Of all the horror movie tropes, the cabin in the woods is one filmmakers return to again and again, adding new twists and fresh takes to the concept. With its intimidating, isolated visual, it's one of those recognisable elements that let us know we're in for a scary good time. While the idea may feel as old as the genre itself, it's a relatively new addition to horror, taking a foothold as part of the 1980s slasher boom. Since then, we've been treated to many takes on this creepy movie setting and here's a look at six of our favorite cabin in the woods movies.
1. Tucker and Dale Vs Evil (2010)
How do you put a fresh spin on horror? Approach it from a different angle. In Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil writer-director Eli Craig takes the 'cabin in the woods' setup and imbues it with comedy and scares alongside a big dose of perspective. Literally. While the titular twosome (played by Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine) are just a couple of bumbling locals excited to finally have their own property, to a group of teens they encounter at a gas station? They're terrifying.
Throughout the film, Tucker and Dale's actions continue to be mistaken for those of backwoods killers to comedic effect. None of their efforts to remedy this are helped by the fact that they reside in a ramshackle cabin deep in the West Virginia woods. The movie cuts between the experiences of the teens, led by 30 Rock's Katrina Bowden, and the two pals, just trying to enjoy their vacation.
2. Misery (1990)
One of the best Stephen King adaptations to faithfully recreate the horror maestro's source material without scrimping on cinematic tension. Misery takes place mostly in one location – the isolated abode of superfan Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates). When Annie rescues her favorite writer, Paul Sheldon (James Caan) from a snowy auto wreck, she takes it upon herself to nurse him back to health in her homestead.
While director Rob Reiner isn't typically known for his mastery of horror, he perfectly manifests the claustrophobia of Paul's predicament as he gradually recovers. Despite his return to health, he remains unable to escape the clutches of his deranged captor. Bates' unhinged Oscar-winning performance is what truly sells the terror. It's one thing to be in a remote cabin, it's another to be at the mercy of her unique brand of madness.
3. The Evil Dead (1981)
One of the original video nasties from the early 1980s, The Evil Dead is the classic 'cabin in the woods' horror that follows a group of four friends who venture to the wilderness for a weekend away. Shortly after their arrival at the cabin, they creep into the basement and unleash an ancient summoning ritual that conjures an evil within the woods. What results is a now-cult classic, an exercise in gory visuals matching the deeply disturbing story at its heart.
The movie's success lies in the passion of its makers. Largely inexperienced at the time, director Sam Raimi, producer Bob Tapert and star Bruce Campbell made the film on a shoestring budget which included lensing in an actual cabin deep in the Tennessee woods.
4. Cabin in the Woods (2012)
No list about cabin in the woods movies would be complete without mentioning Cabin In The Woods. Much like Scream's original name Scary Movie, signified its understanding of the genre, Cabin in the Woods similarly makes no bones about what it is. Written by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard over the course of a weekend, the former referred to it as a 'love hate letter' to the genre. The film itself is a playful riff on horror tropes that incorporates horror rules into its story.
As you might expect, the story begins when four stereotypical teens – led by a pre-MCU Chris Hemsworth – pile into a car for a trip away to a peaceful, secluded cabin in the woods. All is well until they venture into the basement, where a library of strange artifacts derails their plans. Go in knowing as little as possible and you'll be pleasantly surprised.
5. Honeymoon (2012)
You may recognize Honeymoon's leading actor Rose Leslie from her role as Jon Snow's romantic interest in Game of Thrones, but make no mistake: Leslie isn't treading the same ground here. Her performance as Bea in this 2014 flick hails from an altogether more eerie and sinister place. She appears alongside Harry Treadaway, the duo playing recent newlyweds who take to an isolated shack to celebrate their recent nuptials.
After strange lights start to appear in the sky and locals start to go missing, the pair find their lives forever changed. Directed by Leigh Janiak, who since delivered the stellar trio of Fear Street slashers, this gem flew under the radar at time-of-release. But don't sleep on it now. Its exploration of the bonds of marriage through the isolated cabin setup is one worth experiencing.
6. Hush (2016)
At a house in the middle of nowhere, a killer picks off unsuspecting teens one-by-one under cover of darkness. It's a premise perfected throughout the 1980s in countless teen slashers but you've never seen it quite like this before. In Hush, Mike Flanagan subverts those expectations by tweaking the formula. In this chilling thriller, co-written with star Kate Siegel, the action follows a deaf author who lives a secluded life in the woods.
Without access to that sense, her ordeal at the hands of a masked madman is transformed. Events unfold from her perspective in an eerie manner – we watch as she soundlessly prepares dinner, all the while the killer watches from the window. It's an exercise in true terror that might make you rethink that solo camping trip…
The Blackening premieres in theatres on June 16! See it at Regal.