I’m not that into horror, on the page or the screen. For instance, I’ve never seen any of the Jason, Freddie, or Chucky, movies. Maybe it comes from having a different set of fears, but slasher movies never did anything for me. The gore doesn’t bother me. It’s more finding it all kinda silly and ultimately tedious.
But there are definitely exceptions. Some horror stories — usually comedies or parodies — manage to find a new spin on old tropes. When it comes to storytelling, I am a big fan of new spins, almost regardless of genre.
Which is why I really enjoyed The Cabin in the Woods.
This is a 2012 movie, so I am rather late to the game. (It predates my retirement!) It generated a lot of critical regard when it came out (Roger Ebert gave it three-of-four stars; Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 91%/75% rating).
It’s always been on my list of movies to someday see, so I was glad to see it show up on Hulu recently.
I gotta give this a Wow! rating. I definitely want to watch this again.
If you haven’t seen it and plan to, don’t read the Wiki page, because it’ll spoil the plot. What seems like a straightforward twist has more to it than at first appears.
The setup is traditional: Five young friends go for a vacation in the woods to a cabin that one of them just inherited (or bought? I forget). There is even the traditional weird threatening hillbilly running the gas station they stop at for gas and directions to the cabin.
But as they pass through a small tunnel (that will later be blocked!), we see a force field switch on locking them into the area (a bird crashes into it and vaporizes)…
So right away we learn this isn’t the usual slasher in the woods story. This involves a group of people using technology (ala NASA launch control center) to run some sort of … horror experiment?
The thing is, that’s not a spoiler. It’s what we learn right off. The secret is what’s behind it all.
Whedon produced, and Goddard directed, so the whole thing is mainly a collaboration between two people. I think that adds clarity and vision to a production. One thing that makes the Resident Evil movies so engaging (to me, anyway) is that they are singular visions by Paul W.S. Anderson (they’re also a definite exception to my not caring for horror movies — I love those).
This likewise applies to the Pitch Black films (another exception) by David Twohy. The later films aren’t quite as good, but Pitch Black is a classic. (Another rather horrific auteur I really like is Quentin Tarantino.)
There is something extra that comes from both writing and directing a film.
The Resident Evil and Pitch Black film series both fall into the science fiction horror category, for which (as an SF fan) I’m far more disposed.
I really like the Alien series, for example. I’m even okay with the recent entries and crossovers, although some of it does tweak my “this is silly” bone. And I think the original Predator film is one of Arnold’s best.
I thought Event Horizon (1997) was silly the first time I saw it, but watching it again I kind of enjoyed it. Even bought the DVD when I saw it in the $5 bin. (Now it’s on Hulu or Netflix, I think.) It was directed (but not written) by Paul W.S. Anderson.
On the other hand, I love a good comedy, so I tend to like good comedy horror (not being bothered by the gore).
I really enjoyed the Scary Movies film series, for instance. (Although, I didn’t realize there were five. I bought the first four, though.)
The Scream series was kinda cute, at least at first. I enjoy deconstruction, too. That’s a big part of The Cabin in the Woods.
There was a TV series, Scream Queens (2015), that was kind of cute. (But second season had sequel stank.)
Speaking of comedy and Chucky the horror doll, I saw a perfectly on the nose skit from Astronomy Club in which a man is being treated as a hero for having defeated a horror doll (ala Chucky). The man didn’t understand why he was being treated as a hero. Man versus doll. He just kicked it across the room and that was it. No biggie.
One of the best comedy horror movies I ever saw was Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (2010). Talk about deconstruction and role reversal. I highly recommend it.
Best comedy zombie movie has to be Shaun of the Dead (2004), but Cockneys vs Zombies (2012) gives it a bit of a run for the money. Fido (2006) is also pretty good. All three are must-see for zombie fans.
The current Walking Dead and general zombie craze owes a lot to those films.
As I say, horror isn’t really my genre, but I really got a kick out of The Cabin in the Woods and thought I’d recommend it for all those of us house-bound.
Thought I’d also mention some other movies you might find diverting depending on your tastes.
Stay horrified, my friends!