This will be my last post on ‘The Cabin in the Woods” (probably).
I’ve written four other posts relating to different aspects of the film. If you have the time, please have a read.
As usual, this post contains SPOILERS
At the end of the film, we discover that people all across the world are being sacrificed to appease the wrath of the gods who live under the earth. But these are no ordinary sacrifices. The gods crave entertainment and demand that the teenagers be dispatched by horror movie conventions (cabin in the woods, vengeful Japanese spirits, mermans etc). When the sacrificial system falls apart, the gods break out on to the earth to cause destruction.
In other words…the gods depicted in the film are… us!
I believe there are two ways of applying that message to our circumstances:
1) We demand to be entertained. We need horror movies to satisfy our blood lust so that we do no go out and do it in the ‘real’ world. Some would argue that people kill others because of horror movies. “Cabin in the woods” argues that horror movies actually stop us from killing. They allow us to express the dark parts of our humanity and experience all the emotions of horror (fear, adrenaline, excitement, anger, revenge) in a safe environment.
2) We like things the way we are. We don’t want the boat rocked. We have a good system in place and we have expectations that we think should be met otherwise we’ll kick up a fuss.
It’s the 2nd point that is most relatable in my own youth work context.
I work for a church. In my role as a youth worker, I have clear expectations of how the youth work should be done. Whether the congregation voice it or not, they also have an expectation of how youth work should be done. And at times, they kick up a fuss if its not done in the way they think it should be.
Does any of this sound familiar?
Sometimes without realising it, we end up serving the ‘gods’ of the congregation rather than the God of the church. We end up playing to their expectations and their rules. And when we get into a system like that, like the film suggests, it can be very hard to break out of.
What methods are you currently employing in your youth work? And who sets them?
Which god is influencing your youth work?
- My Initial Thoughts on ‘The Cabin In The Woods’ (smoorns.wordpress.com)
- The Marginalisation of Young People in “The Cabin in the Woods” (smoorns.wordpress.com)
- Thin Places in “The Cabin in the Woods” (smoorns.wordpress.com)
- Editorial: The Cabin in the Woods is Not the New Scream – It’s Something Else (dreadcentral.com)
- Satire and Meta-Horror in “The Cabin in the Woods” (joannaparypinski.com)
In the film, each of the five teenagers who head to the cabin become the horror movie archetypes: geek, slut, jock, nerd and dope-head. That is not who they really are but they are manipulated by the directors (Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford) into becoming these characters.
Goddard, in the podcast, shared that it was the objectification and stereotyping of young people that he wanted to address in the film and I think it’s a great way of showing the injustice.
In the media, young people are being stereotyped all the time. The coverage of the riots last Summer demonstrated this point. What the film is trying to show is that young people are far more complicated and multi-faceted than we believe and we have to subvert the system that attempts to pigeonhole them.
I think the film is a great way of opening up a conversation about stereotypes and judgement calls.
Where do we make judgements about people and how does that affect what we ‘do’ with them?
What can we do to subvert this system?
This is now my fourth post dissecting the film, “Cabin in the Woods“.
For a film I rated three stars, it really has taken up a lot of my time. And I always knew that would be the case.
What the film tries to do is be a dissertation on horror movies whilst still being a horror movie itself. I think Joss Whedon (co-writer) and Drew Goddard (co-writer/director) do an amiable job and I praise them for taking a shot at something really different but like a dissertation paper, it all feels a little too academic.
In my previous posts I discussed the connection between the film and the concept of the atonement and its connection with ‘the hunger games’. In this post I wish to discuss the film and its connect with the theology of ‘thin places’. Like all the previous posts, this will contain SPOILERS.
A thin place is where the veil that separates heaven and earth is lifted and one is able to receive a glimpse of the glory of God.
There are numerous accounts in the Old Testament where Heaven seems to invade earth. One of the most famous is when Moses encounters God in a bush in Exodus chapter 3. In the Jewish tradition, Moses built a tabernacle that claimed to hold the very presence of God. Later, King Solomon built a Temple (a large scale tabernacle) where it was believed that, in the very centre of the temple (the holy of holies), Heaven invaded earth. The Priest could enter through the curtain and come face to face with the living God. When Jesus was crucified, the gospels record that the curtain was torn in two as a sign that Heaven has now broken out on earth.
