May the Horror Movie R.I.P.

Throughout my life, I have been a big fan of horror movies. Whether it was watching Freddy Krueger brutally invade young teenagers’ dreams for the first time, or seeing a young Jason Voorhees come from out of nowhere at Crystal Lake in the original “Friday the 13th,” the horror movie genre has always been one of my favorite movie genres. Additionally, it’s become especially relevant today to young cinemagoers as well, because of the scare factor that affects them both during and after whatever movie of the genre they’re viewing at the time.

However, we have now reached a surprising occurrence — the genre has reached a point that not many people including me could have predicted. With the recent release of the horror movie “The Cabin in the Woods,” the genre has attained a status that is likely to divide the most die-hard fans of the horror genre. That point being the equivalent of a tombstone in a graveyard.

Every few years, there comes a horror movie that enhances brisk innovation and clever creativity to the genre in its most struggling times. Several examples that summarize that point include John Carpenter’s “Halloween,” which breathed fresh air into the slasher subgenre, and horror mastermind Wes Craven’s “Scream,” which was a parody of horror movie conventions and had characters that were self-aware of what was happening around them.

However, as of late, the genre has succumbed to its lowest levels, whose most noteworthy aspects have included the repetitive clichés, poorly made direct-to-DVD features and the introduction of the latest subgenre, torture-porn. Additionally, we’ve heard tedious announcements over the past few years that have included “they’re making yet another sequel in the ‘Paranormal Activity’ franchise,” and “Michael Bay’s production company is going to produce yet another remake of an already famous horror movie.”

Moving back to the present in relation to “The Cabin in the Woods” though, we’ve hit the unpredictable milestone: the day in which the majority of us horror fans don’t have any idea where the genre will go from here. It’s a hard process to explain because the film itself is full of secrets  you can only share with someone who has also seen the film, but it’s possible to answer why without going too far into the spoilers.

First off, all of the clichés we’ve come to deal with in most horror movies of the past are flipped 180 degrees in this film. Whether it includes that stale instance where the characters decide to split up instead of staying together as a group, or the couple having sex minutes before getting killed, they’re all either parodied or paid homage to. All of these instances were successful with genius execution, and that’s because of the ingenious script, finished in an astounding three days by Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon.

Carrying on to the script, I could tell that Drew and Joss were die-hard fans of the horror movie genre like I am, and the “Cabin” is essentially their love letter to the genre. However, they were never afraid to bend the rules by voicing their distaste for the present horror movie clichés and conventions. Furthermore, they managed to make the film a tribute, reconstruction, deconstruction, parody, homage and innovation to the genre. Now when will there be another time when you can say all that at once for just one movie?

Finally, those innovations made in this film are ones that can never be topped. If a horror cinephile would look closely at this film on analytical viewpoint, they would say the same thing I said after walking out of the movie: “It’s over.” The subversive originality that runs through the picture in terms of being a tribute to the horror genre essentially made the movie something that no other horror movie since “Scream” has accomplished. Because of those enforced techniques, it brings up the question whether the genre can really go any further in terms of innovation and fresh style.

After the release of “The Cabin in the Woods,” many of us are going to question whether the horror genre still has an essential place in cinema today.

With all of its clichés having been addressed and also being flipped upside down, there’s really nowhere left to go. You can argue with me or any other horror fanboy out there, but we’d assert the same opinion: “The genre’s dead.”

 

Tyler Christian is a first-year film and media studies major. He can be reached at tmchrist@uci.edu.