Episode 25. I Thought There’d Be Stars: The Cabin in the Woods (2012)


Andrea and Alex return to the outskirts of civilization with Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon’s The Cabin in the Woods. Looking at archetypes, genre tropes and the limits of humanity, the Faculty ponders the fate of horror and if it should survive.


The Cabin in the Woods. Dir Drew Goddard. 2012.


The Cabin in the Woods: The Official Visual Companion by Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon.

Literature’s Greatest Fools. A look at famous fools from across literature.

The Stanford Prison Experiment on YouTube. Not a horror movie per se, but pretty chilling all the same.


Right click or option-click here and choose “Save Target As…” to download the mp3.

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10 thoughts on “Episode 25. I Thought There’d Be Stars: The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

  1. rob! says:

    Dear A & A-

    Been enjoying the show for some time but for whatever reason this episode compelled me to comment.

    I saw CITW in the theaters, and while I liked it quite a bit, I thought there were two things that kept it from the level of masterpiece:

    1)Whedon tips his hand that there’s something deeper going on too early–the opening credits, which you mentioned. At that point, I felt like all the build up was just biding time, because the audience already knows that there’s something else to be revealed. Maybe if the reveal of the guys in the basement had come later, it would have made more of an impact.

    2)It’s a shame that either no effort was made or–more likely–lawyers kept it from happening–to get actual, copyrighted movie monsters at the end. I think CITW would have been a total mindf*ck if the Universal Frankenstein, Freddy, Jason Voorhees, etc. had been there cooped up, as opposed to vague copies. Again, I can’t really blame the filmmakers on this, because I’m betting that decision was made at a corporate level. But I feel like CITW came sooo close to being a horror version of Who Framed Roger Rabbit?–a once-in-a-lifetime event–that I always feel a little disappointed when recalling the movie, as I did during your show.

    Anyway, love TFOH, great show, I wish you could do put it out more often.

    • Andrea says:

      Hi Rob! Thanks for the observations. We also wish we could put episodes out more often… if we ever win the lottery, we’ll quit our day jobs and become full-time, tenured Faculty members!

  2. Evil Taylor Hicks says:

    I really enjoyed your take on The Facility and the Old Ones as representative of the capitalist status quo. That actually made me think of how Cabin in the Woods inverts themes from yet another horror classic, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. This is particularly interesting because I think TCM is one of the few movies that doesn’t get a direct reference.

    However, Faculty of Horror favorite Carol Clover talks in Men, Women, and Chainsaws how the teenagers in TCM represent the urban capitalist invading the lives of the blue collar worker. In his memoir about the making of TCM, Gunnar Hansen also gives the Sawyer family a sympathetic perspective as a group of (admittedly psychotic) family members who have these teenagers trespassing on their property.

    In Cabin in the Woods, this time we have the workers at The Facility, who in this case represent the urban, capitalist status quo, while the teenagers represent the invading workers, with “work” in this case being defined as the job of sacrificial lamb.

    The Sawyers were just trying to make a living. The Facility workers were just trying to keep the world alive and operating the way it always has. But by the end of both movies they can’t get away with that because of those meddling kids.

  3. Sam Costello says:

    I thought the point you guys made about Cabin being the ultimate mic-drop—and then wondering what innovations and breakthroughs would come after it, only to find none—was really interesting.

    I remember feeling the same way when I saw it. Like, the genre has been taken apart here. We’ve seen how the whole thing works. You can’t go back to the old way of doing things now. But, of course, we did (same thing happened with a similarly revolutionary work of art: The Wire. After seeing The Wire, it was hard to imagine the TV cop show could ever go back to its boring, episodic procedural routine, but it did and no one seems to mind).

    I wonder if the problem is that that sort of total deconstruction is both too challenging to an audience that likes its tropes and comfortably repeated stories and that it requires some sort of genius to push the genre in a radically different direction after the old direction is blown up. There are lots of great people making great horror these days, but I wonder whether anyone will look back in 100 years and conclude that someone working now completely transformed horror.

  4. Jess says:

    I enjoyed Cabin in the Woods quite a bit, but I do get the criticism that I’ve seen that the analysis of tropes was pretty surface level, and I felt more than anything like it was dealing with a very specific type of horror film (the slasher flick with a group of teenagers), and kind of threw the other tropes in at the end without actual commentary or analysis. I mean, no film can be perfect, and there are only so many things you can cover deeply, but this is why I understand the criticism of it as kind of looking down on the horror genre by poking fun at a wide variety of things and ending up grouping a lot of really complicated and nuanced facets of horror together and calling them out as silly and/or unnecessary.

    Overall I thought it was very clever and funny and a good reminder that we don’t need to rely on these tropes above all else (there were also several laugh-out-loud moments for me towards the end, especially w/r/t the Japanese girls defeating their monster). I get why people enjoy it so much, but it did feel more like a hate letter from someone who doesn’t really appreciate the wide variety of horror movies that are actually out there than a more nuanced criticism.

