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Shock-O-Rama: Complete Guide to Cabin in the Woods
Place your bets
By Chuck Francisco
September 22, 2012
With Cabin in the Woods hitting the home market this week (Mania review here), we can once again worship at the alter of Whedon with impunity. This is seriously a very important horror film (my favorite so far this year), and today's Shock-o-Rama is going to venture deep into enemy spoiler territory, to mine the rich gold awaiting discovery there. Having said that, Cabin in the Woods only really works to it's full potential if your first viewing is unsullied by prior knowledge of it's plot. If you haven't seen it yet, you're going to want to before reading further, else the best horror flick this year will probably seem pretty unimpressive once you finally get around to it. Consider yourself warned.
There are so many interesting aspects of Cabin in the Woods which we could dig deeper into. The metaphors are layered deeper than the edible art of Ace of Cakes. Today though, I'd like to take advantage of owning the film in 1080, with the ability to pause and rewind at leisure. The crazy madness of the final twenty minutes is packed to bursting with nods to every corner of the horror genre. Upon first viewing, it's tough to keep track of all of these referential nods without missing something. While it's true that the Internet has galloped to the rescue, like cartoon Canadian Mounty Dudley Do Right, I thought it would be cool to take this release week opportunity to examine the white board from the betting scene.
Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) stands before a dry erase board listing a wide variety of nightmarish beings, which is tracking bets placed by each department on the instrument of the Cabineers' demise. For the staff, it's a viciously lighthearted way to blow off steam in a very Adams Family kinda way. For our purposes today, it's going to serve as a modern day TV Guide (remember those?). I'm going to take a look at each of the listed monsters, suggesting a movie to watch either because it's the film being directly referenced on the board, or as a great flick containing that monster. All told, there are 34 entries. With October nearly upon us, bookmark this page and refer back to it as the witching month progresses, when you're looking for suggestions. Now, let's get cracking.
Werewolf - generic reference, but probably alluding to The Wolf Man (1941). For cheeky wolfen shenanigans, I recommend John Landis' game changing opus, An American Werewolf in London (1981).
Alien Beast - nonspecific reference to Alien (1979). Have a scary good time with the unorthodox and under appreciated The Deadly Spawn (1983).
Mutants - homage to Wes Craven's brutal The Hills Have Eyes (1977). If you've already been there, seen that, but still need your backwoods mutant cannibal fix, I recommend Wrong Turn (2003).
Wraiths - could be a reference to the gimmicky William Castle flick 13 Ghosts (1960), or any to any film with a vindictive spectral entity. I recommend Toby Hooper's Poltergeist (1982), instead of the 1986 Charlie Sheen vehicle, The Wraith.
Zombies - with so very many films to draw on, this is probably referencing Romero's Night of the Living Dead. Cemetery Man (aka Dellamorte Dellamore, 1994) is an existentialist Italian zombie film staring Rupert Everette. It's got gore, comedy, and nudity; all wrapped in a thinking man's puzzle. You need to see this very unique zombie flick.
Reptilius - direct reference to the 1960 Danish giant monster movie Reptilicus. The original film was reworked for American release by AIP. If you haven't seen it, I recommend it highly for the puppetry of the title monster; it's a marionette!
Clowns - directly referencing Tim Curry as Pennywise from Stephen King's IT (1990). Curry owns that role, and has delicious fun with it. Though for my grease painted money, it doesn't get any better than Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988). A brand new Blu-Ray release hit shelves just last week!
Witches - this seems to be a general reference to any type of witch. Here's your change to revisit The Blair Witch Project (1999), and recall the cray hype storm that accompanied it.
Sexy Witches - there have been a number of "hot" witches on film. Usually it's a ruse designed to fool potential victims. Here the film makers are probably thinking The Witches of Eastwick (1987), with its sex appeal coming in the form of Cher, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Susan Sarandon. I'll be honest, the first place my mind went to was 1996's The Craft. Robin Tunney, Neve Campbell, and Rachel True? Yes please.
Demons - this one's very generic and could refer to horned hell beats as well as any possession film. I'll give you a twofer; check out Night of the Demons (the 1988 version, for Cthulhu's sake!), and Del Toro's amazing take of Big Red, in Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008).
Hell Lord - Prominently featured in the glass cell elevator sequence, he's clearly a parody of Pinhead from the Hellraiser series. Since horror films rarely improve with sequels, do yourself a favor and watch the 1987 original. If you'd like something different from the highly imaginative mind of Clive Barker, perhaps checking out Nightbreed (1990) is in order; though personally, I'm not a fan.
Angry Molesting Tree - Any horror fan worth their salt will immediately know this gropey Ent is from Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead (1981), which is exactly where I suggest you go to learn all about hot leaf on lady relations.
Giant Snake - could be a reference to Anaconda (1997, poor Luke Wilson), or any number of generic giant snake B-movies. Your options are to tune into the SyFy channel any weekend morning, or watch Ice Cube menacingly glare at Jon Voight.
