By: Bailey Smith
For me, as I’m sure is the same for many people in our class, last week was characterized by imbibing unnecessarily huge amounts of food and sitting around in front of the fireplace doing absolutely nothing of value. Sometimes I would sit there and talk to my family, sometimes I would sit and eat, and sometimes I would watch a movie. On Friday, I decided to suck up my fear and watch The Cabin in the Woods (watch the trailer here) with my younger brother. The completely paralyzing terror that shot up and down my body the entire time demonstrated to me absolutely nothing about the quality of the movie. Recall that I slept in my parents’ bed approximately four nights in a row after watching The Grudge. What did convince me of this movie’s merit, however, was the way my brother reacted. He, too, was terrified at the events playing out on screen. As the credits rolled, we looked at each other and broke out in nervous laughter. Both of us were completely convinced that the movie had to have been nominated for some sort of award. We first checked Rotten Tomatoes, whose critics gave it a score of 92%. Movies have been nominated and have even won Oscars with lower scores than this. After extensive research, however, we discovered that The Cabin in the Woods neither won nor was even nominated for a single Oscar. Incredulous, I did further research. It won a British Fantasy Award for Best Screenplay. It won a Saturn Award for Best Thriller or Horror Film. It won the Fangoria Chainsaw Award in five different categories. But there was no acknowledgement from the Academy at all (as you can see from the websites alone, they are considerably less esteemed than the Academy Awards).
Looking further, I found that very rarely have any horror films been nominated for or won Academy Awards. Some exceptions include Rosemary’s Baby, which won Best Supporting Actress in 1968, Silence of the Lambs, which won Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Writing in 1991, and The Exorcist, which won for Best Sound and Screenplay in 1973. These three movies, however, are nothing but a tiny sample of the excellent horror movies that have been produced since the beginning of film.
I began to ponder why horror films are so frequently ignored by the Academy Awards. I thought that perhaps it was the lack of true cerebral content that so many movies are characterized by. Horror movies are often rated based on their ability to scare the viewers, rather than on their merit as films. It is often difficult to coax forth true meaning from horror movies, and rarely do they contain any deeper message about society. I also considered that it is difficult to become attached to any character when watching a horror movie, because there is such a pressing possibility of death. Perhaps this prohibits true connection with the movie. Finally, I considered that it could be fear itself that prevents people from thinking of horror movies as truly excellent cinema. By acknowledging that the movies are, in fact, good, people may feel that they are opening the possibility that the events of the movie could happen to them.
These were just a few of the thoughts that crossed my mind in regards to horror and the Oscars. I am curious to see what the rest of the class thinks.