The 91st Oscars have shown horror fans we’re still not welcome. Despite a nomination for A Quiet Place, Suspiria and Hereditary were shut out.
We thought we had come so far after Get Out and The Shape of Water found their way into Best Picture last year. Truly, it had been a landmark year for monsters and the things that go bump in the night, with Jordan Peele and Guillermo del Toro taking many of the biggest prizes of the 90th Oscars. Yet the 91st Oscars reminded us that horror films are still not welcome at the big show.
The Oscars are not the be-all and end-all of movies and film culture, but for many young cinephiles, the awards show helps shape the canon of films they need to watch. Last year’s Oscars provided hope for horror fans, and there were plenty of reasons to suggest that the 91st Oscars could continue the positive steps taken. It turns out that Suspiria, Hereditary, and A Quiet Place were popular with everyone except for those who vote on the Oscars.A Quiet Place — Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
Last month, I gave a list of several performances worthy of love from the Academy. To not overload the list with a few films, I even topped out my movies with only two nominations each. This caused me to ignore brilliant work from Millicent Simmonds and Milly Shapiro, both of which made my personal ballot in awards where I voted.
Yet there were many other categories that horror should have competed, but never really stood a chance. Obviously, A Quiet Place found its way into the only nomination for the genre with its sound nomination, but why weren’t Suspiria or Hereditary in those discussions?— Cody Carpenter, John Carpenter, and Daniel Davies, photo by Sophie Gransard
What about the use of music in Halloween, which would have given the Academy a chance to reward John Carpenter for his iconic career as a director and a composer? Thom Yorke, the lead singer, and songwriter for Radiohead, made the shortlist for Best Original Song for “Suspirium,” but did not convert to a nomination. Marco Beltrami made the shortlist for his work in A Quiet Place. He too was left out of the final five.
Even Toni Collette, who earned the second most critics prizes of any lead actress this year, did not find her way into the best five. Emily Blunt received two nominations at the Screen Actors Guild awards, including one for her performance in A Quiet Place. Again, she missed a nomination.
So what does this tell us about horror and the Oscars? The first feels pretty obvious, but it needs to be said that Get Out was an aberration. It was a film with a unique approach to the genre, crafting a part horror, part thriller, but excelled because Jordan Peele tapped into the zeitgeist regarding race in America.
It is unlikely a film built solely to scare audiences will ever get that recognition for Best Picture. Those days are done, especially with the expanding amount of content that gets released on a yearly basis. The next horror film that gets into Best Picture will need to carry a strong message within its narrative to break through.Jordan Peele’s Get Out — Courtesy of Blumhouse Productions
The second issue facing the genre is the stepping stool mentality. Most directors do not approach the genre as the way to get their Oscar nomination, but instead, approach it as a way to elevate their profile for their next great film.
James Wan eventually traded in his chips to make Furious 7 and Aquaman. Trey Edward Schultz turned the success of It Comes at Night into Waves, which seems to be a jukebox musical set in Miami. David Robert Mitchell filmed a pseudo-LA noir Under the Silver Lake. Sadly, the talent does not tend to stay within the genre.
The exception might be Peele, who genuinely loves horror and has another very stylish looking film in Us just around the corner. With Peele’s cultural influence, he could keep eyes on the genre, while he continues to tell unique and interesting stories. He might be the best ambassador for awards shows like the Oscars, and we should be happy to support his artistic and complicated work.
As for the year ahead, there are a few potential films that could find their way into the discussion, and shockingly, it does not end with Peele’s Us. Keep an eye out for Sundance Film Festival titles, including Memory – The Origins of Alien, The Lodge (a film from the directors of Goodbye Mommy), Little Monsters (a zombie rom-com starring Lupita Nyong’o, Josh Gad, and Alexander England), and Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile, a biopic of Ted Bundy starring Zac Efron. Perhaps even Velvet Buzzsaw can break in somewhere.
All things considered 2019, could look worse. In the meantime, we should not look for validation for the genre at big awards shows. Sadly, it seems those audiences don’t have the stomach for the genre we all know and love.
For 2018, horror fans can take solace that horror films were not completely ignored. A Quiet Place earned its spot in the Best Sound Editing category, with masterful work from Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van Der Ryn. Other than that, the message was clear: we don’t belong at the ceremony, no matter how big the movies we make become.
What do you think will cause the Oscars to take notice of horror films? Let us hear your thoughts in the comments below!