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.
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.
“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.”