Cabin in the Woods and the Horror of Video Games

It was a dark and stormy night.

(It was a violent and war-torn night.)

It almost felt like a horror movie.

(It almost felt like a video game.)

The cabin in the woods seemed quiet. Too quiet. Surely all sorts of monsters lay within. It seemed like a good time for a spoiler warning.

(The post-apocalyptic city seemed quiet. Too quiet. Surely all sorts of enemies lay within. It really did seem like a good time for a spoiler warning.)

What kinds of monsters awaited our heroes? Zombies? Ghouls? Hell Lords? An angry molesting tree?

(What kinds of enemies awaited our heroes? Zombies? Aliens? Robots? Space-Nazis?)

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be the main character in a horror film? What a strange experience that must be. You'd do things you'd never do in real life: Go have sex in the woods at night, run up the stairs when you should be running out the door, split up when you should be sticking together. Eventually, you'd probably get yourself killed.

Cabin in the Woods and the Horror of Video Games

(Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be the main character in a video game? What a strange experience that must be. You'd do things you'd never do in real life: Lead every frontal assault, hop into the gunner's seat of every vehicle, run straight into each room when you should be hanging back. Eventually, you'd probably get yourself killed.)

But you weren't able to help yourself! It was almost as though… someone else was controlling you.

(But you weren't able to help yourself! It was almost as though… someone else was controlling you.)

Five main characters, all gathered together. The nerd, the babe, the good girl. The jock, the stoner. All of them archetypes, ready for consumption.

(Five main characters, all gathered together. The scientist, the femme fatale, the love-interest. The rogue, the comic relief. All of them archetypes, ready for consumption.)

It's always the same: They're introduced as quickly as possible. The tension slowly builds. There's an ever-escalating series of scares, culminating in the first murder.

(It's always the same: They're introduced as quickly as possible. The tension slowly builds. There's an ever-escalating series of battles, culminating in the first boss.)

Every scene is controlled by a director. It's all carefully choreographed to give the audience maximum titillation—every bit of exposed skin, every gory head-wound, every slow-mo murder.

Cabin in the Woods and the Horror of Video Games

(Every level is controlled by the designers. It's all carefully choreographed to give the player maximum titillation—every skin-peeling explosion, every gory headshot, every slow-mo murder.)

What does this say about that audience, then? The horror fans who to watch this ritual bloodletting? We catalogue and obsess over the tiniest details, we chronicle the best shower-murders, the bloodiest eviscerations, the characters who most deserved to die. What does it say about us that we take such pleasure in this?

(What does this say about that audience, then? The video game fans who engage in this ritual bloodletting? We catalogue and obsess over the tiniest details, we chronicle the best sniper kills, the bloodiest gibs, the characters who most deserved to die. What does it say about us that we take such pleasure in this?)

Maybe the answer is darker than we think. Maybe horror films are actually blood-sacrifices to old, dark gods, meticulously crafted in a lab by a team of professionals, wrung for every possible drop of provocative violence. Not out of desire, but out of necessity.

(Maybe the answer is darker than we think. Maybe video games are actually blood-sacrifices to old, dark gods, meticulously crafted in a lab by a team of professionals, wrung for every possible drop of provocative violence. Not out of desire, but out of necessity.)

Cabin in the Woods and the Horror of Video Games

Or maybe... maybe those old gods are just a metaphor. Maybe the old gods are us. We, the audience, are the ones for whom this bloodbath has been engineered.

(Or maybe... maybe the old gods are just a metaphor. Maybe the old gods are us. We, the audience, are the ones for whom this bloodbath has been engineered.)

Did we enjoy the deaths that were designed for us? Did they make us laugh and wince? Did we cheer along with the rest of the crowd?

Hopefully so. Hopefully the blood was enough. Existence depends on it.