WHAT can I say about the new revisionist horror movie, The Cabin in the Woods? No really, what am I actually allowed to say about the new revisionist horror movie, The Cabin in the Woods, because there appears to be an embargo on plot details.
It seems there’s a shadow creeping through this cinematic copse, with every reviewer and critic, fanboy and blogger stalking me from behind a Douglas Fir, ready to dig my grave and cry spoiler. You see, they’ll give out to me, curse my very name for ruining the entire show should I dare to offer you, the curious reader, even the teensiest titbit of narrative machinations, all in the name of public service. The best I can do is offer is a list of adjectives, with the occasional grammatical modifier to keep you interested.
Scary. Funny. Twisted, verily.
Of course, what I can’t tell you about this clever and thoroughly entertaining piece of genre-mincing cinema, from writer Joss Whedon and writer-director Drew Goddard (with a few of their Buffy/Angel stalwarts thrown in for good measure), makes it all the more interesting. I can’t tell you why the long weekend of five fresh-faced co-ed freshmen to the titular getaway proves so surprising. Nor can I hint with nudge nudge wink winking abandon at the origins of this cabin’s bumps in the night. I’m not even supposed to redirect your attention to the trailer, for fear that even that will give away some salient details and spoil this devilishly tricky slice of trope-trashing horror.
Suffice it to say, yer man from Thor probably should have checked out TripAdvisor before booking a mini-break in this particular B&B on Friday the 13th. Oh, and you should go see it, immediately, before someone spoils it for you.
And they will spoil it for you. Faster than you can say that Bruce Willis and Keyser Söze are the ingredients of Soylent Green, the secrets behind – or under, shhhh, that’s all you’re getting – this cabin will be blogged and tweeted, laid out bare with “likes” and thumbs up all pointing you in the direction of information you know you don’t want to know, but that you can’t tear your eyes from. A panoply of Pandora’s secrets and reveals, divulged to ruin your enjoyment of the film’s twists and surprises.
Or maybe not? In fact, a recent experimental study from the University of California, San Diego, would suggest the opposite. According to academics Nicholas Christenfeld and Jonathan Leavitt, spoilers don’t spoil a story, rather they enhance the entire experience altogether.
Using short-stories, Christenfeld and Leavitt ran experiments presenting readers with the story as-is, with a prefacing spoiler paragraph, or with the same spoiler paragraph included in the body of the text. Of those tested, the readers significantly favoured the pre-spoiled versions of the stories, with indications of devices like revelatory dream-sequences improving the enjoyment of a story, rather than detracting from it.
If anything, this compulsion to banish the whispers of spoilers from social media, as seen in every review of The Cabin in the Woods you’ll come across, runs contrary to the prevailing characteristics of storytelling as we know it. The classical legends of the Greeks and Romans were never kept hush hush, Shakespeare’s characters always got hitched at the end, and did you ever think that James Bond wasn’t going to bag the girl, kill the baddie and live to quip another day?
What is clear is that a lack of surprise doesn’t inherently mean a lack of pleasure in the execution. We can enjoy the same film multiple times, after already learning its plot secrets, those 11th hour twists and red herrings that should remain mysterious, but that cannot. Besides, in this case, does the knowledge that The Cabin in the Woods is a horror film not already qualify as a spoiler anyway, priming you to expect a shock lurking behind every tree, suspect foul play at every creaking floorboard?
In the end, though, I’m not going to blab. I won’t be reading from the Necronomicon and reigning down the forces of the evil dead upon myself. Or worse, inviting trolls to the comment section. I shan’t be the one to break this tacit journalistic agreement. My lips are sealed and I’m taking the fifth. As for you, I implore you to take a trip to The Cabin in the Woods and see what all the hush is about.