Best Horror Film of 2012: "The Cabin in the Woods"

Photo Credit: Lionsgate
August 30th, 2012

Best Horror Film of 2012: "The Cabin in the Woods"

-- Every horror film has certain elements which make it a horror film. First, a horror film must have at least one killer and one victim. This is the crux of a horror film; the killer chases or otherwise torments his potential victims, and the victims are killed one-by-one, while the rest spend the remainder of the film fleeing the killer. Second, the killings tend to be violent, gruesome or otherwise bizarre in nature. No one dies in their sleep in a horror film. Lastly, a horror film must illicit an emotional response, the most popular being fear, but dread and the realization that the things depicted in the movie could really happen are also common responses. Other elements of a horror film can include humor and supernatural elements such as aliens or demons.

Even though a movie might have all of the above-mentioned elements, that does not mean it is a great horror film. If the plot is not believable, then the movie won't work, no matter how many creative ways are used to kill the characters. For example, campers being killed at Camp Crystal Lake was believable and helped make "Friday the 13th" a huge hit. Also, if the audience does not like the characters enough to root for them to live, then the movie will have issues at the box office as well. Everyone wanted Laurie to defeat Michael Myers in "Halloween."

These are the key elements used to judge the greatness of a horror film, and our 2012 pick for best horror film satisfies all these elements and then some. There have been several good horror films in 2012 so far; for example, the Alien prequel that's not a prequel (according to Ridley Scott), "Prometheus," and two movies which are realistic to a fault, "Dark Tide" and "The Grey," but our pick for the best horror film of 2012 (so far) is "The Cabin in the Woods."

Written by Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon ("Buffy," "Angel"), and directed by Goddard, "The Cabin in the Woods" combines all the elements of horror without going over the top and becoming campy or cheesy. Not that there is no campiness to the film, but it is the right amount of camp to give the movie some comic relief, without earning it a B-movie rating.

The plot of the movie, which includes secret agencies, psychological experimentation and strange deaths, is enough to keep you entertained, but it also makes you wonder if such a thing could happen in real life. The characters are believable and likeable, and Whedon and Goddard do an excellent job of introducing practically every stereotypical horror film personality into the movie, from the pure virgin to the victim whose demise does not necessarily make you sad. Not only are they all present, they all work together to create an interesting and diverse ensemble that is just trying to stay alive.

"The Cabin in the Woods" is a slasher film with so many other elements thrown in, it should trip all over itself, but the plot is so well-written that all the elements work. The casting could not be better. Kristen Connolly as the pure girl, Dana, Chris Hemsworth as the stud, Curt, and Fran Kranz as the stoner, Marty, are all believable characters. The villains are portrayed perfectly by Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins, though at first you aren't sure which side they are on, and as the movie progresses, you're still not sure. The rest of the casting is impressive as well.

Although it is a horror film, the scariest aspect about "The Cabin in the Woods" is not how people die, though they are killed in some rather unique, bizarre and almost comical ways. The scariest thing about the film is the realization that something like this could actually happen. It is not hard to fathom a secret government agency concocting a plan to study human behavior by trapping a group of people in a location and creating situations to see how they react. This is not the only plot point in the film, but past the killings and the attempts to escape, these realizations are not far from your mind.

If you get the opportunity to watch 'The Cabin in the Woods," by all means, do so. It will undoubtedly find itself in the horror film hall of fame, because it seamlessly covers all the elements of a classic horror film by scaring you, making you think and keeping you entertained from the first scene to the last.