Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Friday, April 13, 2012

Inspecting the frightful foundation of The Cabin in the Woods

With today being our second Friday the 13th of the year(the next one's due in July),horror fans are fortunate to have a shiny new scare film in theaters
that actually seems like a smart and savvy fear fest. The Cabin in the Woods is co-written by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard(with Goddard taking the directorial reins),who have worked well together since their days on Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel.

The plot appears to be your basic slasher movie set-up,with five young people heading off to the remote wilderness to party. However,things are not what they seem and more than one twist to the standard slaughter scenario is revealed over time:

Naturally,even in the most original of plot premises,there are always building blocks from previous pop culture material that help to stabilize the
fictional foundation. Not saying that this movie is a rip-off,far from it. The knowledge and appreciation of the nuances of a certain genre are what makes it so flexible to the next generation of story tellers and allows them to find new variations on the theme.

While I haven't seen TCITW yet,here are a few of my best guesses as to what inspired this terror tale. With the "teens in danger from mysterious stranger while alone in the woods" mold in place,the obvious fear fore bearer is Friday the 13,the Sean Cunningham killer classic of the 1980s.

That first film set the bar for this kind of slasher film;horny teenagers,check! Scary strange back story for the killer,check! Gruesomely inventive ways to die,check! Lone "good" girl to survive,check! Say what you will about this flick and the seemingly endless sequels that followed,it was a cinematic ground breaker in it's day:

Another take on the isolated in the woods theme was Sam Raimi's Evil Dead II:Dead by Dawn that came out in 1987. ED2 was a mix of sequel and remake,as Raimi wanted a better version of his first Evil Dead movie that would lead to a sequel set in medieval times.

Bruce Campbell,who starred in the first ED,reprises his role as Ash,the hapless hero who gets as insanely dangerous as the demonic foes released from the Book of the Dead and are out to "swallow your soul". The blend of over the top humor and horror,combined with visual effects that were amazingly shocking,made this movie a cult favorite and did pave the way for the medieval sequel that Raimi wanted to make, Army of Darkness,which was out in theaters by 1992. Sometimes,remakes are a good thing:

Last but not least,there is a mystery element to Cabin in the Woods that may have come from such small yet skillful fare as April Fool's Day. This 1986 Canadian chiller brought together a group of party hearty young people to an island mansion supposedly to celebrate a mutual friend's birthday. However,a set of pranks have been placed around the house,making everyone a bit jumpy but willing to laugh it off.

That jumpiness soon becomes less amusing as one by one,the gang is picked off. Or are they? Granted,AFD wasn't a major horror high point but it did have some fearsome flair to it:

So,whether you hit the multiplex this Friday the 13 or just curl up with your favorite scary movie,keep in mind that everything old does become new again and hopefully,that newness will expand your horror horizons. If not,at least you'll have a mockworthy movie that should inspire budding film makers to do better by us all:


Thaddeus said...

I found this entry because I was looking at your MST3k tag - I'm writing about it this month, and I wanted to read your thoughts on that wonderful show.

By now, you must've seen Cabin. I saw it in this kickass Williamsburg theater that has food and drink service to your seat. I felt that Cabin was one of the least scary horror films that I had ever seen, but it was also one of the funniest films to come out that year. You win some, you lose some, right?

BTW, I love the selection of horror films you chose to write about. They're not all gems, but they were all worthwhile viewing experiences, and that's rarer and rarer these days, particularly for horror. (I hear You're Next is pretty good, and I hope to find a friend that's in the mood for horror sometime soon).

lady t said...

Hey,Thaddeus-yes,I've seen Cabin in the Woods on home video(even watched it twice in two days because of it's awesome fun factor) and the meta nature of the film makes it an instant classic,in my opinion.

You were lucky to see it in such an awesome theater! There is talk of an Alamo Playhouse type of theater opening up in my neck of the woods(pun slightly intended) and I hope to check that out when it does.