Part of what makes "Cabin in the Woods" so great is the clear love of movies on display by director Drew Goddard and his co-writer Joss Whedon. Every inch of the celluloid is an ode to the horror movie genre, but if you're going to get the full effect of what "Cabin in the Woods" wants to get across, there's some watching you'll have to do.
We've pull together a playlist of five films that you might want to consider checking out or rewatching before heading to the theaters this weekend.
Before Drew Goddard got his chance to make his directorial debut with "Cabin in the Woods," he cut his cinematic teeth by writing "Cloverfield" for director Matt Reeves and producer J.J. Abrams. Four years after the frenzy of the viral campaign and the secrecy around the title, "Cloverfield" is often maligned for setting off the latest wave of found footage movies. What it isn't praised for was the way it played with the conventions of the monster movie genre. With so much of the focus on the monster most of the time, putting the camera literally at its feet with someone on the ground was a creative take on a tired premise.
Joss Whedon isn't just the master of creating cult television shows. When given the freedom to write and direct his own movie, the man can make one hell of a good one. Whedon had a handful of feature writing credits to his name before he was finally given the opportunity to write and direct his own movie. The result was his most successful cinematic effort to date and a true expansion of the "Firefly" universe. It proved that Whedon could take on something with the scale of—oh, I don't know— "The Avengers."
The release of the original "Scream" in 1996 turned into one of the most ironic examples of cause and effect in all of film history. Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson made one of the truest parodies ever, a film that pointed out and poked fun at the conventions of its own genre while playing along the entire time. But the release led to the production of dozens of the kind of films that "Scream" was satirizing in the first place. "Cabin" also holds up a mirror to the horror genre, and does so in a way that is absurdly creative and that doesn't undercut the integrity of the story.
"Hostel: Part II"
And if you need a refresher in the worst tendencies of the horror movie genre, look no further than "Hostel: Part II." The kind of movie that "Cabin in the Woods" wants to criticize is the type where the characters are dumb and the kills are needlessly violent. The torture porn of the late 2000s is a far cry from the horror films that Whedon and Goddard know and love. It's worth watching because you have to see what's wrong before you fix it.
"Evil Dead II"
If you're going to talk about bizarre horror movies set in a cabin, it would be criminal not to mention Sam Raimi's "Evil Dead II." It's the sillier of the first two films and better at times because of it. Raimi wrote the book on messing with the horror movie, and the only way to pregame "Cabin in the Woods" would be to pop in Raimi's classic and see where it all began.
What are your favorite horror movies? Let us know in the comments below and on Twitter!