Horror Movies: Almost Famous

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. 

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6 thoughts on “Horror Movies: Almost Famous

  1. That’s really interesting that you thought about this after watching Cabin in the Woods! Growing up, I watched horror movies all the time. Safe to say, I was obsessed. However, I agree that I just watched them because I liked being scared, I never watched a scary movie because someone recommended it to me or because I heard it was a fantastic movie. I’d be curious to see all of the reviews that horror movies get. Although some horror movies do lack a good plot, some actually are fantastic movies.

  2. Joss Whedon is an excellent writer, and I’m actually surprised that he hasn’t been nominated for more prestigious awards. But I think it’s the reputation that precedes horror that makes the Academy nervous, the Senate hearings about horror comics mirror the Senate hearings during the Red Scare that affected Hollywood terribly, so there’s few good feelings that come with horror as a genre. Sidebar: One of the actresses in the movie, Anna Hutchinson, has an eerily similar name to a woman called the Puritan Prophet named Anne Hutchinson who was kicked out of her community in colonial Massachusetts for over stepping her bounds as a woman in the church, much like horror seems to overstep the bounds of what is acceptable in mainstream media.

  3. I think it is interesting that horror cinema is also often regarded as lowbrow just like horror literature. Since this genre has been overlooked for years, I am not surprised that only a few horror movies have won “prestigious” awards. I also wonder what horror will need to do to change this stigma. For as long as horror is not accepted by the rest of the literary and cinema communities, I do not see the awards situation changing anytime soon.

  4. Good observation. Overall the only reason I could think of is when you said, “it could be fear itself that prevents people from thinking of horror movies as truly excellent cinema”. I’ve seen a lot of good horror movies, some better in quality and in rating that films of other genres other than horror. Not sure why this is the case though. A lot of time people frown upon horror movies, saying that they’re “stupid” or “predictable” and I agree (not with them being stupid but I agree about some of them being predictable) maybe that has something to do why they haven’t often been nominated for these awards. But I agree with Olivia, I doubt anything changes in that any horror movies will be nominated for this type of award any time soon.

  5. I’ve never thought about horror movies in regards to academy awards or any awards at all. I have seen Cabin in the Woods yet but I’ve heard good things about it and after reading this post it has definitely moved up on my list of priorities. It’s really interesting that so few horror movies have been given prestigious awards, but when contemplating the possible reasons for this I actually had a hard time coming up with horror films that are worth of such awards. A lot of horror movies are characterized mostly by elements of surprise, over-dramatic music and gore. None of these aspects gives it any substantial merit. Although, the idea that people are so scared by these movies that they are simply too horrified to even consider them for awards fascinated me as well. This relates to our idea about Slender Man where the more you think about him the more likely he is to haunt you. Also, after hearing about Poltergeist and the creepy coincidences about the filming and the actors, I wouldn’t want to get myself involved with horror movies either.

  6. I find myself at odds with the critics and the people that award all the fancy movie awards. Most of the movies they find to be of high quality I do not find scary at all and I am actually in shock of why they end up winning awards. Perhaps horror should be a category entirely eliminated from the current award systems and given its own, equally as acclaimed, award show.

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