There have been times in my own life, where like Moses, it felt like the ground I stood on was holy. That in that moment I encountered another world; that for a brief second i was able to, as Paul wrote to the church in Corinth,
“fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
I believe that the mythology of “Cabin in the Woods” also includes this concept. The cabin is the ‘thin place’ where the physical world and the spiritual world collide. It is where the doors open and the creatures and beasts of the spiritual world are unleashed into the physical world. The film conveys that there are ‘thin places’ all over the world where these two worlds collide.
In the film, only ‘Marty’ realises that the cabin is a ‘thin place’. The rest are oblivious. I believe that in our own lives, we can be so focused on the day to day things that we miss the thin places in our lives. Jesus talk his disciples to pray “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven”.
In that simple prayer, he was showing the disciples that they need to take their eyes off of their lives and open themselves up to the bigger picture. It’s the same with us. If we focus all our attention on our own lives then we miss out on what God is doing, and in some way prevent the Kingdom of Heaven from expanding. There are times when instead of advancing the Kingdom of Heaven, through our words and actions we actually advance the dominion of Hell. When we lie, cheat, steal, horde and oppress, we force the Kingdom of Heaven to retreat.
Here are some questions to explore with the young people you work with who have seen the film?
1) Have you ever encountered a ‘thin place’ where there seemed to be more going on that what you could see? Where things felt differently?
2) What stops you encountering these places more often?
3) What can we do practically to see the Kingdom of Heaven spread wider?
Last night, I saw a preview of the horror film, “The Cabin In The Woods” with fellow reel faith contributor Marc Williamson. It’s a film I was intrigued to see as the trailer sets up all sorts of WTF moments and it has been compared to “the Truman Show” and “Scream” in its task of trying to subvert and breathe fresh life into the slasher genre of horror.
As a film, I think it’s patchy. Story and twists takes centre stage at the expense of engaging characters and ‘heart’. It’s all a bit too ‘intellectual’ and you miss having a grounded character that you can empathise with.
But the film has stayed with me because although it fails on being a coherent and satisfying movie, it wrestles with so many themes in its short running time.
If you haven’t seen it and intend to I would suggest you read no further as there are detailed spoilers before.
The main crux of the film is this. There are Gods under the earth. Gods from the old world. And they are angry Gods that need to be subdued. The only way to do this is through ritual sacrifice. But the Gods are sick of the old ‘put a person on a table and cut them open’. They want spectacle. They crave entertainment. And so a ‘company’ is set up to provide entertainment by killing young people in horror movie conventions. The story then follows a group of five young people as they go to a cabin in the woods and become sacrifices to the Gods. The company personnel orchestrate the events so that they play out like a typical slasher film (eg have the characters become slasher movie archetypes: the jock, the whore, the geek etc) All over the world different horror scenarios are set up to offer sacrifices to the Gods (we see a group of Japanese children being terrorised by a vengeful female ghost with hair covering her face).
So the film deals with a whole host of themes such as free will, sacrifice, murder, meta-narratives, truth, reality, redemptive violence, horror films, entertainment and I’ll hopefully put together a few different group resources over the next few weeks dealing with some of these as I think this is a film ripe for discussion.
This is definitely one to watch.
- Joss Whedon Talks The Cabin in the Woods (dreadcentral.com)
As a straight up fright machine, paranormal activity 3 does the job. yes it’s not to everyones tastes; yes when viewed as part of an ever-expanding story, it fails miserably; yes its another ‘found footage’ film; but as a standalone film who’s sole purpose is to make you jump; it works.
I saw the film a couple of months ago at a midnight screening in Dunfermline. I was there for a Baptist conference of all things. The main evening session finished at 9.30pm and I began the walk back to the hotel I was staying in. Upon returning to my room, I turned on the TV and faced with the prospect of several hours of mindnumbing reality/game shows, I decided to walk over to the local cinema to see what was on.
I bought my ticket for ‘paranormal activity 3′, took my seat in the empty cinema and for the next hour and a half, jumped, laughed and shifted uncomfortably in my seat. It helped that the rest of the cinema was filled with teenagers who would jump at the mere thought of the word ‘boo’.
Now, I am an avid horror film watcher and I’ll be honest, it takes a lot to make me jump, but let me tell you, this did it. many times.
But I’m not here to tell you about that. I’m here to tell you that many of the young people who work with and interact with will have seen it and so it’s good to have an idea of what it’s about and discussions you can have around it with them.
What’s it about?
