetic one, making decisions for the good of not just herself but everyone around her. But when it comes to all of humanity, she chooses the greater evil? I would even argue that it’s inconsistent with Marty’s character (though less so), as he’s already demonstrated a willingness to risk himself to save others (like he did for Dana), and he is fiercely intelligent. Smart enough, I should think, to understand what his decision means for all of humanity, and to choose the unselfish option.

But do I think Marty should have killed himself? No. That would also be outside his character as I understood him. The fact is, neither of these characters have the balls to kill one another or themselves, much less to condemn all of humanity to eternal torture. Leaving the decision in their hands would result in a stalemate, which ultimately leads to the aforementioned apocalypse. Which is, frankly, a bit anti-climatic and lazy, which is why it is also not what I think should have happened. What should have happened is this:

The werewolf killed Dana. It went right for the jugular, so she ought to have been dead as it was anyway. Marty takes the opportunity to fight and kill the Director, but with her dying words she lets out a cry of triumph and joy, which only serves to enrage Marty further and he flings her into the abyss. But then, as he sits silent on the ledge, he realizes how quiet it is. Something has changed. And then, slowly, it dawns on him: the Gods are appeased.

Dana wasn’t the virgin (a fact that’s snidely referenced at least twice in the film). Instead, she was the fool, unable to put all the pieces together in time to save her friends and escape the the labyrinth. Instead, Marty–clever, observant Marty, who is certainly not a fool–is the last man standing. The virgin, in fact–something that he’s been trying to hide. And all of humanity is saved, but he stands alone, surrounded by corpses and demonic evil, entirely without hope, and none of it even matters because it’s all just going to start all over again next year. And he’s left with the impossible question: now what?

Tell me that isn’t a better ending. I dare you.

Though if I ever meet Joss Whedon, I will likely be too starstruck to say a thing about it to him. Le sigh.

Boastfully yours,
M.M. Jordahl

“In the end, everything is a gag.” ~Charlie Chaplin

P.S. On the off chance that you are not yet aware of it, the “How it Should Have Ended” idea is not original to me. It comes from HowItShouldHaveEnded.com, which is an awesomely hilarious website that makes clever, insightful videos correcting Hollywood’s plotting errors. All of their videos are great, but I would particularly recommend “How Superman Should Have Ended” and “How the Lord of the Rings Should Have Ended.”

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5 thoughts on “How the Cabin in the Woods Should Have Ended (SPOILERS FTW)”

  1. I think that’s a far superior ending! Although I have to say that when I watched it I thought Cabin in the Woods was a serious horror film and since that was what I was in the mood for I was too disappointed in the whole concept to fully it. I think I need to watch it again…

    1. Yeah, I think as a general rule, if Joss Whedon is attached to the project you have to assume something usual is going to happen. He does so like to screw with things. It was an interesting marketing choice to make this film look like a standard horror film–one that I’m not entirely sure worked in its favor. Still a GREAT freaking movie, though.

  2. I generally like this analysis/ending, however, I disagree about neither Dana nor Marty having ‘the balls’ to kill the other to save the world. I think they both would’ve done it if needed–Marty even tries. Perhaps Dana wouldn’t have the stomach to do it. Whatever, she was supposedly ‘the virgin’.

    I also disagree with the assessment that it’s against either characters’ established personality to sit back and say ‘f*** it all’ and let the world end. She wasn’t portrayed as cynical as Marty who flat out states earlier in the film, “Society *needs* to crumble. We’re just too chickens**t to let it.”

    However, by the end of the film, having watched her friends die, had one of them actively try to kill her, witnessed the whole messed up ‘system’ that *required* sacrifices *in the first place* (and didn’t bother to find a better way)…I fully agree she would’ve come around to Marty’s earlier stated position about society being too rigid and “binding” and needing to “crumble”. So sure, personal survival instinct kicks in and you can even argue that most people would adhere to the ‘needs of the many’ vs. ‘the needs of the few or one.’ But by the end, both characters had been brought to a place where they were tired of seeing the horror, tired of running, tired of surviving, tired of seeing people die, tired of the whole *system*. They didn’t want to perpetuate that system. Dana even says that it’s “time to give someone else a chance.” indicating that she’d given up or at least changed her mind about the world needing to be saved.

    I do think it would’ve been an interesting twist to have Marty be the ‘virgin’. That said, you’re forgetting that this movie is simultaneously a horror film and one that is intended to mock/parody that genre. It’s intended to pull out the tropes, use them in a clever way while poking fun. Case in point is Marty’s entire character–he’s supposedly The Fool, yet he’s the most observant one of them all. It’s called dramatic irony. That’s part of what makes it so excellent. To change that and make it a straight horror film would be,,, predicable–which isn’t bad, but I like the ‘let’s mock ourselves and yet pay homage to the genre’ vibe because it isn’t done very often and, in this case, it was done very well.

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