Spoilers after the jump.
I did think the nihilistic finale—in which a pair of millennials decide it is appropriate to let the world be destroyed at the hands of the cruel ancient gods because they’re too feckless to sacrifice themselves and think that an order that would sacrifice five to save billions is just as terrible as an order that would murder billions for pleasure—was pretty great and a sly commentary on the moral relativism of our age. I’m not sure that this is what the authors intended, but the message comes through loud and clear.
And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why we shouldn’t let children make important decisions. Because they can’t see beyond their own noses. Because they have no sense of scale. Because they think that if something isn’t working, you should try and change it, just to try something new.
Sometimes change isn’t all we hope for.
With those words, Sonny Bunch kicked off a nifty discussion of the morality implied by the finale of Cabin in the Woods. The discussion was so nifty, in fact, that he followed up with a second post on the topic, clarifying his thoughts and responding in some depth to a few of the criticisms of his original post. I encourage ya’ll to check it out. I touched on the function of that ending in my review back in April. Here’s the recap:
The twist is that, when the two most intrepid survivors of the original flock uncover the truth behind their tribulation, they choose not to sacrifice themselves for the good of humanity. Instead, they prefer to die — and take humanity along with them.
They ain’t no f#@&in’ Christ figures, I’ll tell ya what!
Despite the nihilism of the ending, it is extremely cathartic. Even with all the empathy that the film extends to its collegiate protagonists, it does rather illustrate the necessity of not having young people rule the world. As understandable as it is that they would screw us all because they were given an extremely raw deal (who wants to be the “Isaac” anyway?), their decision isn’t presented as right or correct. It’s borne more of emotional, physical, and spiritual exhaustion. Taking Sartre very literally, when they choose, they really do choose for all humankind. Existentially, it’s a terrifying prospect, but rhetorically, the film itself underscores just how important it is that these rituals take place. (It also problematizes the whole “necessariness” of rituals, but not to the extent that it fully subverts it; the film is clearly traditional in its loyalties.) Within the world of the film, everything is screwed. As a cinema-text in the real world, Cabin in the Woods aspires to be the ultimate affirmation of cathartic rituals — especially those that involve confronting the fears and practices that we collectively find to be the most abhorrent.
I walked out of Cabin in the Woods feeling very grateful to be alive, because the message is stark, cathartic, and clear: the only thing worse than being a character trapped in a horror movie is not having horror movies at all.