In its final season, Supernatural delivers Sam and Dean's own unique take on Cabin In The Woods. Released in 2011, Cabin In The Woods stars Chris Hemsworth, Kristen Connolly and Franz Kranz alongside notable supporting turns from Sigourney Weaver and Amy Acker, and is renowned for its playful spin on the horror genre. A group of college pals head into the woods for an ill-advised getaway and their trip rapidly descends into a blur of genre stereotypes, stupid character decisions and recognizable tropes from decades of horror cinema. While taking the outward guise of a generic slasher flick, Cabin In The Woods has something more fascinating bubbling beneath the surface, as the cabin, the woods and the entire vacation is revealed to be an elaborate setup by a shady organization.
Cabin In The Woods partly acts as a parody of the horror genre and mimics ideas that Supernatural has exploited fully during its 15 season run. From fiddling with suspicious ancient items and releasing ghosts to being the first member of the protagonist group to try and get lucky, Supernatural is full of the genre staples that Cabin In The Woods lovingly pokes fun at. In Supernatural's latest episode, however, those roles are reversed, and it's Sam and Dean who find themselves taking a cue from Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon's underrated cult favorite.
Like Cabin In The Woods, the latest Supernatural episode ("Proverbs 17:3") begins very much in familiar territory. A group of cheerleader-style college students are camping alone in a remote area of the woods; they make a chain of bad moves including the classic "investigate the suspicious noise alone" bit and, inevitably, two of the girls are attacked by a werewolf. Sam and Dean track the culprits down to a remote cabin, and some sexual tension ensues between Dean and the female lead. The Winchesters lead a heroic rescue, save the girl and...there's nearly half of the episode left to run. Mirroring the technique used in Cabin In The Woods, "Proverbs 17:3" includes an intentionally jarring moment where the audience has the story flipped back on themselves, as the victim impales herself on an animal horn and then gets back up as if nothing happened.
Where Cabin In The Woods' endgame was pleasing the ancient Gods and using the youngsters as a blood sacrifice, Supernatural takes a similar path, revealing that the entire scenario has been planned by Chuck (Supernatural's own ancient God) as a classic Winchester caper. God's true aim was to steal back a weapon Sam and Dean had in their possession, ending the Cabin In The Woods similarities, however, the parallels are already clear by this point. Both stories lead the audience down an intentionally formulaic and conventional path before abruptly putting the brakes on and revealing an ulterior, far more original, motive.
It's a testament to Supernatural's consistency that the show is still capable of springing such a surprise in its final season, and although the mystery might not have held up as long as Cabin In The Woods' big secret does, the effort absolutely pays off. It's interesting that Supernatural has been making fun of itself a little more frequently as it heads for the exit door. Season 15 has already taken shots at some of its own poorly-received monsters, the Leviathans. Perhaps this Cabin In The Woods-style parody is Supernatural's way of paying a tongue-in-cheek homage to its trope-laden past.
Supernatural season 15 continues with "Golden Time" November 21st on The CW.