Since I talk about the ending of the film here, this post contains SPOILERS. It probably won’t make any sense to someone who hasn’t seen the movie anyway.
The Cabin in the Woods was funny, clever, and quite innovative. But, overall, it did not hold up for me because I didn’t understand the ending. As the end approached, it seemed as if the main characters were getting deeper into the heart of horror stories, even if metaphorically. They were discovering why horror stories were told, why the tropes were upheld. I thought the film was going to give us some sort of interesting insight. But I think the writers got it wrong. They either ignore the themes of horror stories, or simply refuse to accept them.
“They didn’t just want us to die,” a character says near the film’s end, as they discover their horror story experience was all part of some elaborate scheme much bigger and more important than themselves. “They wanted us to be punished.”
“Punish us for what?”
“For being young,” another character says.
So, we want young people to be punished in horror stories because of their youth?
Not in the real world. Youth has nothing to do with it; horror stories work with characters of any age. Youth just makes it easier for a character to be believably immature.
The horrible punishments horror story victims receive is actually for being hedonists. For being somehow morally flawed. Just like the Willy Wonka victims. It’s for believing in and pursuing empty pleasures. Horror story monsters are the embodiment of the spiritual emptiness of the characters’ pursuits or world views, whether it be lust, anger, pride, etc., or something more subtle.
In the film, these youthful deaths are rituals made to placate mysterious ancient gods in the underworld.
In reality, the rituals (in other words: horror stories) are for us humans, to serve to remind us of these lessons, of what is morally right and wrong. Casting our consciences into a pit of giant ancient evil gods makes very little sense. (Unless you are a moral relativist, I guess?)
The tropes of horror films become “tropes” not because they are actually devoid of merit or spiritual meaning, but because they become so recognizable and guessable that, together, they lose their ability to remind us of their meaning. This doesn’t mean the tropes were always actually empty silly nonsense, or that we should discard them.