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THE EVIL DEAD (1981), picked by Joss Whedon and Kristen Connolly
Director Sam Raimi's demented ghoulfest is an obvious influence on The Cabin in the Woods — and a favorite of Cabin co-writer Whedon. ''That's such a classic of: 'We want to frighten you and then we're just going to lose... our... minds,' '' says the Buffy creator. ''It's a film that actually, on its own terms, goes insane. I'm a fan of Polanski's Repulsion and The Tenant, which are also quite insane. But Raimi's insanity is more like a party.'' Raimi's party also finds favor with Cabin in the Woods star Connolly. ''We watched the Evil Dead movies in preproduction,'' says the actress, who plays one of Cabin's five hero-victims, the virginal Dana. ''I had no idea how nuts they were. The evil raping tree! I felt like I was on drugs watching it. I was like, What the s--- is going on here?''
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THE SIXTH SENSE (1999), picked by Chris Hemsworth
Hemsworth became a star playing the fearless superhero Thor — a role he reprises in the forthcoming, Whedon-directed The Avengers — but the Cabin star stayed up for nights after seeing M. Night Shyamalan's breakthrough chiller. ''I couldn't sleep,'' he recalls. ''If that's the purpose of a horror film — to scare the hell out of you — then it certainly achieved that. I remember at the age of 16 or 17 looking in the corner, waiting for some [laughs] ghost to walk past and start speaking to me. It's one of those things that could be true. It didn't fall into the category of being so ridiculous that, 'Okay, I can separate this from reality.' It was so truthful it hit me in some way.''
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NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968), DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978; pictured), DAY OF THE DEAD (1985), picked by Joss Whedon
Cabin co-writer Whedon once said that he would like to be ''Spielberg by way of George Romero'' and remains a huge fan of the latter's first three zombie movies. ''The Romero trilogy is absolutely essential,'' he says. ''I think he's still the only person who really understands what he was doing with the zombie genre.''
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THE THING (1981), picked by Drew Goddard
''I have so many favorite horror movies but if I had to pick one, I guess I would say The Thing,'' says Cabin in the Woods director and co-writer Goddard. ''It's just perfect. It captures the social metaphor while at the same time scaring the hell out of you. And I think it might be the most beautiful movie ever shot. It is a gorgeous, elegant film, which it doesn't quite get enough credit for. There's nobody better than [John] Carpenter. I love him.''
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THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD (1951), picked by Richard Jenkins
While Drew Goddard nominates John Carpenter's The Thing, Cabin costar Jenkins prefers the original 1951 adaptation of John W. Campbell's alien tale, which was directed by Christian Nyby and, so rumor has it, an uncredited Howard Hawks. ''Being as old as I am, I go back to the original Thing with James Arness,'' says the actor. ''I love it because it's funny — the dialogue, these guys never stop talking. It comes out of nervousness, in trying to solve the problem. You never know, when a door opens, whether HE's going to be there or not.''
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A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984), picked by Joss Whedon
Wes Craven's shocker is another favorite of Cabin co-writer Whedon. ''It's an extraordinarily smart premise and it's very well realized and he's terrifying,'' says Whedon. ''You know, it's so easy to blow dreams. They're the hardest thing to film. But when you get it right, it's really exciting.''
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THE DESCENT (2005), picked by Kristen Connolly
Brit director Neil Marshall's terrifying tale of doomed spelunkers was another film watched by the Cabin cast during pre-production. ''I loved it,'' says Connolly. ''All the actors are invested. You totally buy it. I was totally blown away.''
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HALLOWEEN (1978), picked by Drew Goddard
John Carpenter's slasher movie was a key influence on The Cabin in the Woods which, like Halloween, features a virginal heroine and, like almost all of the director's oeuvre, concludes in unforgettable fashion. ''There is nobody better at ending movies than John Carpenter,'' says Cabin director Goddard. ''He has many skills but that's one of his best and I'm not sure he'd gotten enough credit for it. Even his movies that are less successful have incredible endings. So it delights me that you make any comparison.''
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JAWS (1975), picked by Fran Kranz
Cabin actor Kranz concedes the Steven Spielberg classic is, technically, ''not a horror movie. But it scared me more than anything — I can't even get in a pool without thinking a shark is in there. It's not like I can't get into a pool. I love to swim. But I'm always thinking there's sharks around.''
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THE IRON LADY (2011), picked by Bradley Whitford
The biopic of Margaret Thatcher — for which Meryl Streep won the Best Actress Award at this year's Oscars — would seem to be even less of a horror movie than Jaws. But it still gave goosebumps to Cabin actor, and Democratic campaigner Bradley Whitford. ''Scared the s--- out of me,'' says the West Wing vet. ''She doesn't deserve to be [played by Meryl Streep]. It's like Sarah Palin does not deserve to be played by Julianne Moore.''