As you might expect, our theme for October (yes, I’m just getting to October) was horror movies. And I thought three of them made an interesting evolutionary trio: Halloween, Friday the 13th, and The Cabin In The Woods.
Now to me, Halloween represents that rare thing in Hollywood – an original and well-executed idea. I remember when it came out. I was 13 and we couldn’t wait to sneak into theaters to see it. We’d seen nothing like it before – horror in suburbia with a smart but emotionless killer (the blank mask) coming to get us. Especially if we were doing something illicit as teenagers (sex and drugs). I think the movie holds up pretty well. The number of deaths seems small by today’s standards, it’s not particularly gory, and the minimalist soundtrack still holds up.
Friday the 13th, of course, represents that great Hollywood staple: the copycat. I remember sneaking in to see that, too. Upon re-watching (for the first time in what, 25 years? yikes), you realize how truly bad this movie is. The craft of John Carpenter is gone and all you get are teens getting surprised and dying in various ways. The acting is terrible (sorry, Kevin Bacon), though I have to admit I still do sort of like the “ki ki ki, cha cha cha” in the background. Of course, this was the leading edge of the wave of slasher movies that dominated (and subsequently obliterated) horror for much of the 1980s, and in a lot of ways even to today.
In fact, you could argue that The Cabin In The Woods is the culmination of the slasher flick mixed with the self-referential meta entertainment trend that has taken over pop culturati in recent years. In many respects, it reminded me of John Scalzi’s book Redshirts, which took on the Star Trek mythos with an odd blend of “look how clever I am” enthusiasm and cynicism. Joss Whedon’s movie certainly had a lot of old friends that we were happy to see. I’m not sure that I was ever given a scare by it, but I enjoyed trying to figure out which horror tropes they were going to go after and how they were going to game them. I will admit to literally laughing outloud when Bradley Whitford’s character met his demise.
So where does that leave the slasher movie? Is there any place left for it to go? It’s easily my least favorite of the horror sub-genres (well, it was until crap like Saw started getting made), but it was good these films this month. Well, two out of three at least.