We’ll be counting down to Halloween with a new post each day about our personal favorite Halloween inspired and horror movies. To read our past lead up to Halloween coverage, click here.
You know all the horror movie cliches. The copious amounts of booze and sex among the stupidest of teenagers, all of which ultimately hinders their abilities to survive against a serial killer. And best of all, they’re in the middle of nowhere so nobody can ever find out what really happened to them! Back in the early days of horror, this plot worked as a springboard to introduce audiences to newfound fountains of blood. But now that it’s been over thirty years since this narrative was introduced, it’s become little more than a tired trope. Some people require a lot more than jump scares and blood to feel that overwhelming sense of dread that should come with a horror flick. So what’s been one of Hollywood’s ways to combat this cliche ridden premise? By being self-deprecating about it, of course.
Sometimes, films are marketed completely wrong. Maybe you went into the theater expecting a comedy from the trailers, but ended up receiving more a drama like 2016’s War Dogs. However, have you ever stopped to think that maybe a film is INTENTIONALLY marketed wrong? It isn’t such a fer fetched concept, believe it or not, as this is exactly what happened with Joss Whedon’s The Cabin in the Woods, and it help made the feature all the more hilarious because of it.
If you managed to catch a trailer on television, The Cabin in the Woods looked like your stereotypical slasher flick with a group of dimwitted teens ready to screw and get drunk out in the middle of the woods, while killers weren’t far away ready to strike. However, if you did manage to watch the movie anyway, you should be well aware how director Joss Whedon pulled a fast one on everybody. After the narrative revealed a surprisingly interesting, yet still hilarious, twist that a group of government agents regularly had similar groups of idiotic teen stereotypes massacred as a way to appeal to an ancient god.
And you know what? Tricking us into thinking this would be just another average horror movie made the results all the more better. Sure, it probably effected box office performances a bit, but the positive word of mouth on the hilarious ideas tossed about in The Cabin in the Woods had to have made up for it. This movie, thanks to the clever writing and style of Whedon, was more than willing to pull the rug out from everyone if it made for a memorable experience. And even if you never saw a single trailer, the movie is still well worth a watch immediately. It serves as an excellent example of the horror comedy that’s tongue in cheek with its own genre’s stereotyping.
But this same idea also leads into what makes Tucker and Dale Vs Evil so excellent as well, another horror comedy that dares to flip everything you know about horror movies. What sets this one apart, however, is that the two lovable hillbilly characters have absolutely no idea they’ve become participants in favorite horror movie clichés. When Tucker and Dale get around to buying their dream summer cabin getaway in the middle of the woods, and through a series of unfortunate events and misunderstandings, a group of teenagers believe that Tucker and Dale are a pair of deranged maniacs holding their friend hostage (when they’re really just tending to the injuries she received in a boating accident.) The teenagers think they have to kill the hillbillies in order to save her, which results in some of the movie’s greatest laughs. One by one, the idiotic teens begin dying off like flies through unfortunate accidents they brought upon themselves, all while Tucker and Dale become innocent witnesses to travesty after travesty. They are so dumbfounded as to everything going on around them, that the harmless hillbillies even go so far as to believe the teenagers have made a suicide pact.
These movies work extremely well in flipping horror clichés, all because technically they’re embracing them. Plenty of terrible horror movies nowadays pretend to be something different and terrifying, when they’re just the same boring blood fest over and over again. It may be an entirely simple idea, just take horror and make it funny, but in the case of films like Tucker and Dale and The Cabin in the Woods, it’s what makes them such great Halloween alternatives. They still have all the blood and guts you could ever want in a proper slasher film, but they’re also backed up by great characters, humor, and an actual twist on the well-worn ideas.
Halloween doesn’t necessarily have to be filled with films designed to scare you senseless. If you’ve gotten tired of watching Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street, or if you’re just in need of a good number of laughs to go alongside the blood and guts, these two films are definitely right up your dark and shady alley.