When Re-occurring Themes Become Cliché

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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

When Re-occurring Themes Become Cliché

So I’m watching Cabin In The Woods with my daughter a few weeks ago in the living room on a Sunday afternoon.  I have seen it once already and my daughter has seen it many more times than that but she wanted to see it again and I figured what the hell.  My wife is in the dining room catching up on email and half listening to what is coming out of the TV.  Not to ruin anything for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, and to make vague references to those who have seen it, I only really get interested once we get to “Dana and Marty find the elevator.”

We get a short time past that point when across the room I hear my wife say our family’s code word for something intellectual is about to come out of someone’s mouth and I must have everyone’s undivided attention, “Pause!”  My daughter and I stop the film and turn to receive the great wisdom that is about to be enunciated when my wife looks me dead in the face and says, “You ever notice how modern horror movies seems to borrow their plots from old episodes of Scooby-doo, Where Are You?  I mean using this one for example, there’s Fred and Daphne.  Marty is Shaggy and Dana is Velma, which I guess makes the other guy Scooby.  Five friends in a van go somewhere spooky and find a monster.  That’s every Scooby-doo episode I ever saw.”  And like most wisdoms that comes from my way-smarter-than-me wife, I stored it away in the back of my brain and went back to the movie.

Now I will assume that if you have digital cable like me you can search for upcoming movies for the next two weeks and I do that a lot looking for horror and sci-fi I either haven’t seen or haven’t seen in a while.  Want to guess what I started to notice in the horror movie descriptions?

Evil Dead (1981) - Five friends travel to a cabin in the woods, where they unknowingly release flesh-possessing demons.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) - Five friends visiting their grandpa's old house are hunted down and terrorized by a chainsaw wielding killer and his family of grave-robbing cannibals.

Death By Dialogue (1988) - A guy and four of his friends visit his crippled uncle, a taxidermist who lives with his housekeeper next to a movie set. Pretty soon people start being killed in the manner they are in the script of the movie being filmed next door.

The Darkest Hour (2011) - In Moscow, five young people lead the charge against an alien race who have attacked Earth via our power supply.

Husk (2011) - A group of friends (5) stranded near a desolate cornfield find shelter in an old farmhouse, though they soon discover the dwelling is the center of a supernatural ritual.

Altitude (2010) - After a mysterious malfunction sends their small plane climbing out of control, a rookie pilot and her four teenage friends find themselves trapped in a deadly showdown with a supernatural force.

Cabin Fever (2002) - A group of five college graduates rent a cabin in the woods and begin to fall victim to a horrifying flesh-eating virus, which attracts the unwanted attention of the homicidal locals.

Pumpkinhead (1988) - A man conjures up a gigantic vengeance demon called Pumpkinhead to destroy the teenagers (5) who accidentally killed his son.

There’s Nothing Out There (1991) - Seven teens head up to a cabin on the lake for spring break. Mike has studied all horror films on video, and recognizes the signs of foreshadowing of doom.

Just Before Dawn (1981) - Five campers arrive in the mountains to examine some property they have bought, but are warned by the forest ranger Roy McLean that a huge machete-wielding maniac has been terrorizing the area.

The Creeper (1977) - Five doctors on a wilderness outing are stalked by disfigured, crazed killers.

Hmm, seems to be a pattern.  Group of [Odd Number, Usually Five] friends go somewhere kind of creepy and get into all kinds of trouble with a vaguely supernatural creature when they accidentally awaken it with their [sex, drug use, music, harassing the disabled, screwing around with the occult, forming a union, organizing a bake sale, etc..]

So with the obvious cliché in horror movies I announce my upcoming script is now available for purchase by a big studio.  It involves a High School Concert Choir (55 students), their bus driver, choir director and her assistant (58 total) suffering a bus breakdown in the middle of a rural cornfield.  When one of the students leaves to find help they return almost immediately with a strange book they found in the cornfield.  The book has words written on the cover in a strange language that is immediately recognized by one of the other students who happens to also be hardcore into AD&D as runic.  It says “Evil Comes To Those Who Open This Book.”  So they don’t and the tow truck shows up 45 minutes later since someone had a cell phone and tows the bus back to the closest civilization…But they never make the choir performance and bring shame to their High School.  Throw in a creepy scarecrow just leering at them the whole time and maybe some random nudity.  Scary Stuff Huh?

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