Friday, October 10, 2014

Favorite Scene Friday! The Cabin in the Woods: The Elevator Doors (to Hell) Open

This week's horror-themed FSF was written by Sara from A Redhead at the Movies! Sara is a movie fiend (who isn't, but seriously, she's got a degree in film studies and writes papers on horror flicks like Saw and Hostel). She's also a fellow member of the illustrious French Toast Sunday B-Squad. So if you're not checking out Sara's site for movie reviews, The Walking Dead recaps, and more, you're missing out! You can also follow Sara on Twitter - @RedheadAtMovies.


When it came down to choosing my favorite scene from a horror movie, I just knew I had to go with this scene from The Cabin in the Woods (2012). This moment, no matter how many times I watch it, fills me with glee, terror and awe. Directed by Drew Goddard and co-written by Joss Whedon, The Cabin in the Woods pays hilarious homage to the horror genre by presenting us with every trope and creature, and they simultaneously honor and satirize horror narrative conventions. This scene is an encapsulation— or rather, an explosion— of all that this movie is and wants to be: a horror nerd’s outrageous fever dream, a hodgepodge whose reverence for its contents verges on absurd zealotry at times.


In the lead-up to this scene, two of our protagonists— attempted horror archetypes Dana (the virginal, would-be final girl played by Kristen Connolly) and Marty (the silly, slacker-stoner played by Fran Kranz) — have just discovered a network of futuristic, glass elevators. These elevators take them on an underground journey through neat compartments containing the stuff of nightmares.

Upon realizing they are in more danger off the elevator than on though, they decide what better way of fighting their unidentified, unexplained human captors than by unleashing upon them the very hell they just toured? And that is what this scene is - a comical but disturbing look at what would happen if every horror creature were truly let loose at once.

At first, we see a group of bewildered soldier-types as they listen to the churning sounds of elevators in motion. The elevators eventually grow silent, which is very much a harbinger of doom (to which one of the solider-types even says, “Oh shit.”), and then we hear a classic, seemingly innocuous “ding” noise.

The following shot is framed perfectly, with soldiers in the middle of two rows of elevator doors, on the right and left of the frame. So everything meets in the middle in a loud, bloody mess, and it is glorious. The suspense turns to utter chaos, so much so that it’s hard to necessarily take it all in at first: a giant snake (cobra?), a pterodactyl (maybe?), a kind of evil chainsaw robot thing (think Wall-E gone wrong), a triumphant-looking werewolf, and lots and lots of blood, in case I didn’t mention that already. The soldiers are being torn to shreds, more or less literally, and the screen goes dark with what we can assume is either a blood splatter or perhaps a thrown limb.

In darkness, we hear a siren or an alarm of some sort. We then start to follow a new group of guards who stumble upon the same area we just witnessed, and it looks as messy as you’d expect - blood everywhere and some happy zombies partaking in the feast. The rest of the sequence features more ding-noises indicating more elevator doors opening, more blood, more chaos, and more creatures - creepy masks, giant insects, ghosts, you name it. I especially love when it shifts to security camera footage of the many varied horror-movie scenarios now being enacted in various parts of the facility. What I love about it is that even if it seems like we’ve seen them all before, you’ve never seen them quite like this - all together, all happening at the same time, and all being monitored. The camera pulls back to show the many screens depicting the numerous horrific situations taking place, and once again, it becomes a chilling, daunting task to understand and keep track of all of them.

This minute-and-a-half or so of filmmaking is flawless. It’s fun and terrifying in equal measure. Goddard and Whedon know how to use sound, music, editing and off-screen space to utter perfection, and there are so many resulting nuances in this short sequence alone. It becomes quite clear who this film is ultimately meant for: horror fanatics who would gladly wade through the blood, sift through the severed limbs, brave the monsters and organize the chaos all in order to recognize the references and celebrate the only genre that could yield such a cacophonous concoction in the first place.

What's your favorite scene from The Cabin in the Woods?

1 comment:

  1. I remember leaning over to my buddy in the theater when this sequence was about to start and saying "This is gonna be good." I was not wrong!

    This was such a fun and refreshing horror film, one that only comes along every couple of years. It was so cool to see all these different horror archetypes all let loose at once. I almost want to say it would have been cool to see actual well-known figures cameoing (like Jason or Pinhead or something) but then we wouldn't have gotten all those unique horror characters.

    I'm really exhausted by all the TV adaptations of films happening as of late, but I almost think this would work well as a show. What do you think?

    Thanks again, Sara! I hope you'll consider writing more FSFs in the future.