Phantasmagoria Features: In Recognition of Horror
By Corey Schjoth
Horror has been a very popular genre with audiences since the beginning of cinema. From Thomas Edison making the very first film featuring Frankenstein in 1910 to Lon Chaney Sr. becoming a movie star in films like Phantom of the Opera and The Unholy Three to films of today, horror has always had a longevity of popularity, but not so much with prestige awards.
When Jordan Peele’s Get Out gained four Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Directing, Best Actor in a Leading Role and Original Screenplay I was very thrilled to see such an original movie with such contemporary subject matter gain the high recognition it rightly deserved. My hopes rose thinking that maybe this horror movie would win for Best Picture. The Academy Awards rarely gives the award for Best Picture to a horror movie. There have been only a small number of films in the genre that have even been nominated for Best Picture; like The Exorcist (1973), Jaws (1975), The Silence of the Lambs (1991), The Sixth Sense (1999), Black Swan (2010) and Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) which was also nominated for Best Foreign Film--and so far, only The Silence of the Lambs has won.
Does the Academy Awards hate horror movies? Not necessarily. Horror films tend to land Oscars for more technical nominations, like visual effects, make-up effects, sound effects…etc. In those areas of movie making horror has always been ground breaking and stunning. But Oscars for acting and directing tend to go towards more “respectable” genres like drama. The acting range tends to be better and the subject matter tends to showcase the actors' range. I personally feel this assessment by the Academy Awards is a bit unfair to the horror genre.
I have always felt the horror genre has been a mirror to society's hopes, fears and taboos of the era. Looking back through the history of each decade one could see what horror movies were popular during that time and know what issues we struggled with and tried to come to terms with, real or imagined. Horror has allowed us as a society to directly face those fears and anxieties in a very effective way. Horror has always been influential, and has allowed many young film makers to become noticed and break in to the film industry. New actors have also benefited from the horror genre and become iconic from their memorable rolls.
I will be watching the Academy Awards with eager anticipation going forward, hoping the horror genre will finally get more of the recognition it rightly deserves. But if it doesn’t I will continue to watch for the next quality horror film coming up, and feel sadness for the Academy because they are missing out on such a great genre that attracts passionate fans willing to support the horror movies they love--and who are willing to direct others to those great films. A good horror film never dies.
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