Paranormal Activity 3 is (you guessed it) the 3rd film in the increasingly popular ‘found footage’ series that follows Katie and Kristi and the evil that has possessed their family. This film is a prequel to the 2nd film which was in turn a prequel to the first. For a full plot breakdown, click here.
Whenever I want to explore the issues in a film, I start with 3 basic questions:
1) What the key themes that this film is trying to engage with?
2) Can you see yourself in any roles / do you identify yourself with any characters?
3) Are there any background influences from writers/directors that shape the view?
For me, there are a number of themes that the film is trying to engage with but I want to explore a couple briefly.
Where do we feel safe? That’s a big question of PA3. The family get to the stage that they do not feel safe in their own home anymore and (spoiler) go to Kristis’ mums home, which turns out to be the worst decision they could have made. What do you do when your home is no longer a place you feel safe? For many young people this is an experience they face.
As an aside, horror films in general seem to reflect the culture at the time, In the 50s and 60s there was a plethora of films about bodysnatchers etc which were a thinly veiled analogy of communism and the cold war (they look like us but they’re not, they’re evil). Skip forward to the late 90′s and early 00s and we get the ‘torture porn’ or ‘gorno’ films which some argue is all about the abuse of the West in Guantanamo. Now during the recession, where people know longer feel secure in their homes because they might get reposessed because of late payments, we get a whole raft of films about entities coming in and taking away their safety and security. Makes you think eh?
Do your young people feel safe in their home? Do they feel safe with God? Is he the strong tower and refuge of the psalms? What would help them feel like that?
During the 90s, horror films had moved away from the supernatural. Villains were explained away by science. Zombies were created because of viruses; monsters were created in labs. Horror films reflected the strong hold that modernity still had on culture. What’s interesting is that since the start of the new millennium the West has seen an increase in supernatural films again and the success of The Paranormal Activity series demonstrates that people are believing in this idea again.
What do the young people you work with think of ghosts?
Last week I was speaking in school to a group of 3rd year students who were all happy to admit they believed in ghosts but the idea of a god seemed ridiculous. What do your young people think of the spirit realm and are there ways to bring god in to this type of discussion.
The general split between the cast are those who don’t believe it and need physical proof, those who do believe it and want to run away, and those who are far too nosy for their own good. Who do your young people relate to? Is it the same when it comes to thinking about God?
I’ll leave it at that just now as I could go on and on but I urge you chat to young people about this movie (especially if they’ve seen it) as it is guaranteed to bring up some great discussions.
I want to take a few minutes and talk about the film below:
Now much like my post on the revenge flick “I spit on your grave‘, I realize that this film is not for everyone and some of you may simply be disgusted that I would choose to watch a film like this and talk about it in the first play.
This blog probably isn’t for you then.
But for those who have seen it, or watch this type of film from time to time, I wanted to talk about it.
Here is the BBFC‘s overview of the film:
“MUM & DAD is a horror film about a young Polish woman who is imprisoned and tortured by a middle-aged couple who wish to make her become part of their extended family. It was passed ’18’ for strong bloody violence, torture, terrorisation and sex references.”
As I said. Not for everyone.
But there are some intriguing themes lurking in the blood soaked corridors of the movie.
‘Mum’ and ‘Dad’ have two adoptive children (Birdie and Elbie). It is implied that they were at one time captured like the Polish woman (Lena) and tortured. But over time, they became part of the family. That always seems the plan of ‘Mum’ and ‘Dad’. They want to have children. They want to have a large family.
But what kind of family?
They want a family who will fear them. Who will do anything for them. Who will kill for them.
If the captured boys and girls’ will yield to ‘mum’ and ‘dad’, and fear them, they will be invited into the family.
As humans, we too have been given an invitation.
Paul, in his letter to the Galations says this:
“So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.”
We have an invitation into God’s family. We no longer need to be slaves to the idols of this world: individualism, consumerism etc.
And unlike ‘mum’ and dad’s family, it is build on love; not fear.
Unlike ‘mum’ and dad’s family, we are accepted unconditionally into this family. We don’t need to be slaves to their wicked demands.
Is this the message I speak of with the young people of the church?
Is this the message that they hear?
Not always. I’m often guilty of enslaving this good news with rules. Of ‘norms’ that they need to follow.
I end the post, as I often do, with a rhetorical question for myself (and maybe others)
What would the youth groups I oversee look like if they proclaim this joyful adoption message?