It's Friday the 13th, so the mood is right to finally release the horror film The Cabin in the Woods, which was written by Joss Whedon and director Drew Goddard. You've seen the teasers and know the setup: Five friends drive out to a remote cabin in the woods for a vacation but something goes wrong. We're not going to spell out exactly what that "something" is here, but suffice it to say that it won't be anything that you're expecting. The Cabin in the Woods is one of the best-reviewed, cleverest horror films to invigorate the genre in years, but it still builds its premise by combining elements from some seminal shockers.
Like The Cabin in the Woods, Sam Raimi's 1981 horror film The Evil Dead features five college students that travel to an isolated cabin in the woods to frolic. What they find is the Book of the Dead, and when they play an audiotape that they find of a scientist reading the incantations from the book, they unwittingly unleash an army of demons that Ash (Bruce Campbell) has to fight off with his boomstick.
George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead changed the way filmmakers fashion zombies forever. In the movie, a group of strangers board themselves into a rural farmhouse to hide from the zombie apocalypse just outside. Similarly, in The Cabin in the Woods, the young people must board up their cabin to keep out an undead threat.
James Wan unintentionally sparked what is called the torture-porn horror subgenre with 2004's wicked Saw, a movie that spawned six sequels and countless cheap imitations. The Cabin in the Woods is certainly not a cheap imitation of Saw nor would it be considered torture porn, but, like the Jigsaw killer does in Saw, the antagonists moving the chess pieces in The Cabin in the Woods have unwitting pawns in the five vacationers.
Nothing puts the fear of rednecks in you like the 1974 grindhouse classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which had a group of friends stumble across a cannibalistic family that preyed on tourists in rural Texas. The nightmare family—including Leatherface and the Hitchhiker—seemed not only impervious to pain but to actually enjoy it. The Cabin in the Woods recalls elements of this infamous midnight movie.
Like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Dario Argento's 1977 film Suspiria spawned several sequels and is currently being remade. Nothing compares to the demented original and its disturbing, garish imagery with its story about an American ballet dancer (Jessica Harper) who travels to a prestigious dance academy in Germany only to discover that it is controlled by a coven of witches. The Cabin in the Woods also has much more going on beneath the surface than just setting up five twentysomethings to be killed, which is what will make it a classic alongside these five films that inspired it.