Deadities - the second direct reference to Sam Raimi's Evil Dead trilogy. Treat this as an opportunity to watch Army of Darkness (1992) again; belly up to the deadite buffet during the castle battle sequence and get your fill.
Kevin - perhaps the most interesting entry on the board. Internet speculation posits that this is a direct nod to Elijah Wood's character from Sin City (2005). The companion book notes that he's a normally shy, quiet guy, who is really an efficient serial killer. I think you should check out Christian Bale wearing only his bat birthday suit in American Psycho (2000).
Mummy - Universal's classic monster from 1932. My favorite of the original series is The Mummy's Hand (1940), which looks ten years more modern than it has any right to. It adds some comedy to the scares, and was clearly an inspiration for the 1999 remake with Brendan Fraiser.
The Bride - this one puzzled me for a few minutes until I recalled a 70's Spanish flick. If you haven't seen it, rush right out to find The Blood Spattered Bride (1972). It's got enough vampires, lesbians and gore to keep the whole family happy.
The Scarecrow Folk - general reference to scarecrow monsters. We see them briefly as monsters wearing burlap sack masks. See if you can find Scarecrows from 1988; a truly underrated gem.
Snowman - a direct reference to bad ass killer snow man flick Jack Frost (1997), and it's sequel Jack Frost 2: Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman. Watch the first one, but for your own safety be certain you didn't grab the "heartwarming" Michael Keaton film(which came out around the same time, in 1998) by mistake.
Dragon Bat - generic reference to many creatures, but in this case it has a mouth that splits open three ways, reminiscent of the new vampires of Blade 2 (2002). Believe it or not, I'm going to suggest you give Van Helsing (2004) another go to get your fill of dragon bat creatures.
Vampires - this non-specific reference to probably the most famous of movie monsters is wide open to suggestions. My favorite all time portrayal of a vampire has to be Chris Sarandon, as Jerry Dandrige, in the original Fright Night (1985). He's just so smarmy and charismatic; it's brilliant.
Dismemberment Goblins - apparently these goblins have a very specific set of skills (much
like Liam Neeson in Taken). This could refer to any number of films, but let's drop the hammer: go watch Troll 2 with the ones you love, and discover the magic of Nilbog brand milk.
Sugar Plum Fairy - the toothy jawed ballerina could be a nod to traditional tooth fairy mythology, or even a reference to the little monsters as imagined in Hellboy II: The Golden Army. If you want to see dance school gone mad, watch Suspiria (1977).
Merman - probably not a shout out to The Little Mermaid. 2001's Lovecraftian tale Dagon should be on your "to-watch" list anyway. See it.
The Re-Animated - zombies again, but this time a direct reference to Re-Animator (1985). This is probably any film where the dead come back with some semblance of memory or cognitive ability. The creepy kid from Pet Sematary (1989) comes to mind.
Unicorn - the mythical beast with the best mid-kill sound effect (pixie dust bells). I'm pretty stumped here. Perhaps try Black Moon (1975), which is more of an imaginative visual art piece than a killer beast picture. If it helps entice you, the tag line is "An apocalyptic Alice in Wonderland".
Huron - is a Native American word and likely indicates some sort of malevolent spirit in this context. Really, this just makes for a great excuse for me to recommend Scalps (1983) to you.
Sasquatch/Wendigo/Yeti - possibly referencing the 1957 British horror flick The Abominable Snowman, with Peter Cushing (which is awesome). You could also check out Abominable (2006), with Lance Hendrickson and Jeffery Combs.
Dolls - Specific reference to The Strangers (2008). Well, it's not the worst Liv Tyler film available.
The Doctors - refers to The House on Haunted Hill (1999), with a quick cut scene that seems to have been lifted straight out of the flick. If you want something under appreciated in the same vein, Dr. Giggles (1992) is your ticket.
Zombie Redneck Torture Family - the Buckners; the wager on the white board that wins this time around. Even though it doesn't have zombies, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010) would compliment this nicely.
Jack o' Lantern - an indirect reference to Pumpkinhead (1988). I recommend watching the pint sized embodiment of Halloween, Sam, in Trick 'r' Treat (2007).
Giant - a generic reference to the fairy tale creature. There was a fantastic film out of Norway a few years back called Troll Hunter (2010), which is wonderful and well worth your time. It's found footage in nature and treats the subject matter very seriously.
Twins - The Grady twins from The Shining (1980). Frankly, I can't suggest a better cinematic example than the original.
Saturday Shock-O-Rama Streaming Suggestions
Want to watch something schlocky right now? Try on a few of these suggestions, available right now from the listed service (most of which are FREE!).
Netflix - House of the Devil - Horror (2009)
Crackle - Close Encounters of the Third Kind - Sci-Fi (1977)
Hulu - The Fiend Without a Face - Horror (1958)
And if you simply can't get enough horror happenings here on Mania, might I humbly suggest checking out Tuesday Terrors? It's got all the shocking news to keep you current (and possibly help you survive until the credits roll).