  5. Joel says:

    Long time, first time.

    I agree that “Cabin in the Woods” did stand out amongst recent horror film offerings. You folks did a great job in illustrating some points about it that I had not noted before, especially the Stanford Prison experiment link. As always, you two did a great job of illustrating that there was more to think about here.

    My only reservation about the film, the one that keeps it from being a “masterpiece” in my books, is that it is just a little too “Whedon-y”. The term, a Joss Whedon word if there ever was one, describes a script that is throughly in love with itself. Lines are included as lines, not as dialogue. At some point, every character – male, female, young old, hero, villain – sounds like Joss Whedon himself. When this happens, all I can envision is Joss, in a writer’s room, pitching the line with a shit-eating grin on his face. This phenomenon has affected otherwise great works of film and television. Alex noted it in “Buffy”. It almost manages to destroy “Alien Resurrection”. It renders “Firefly” unwatchable. It seriously detracts from “The Avengers”.

    On that note, I was disappointed to hear your dismissal of superhero and comic book films. The fact that Joss Whedon and Sam Raimi (among many other directors, Bryan Singer and Guillermo Del Toro especially) happen to enjoy horror AND superhero/comic book themes is not a bad thing. While it is not the purview of your podcast, superhero and comic book films also offer a lot of material for analysis and critique. If someone has creative ideas in more than one genre, I say more power to them. To say that it is all about money is a cop out.

    PS I look forward to the “Wicker Man” podcast, as that film is one of my favourites. As a humble suggestion, I would offer “The Village Green Preservation Society”, or pretty much anything by the Kinks, as a suitably ironic closing number.

  6. Guybrush says:

    Good episode, great analysis. I’ve been listening to this podcast for a while now and wanted to say how much I enjoy what you guys are doing. It’s tough to find podcasts that aren’t either purely comedy or completely focused on the latest, and only occasionally greatest, in pop culture.

    But, since you’ve asked for feedback from the haters, I also thought I’d let you know that I mostly hated Cabin In The Woods and give you a few of my own reasons why, in handy-dandy list form:

    1. We spend basically zero time with the victims before they get brainwashed which gives us no real understanding of what they were like beforehand. Combine that with Whedon’s trademark quippy dialogue, which is usually fun but also reduces every character to having the exact same voice, and one of the film’s most interesting ideas is also one of its most badly serviced.

    2. Presenting the stoner as the seer and giving him magical pot that makes him immune to conspiratorial mental conditioning is eye-rollingly adolescent. The jokey nature of the movie keeps this from getting really embarrassing but there’s no way not to count it as a black mark. Really, the entire character is pretty insufferable. That his big on-the-nose speech at the end can’t even muster up enough indignation to call out the ritual sacrifice of human beings beyond it being bad for his own personal circle of friends is frustratingly shallow thinking.

    3. My biggest complaint is the one made most obvious by the delay in release. By the time Cabin in the Woods came out, just a few years after it was finished, horror had already moved far enough that Asian remakes had dropped off the map entirely and found footage had grown out from the genre to embrace superheroes and other wacky stuff. Point being, Whedon’s premise is broad enough to cover the entirety of storytelling but its target is probably the worst one he could have picked. Horror evolves. It needs to just to keep hitting its target. People want to be surprised and when hauntings don’t do it anymore then they turn to men with machetes out in the woods and when that doesn’t work anymore they turn to ghosts and when that doesn’t work anymore there are aliens and maniac cops and rabid dogs and zombies and ancient dieties and vampires and Satan himself waiting to scare them shitless.

    Head into that “choose your antagonist” basement in a romantic comedy or an action story or a dance flick and you’ll see a lot less options. Probably somebody’s daughter will be saved, maybe a gymnasium or two.

    Even post-modern horror had been done and buried before Cabin in the Woods got on the scene. The best example being, pretty clearly, Scream. But what Scream had going for it was a basis in character and world-building that Cabin in the Woods could never pull off. Because Cabin is a scenario, a locked room slash-’em-up with a lot of solid carnage but not much going on beneath that.

    Scream presented its cliches as legitimate threats for people who had more than their lives to lose. Sidney is interesting. She has a history, a reputation and a relationship with her town. She was interesting enough to make two inferior sequels worth sitting through because her arc was still compelling.

    Cabin can’t compare with that kind of storytelling because it’s too busy letting it’s high concept get in the way.

    Anyways, just my two cents. Keep on truckin’, love the show!

  7. Austin says:

    Really enjoyed this! Thank you for putting it together. Eager to work it into my Horror class this January 🙂

  8. Julia says:

    The link to “Literature’s Greatest Fools” is broken, and the google search gives out all sorts of things… any chance you could specify what to look for?
    I found your podcast via Pseudopod and I’ve been binge listening ever since. Buuut given that I don’t really have the time (or the nerve) to watch all the movies alone I can go through the reading, which I do have time for.

    Anyway, expect a long email soon enough, I have lots to say (I always tend to, I’m sorry, it’s just that you really give way to so much debate)


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