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The Forgotten Oscars 2013: Our annual celebration of unsung sci-fi, horror, and action films

By MICHAEL NEEL  |  February 27, 2013

022213_CabinintheWoods

Best Picture: Cabin in the Woods
Release Date: April 13

SPOILER ALERT: If you have any intention of seeing The Cabin in the Woods then stop reading right now. This film only works if you have no idea about it going in. Trust me.

Horror is in a funny place right now — stalled, perhaps. The major horror genres have been saturated: hardcore so-called “torture porn” like Hostel or Saw, found footage films like Paranormal Activity, and zombies, zombies, zombies. Sure, there are a lot of great films from these categories (and a lot of crappy ones, too — much as I love the horror genre, when horror flicks are bad they’re really bad) but I’m growing tired of these trends. I’m bored with the overall sadistic, dire, and brutal tone of horror. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed ultra-intense flicks of recent years such as Martyrs, Inside, The Loved Ones, Hostel Part 2, and many more, but I’m just in the mood for something new.

Horror, like any kind of art, goes in cycles. ' 70s horror films were equally hardcore as the films of today, and horror filmmakers in the '80s added a lighter tone and often comedy to the mix, creating horror for everybody, best exemplified by the films of Freddy Krueger (from the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise) and Jason Voorhees (from the Friday the 13th franchise). These films were so popular that their star slashers became larger than life: Freddy appearing on lunch boxes and Jason visiting David Letterman. Horror took a hit in the late 80s, as the MPAA decided to protect the nation’s children from the horrors of latex severed spines and gooey jello brains, and as a result the genre became stale and Freddy and Jason lost their relevance. In 1996, Scream re-invented the genre, creating the first horror film in which the characters were, for all intents and purposes, aware that they were in a horror film. This launched the self-reflective horror boom, which itself became played-out and saturated until Hostel came along in 2005 and tapped us into the hardcore vein we’ve been in ever since — and is currently played out. Right now, the direction of horror is uncertain, so there has never been a better time for a film like The Cabin in the Woods, which is made for all of the genres at once.

SPOILER RE-ALERT — last warning. Seriously, knowing anything about this film completely ruins it.

The title “Cabin in the Woods” refers to the setting of one of the most overused plots in horror: several [scientists/horny teens/horny college kids/horny scientists] go to a cabin in the woods to [take shelter from a storm/investigate some strange noise/enjoy a fun summer romp full of weed, skinny dipping, and booze], only to be [murdered in increasingly creative ways/made into sausage/raped by trees]. And, indeed, in this film a group of college kids go to a cabin in the woods, and as a horror audience we’re pretty sure that we know where this is going. I’m treading lightly here, because in case you can’t guess from my multiple spoiler warnings, this film only works if you don’t know any of the key elements of it. What I can safely say is that this movie uses the cabin in the woods framework in a way that I haven’t seen before, and that it takes all of the previous movements in horror — the hardcore 70s, accessible and funny 80s, self-reflective late 90s/early 2000s, and hardcore late 2000s to the present — and mixes them together in an entertaining and unique film that is made specifically for horror fans.

>> READ: Phoenix review of Cabin in the Woods <<

Cabin in the Woods is more than just a film: it’s a statement about this moment in time in modern horror, trying to nail down this crossroads at which we find ourselves. It’s a great film — funny, horrific, tense, and drenched in bloody gore — but more than that it’s an important film. Some have called it a game-changer, but I don’t know about that, since the film is so unique that it would be difficult to imitate and franchise. I don’t think that it will inspire hordes of other similar films in the way that Jason Voorhees or Hostel did. But it’s time for horror to shift yet again, and Cabin in the Woods might mark the moment where this movement takes place. There’s no way to be sure until years from now, but I have a hunch that it is, and that’s enough to make it Best Picture.

Michael Neel is the co-creator of anthology-horror-filmDrive-In HorrorShowand animated web seriesInfinite Santa 8000. He can be reached at:mailto:mike@grimfilms.com.

PREVIOUS FORGOTTEN OSCAR WINNERS:

Forgotten Oscars 2012

Forgotten Oscars 2011

Forgotten Oscars 2010

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