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Slayage Special Issue: Critical Reflections on The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
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Slayage: The Journal of the Joss Whedon Studies Association
Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard’s recent horror film, The Cabin in the Woods (2012, produced 2010), was released to general critical praise, but left many fans and scholar-fans divided regarding the film’s love-hate relationship with the genre, its framing of the horror audience as both savvy and deluded, and its simultaneous celebration and ridicule of horror conventions.
Trading on character types of the 1980s Slasher film, but decidedly not a Slasher film in any other way, Cabin left many viewers wondering how to place the film: Is it a deconstruction of a horror genre in a state of crisis? A fraught film, caught between the sensibilities of a “visionary” Whedon and the horror fanboy approach of Goddard? Is it a satire? A comedy? Or is it, as Whedon has intimated in several interviews, an ethical interrogation of horror’s ostensible turn to “torture porn,” a contested term in scholarship identifying a trend of spectacle horror in films as diverse as Mel Gibson’s splatter-prone The Passion of Christ (2004), Eli Roth’s interesting hybrid, Hostel (2005), and recent French philosophical horror film, Martyrs (2008)?
Regardless of how successful one gauges The Cabin in the Woods as critique, Whedon and Goddard have created their film as a commentary on the state of the horror genre specifically, and horror artistry, reception, and viewership more generally. If the film is an act of horror criticism, then it is largely in line with the most popular critical concepts applied to horror since the 1970s—that of Carol Clover’s trend-setting (and over-applied) work on the “final girl,” and of feminist criticism of the male “gaze” initiated by Laura Mulvey and then debated in the work of Linda Williams, Carol Clover, Cynthia Freeland, and others.
This special issue of Slayage hopes to generate discussion around The Cabin in the Woods within a number of contexts: historical, cultural, commercial, artistic, generic, thematic, theoretical. We especially encourage essays that take on The Cabin in the Woods’s own theoretical pretensions—around the cinematic gaze, media saturation, surveillance, horror fandom, horror genre conventions, other genre conventions, horror viewership, monsters and monstrosity, corporatized media, the Hollywood “dream machine,” and so on. Illuminating comparisons to recent trends in horror in cinema and on television (not necessarily related to Whedon’s or Goddard’s other work), as well as to specific films from any era of horror, are most welcome.
Please send a proposal of not more than 250 words to Jasie Stokes (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Kristopher Woofter (email@example.com) by Friday, 7 June, 2013. Begin your email subject line with the following “tag”: [Cabin].