• Editorial

6 Modern Horror Movies Snubbed by the Academy Awards - Matt Butler

Let’s be honest here, The Academy Awards does not take horror seriously. There are a select few films that have made it past the Oscars checklist but in general, you’re lucky if you find anything even horror adjacent on that nominations list. Out of the 500+ movies that have been nominated for the Best Picture, only six of them have ever been horror movies…That’s just over 1% of our favourite genre being represented in what is supposed to be the best of the best in film.

‘Get Out’ (2017) and ‘Black Swan’ (2011) are the only horror films to have won an Oscar in the last 10 years. Other films such as ‘The Lighthouse’ and ‘A Quiet Place’ have received nominations for Cinematography and Sound Design respectively, but never managed to clinch that all important win.

There have been many films that identify as horror that have quite frankly been snubbed by the Academy. So, I wanted to look at the last ten years and identify some of the films I believe could have, should have and would have made excellent additions to the Oscar’s line up – let's break up those biopics and war films with a bit of blood and gore!

Best Picture - Hereditary [2018]

'Hereditary' tells the story of a grieving family who unravel sinister secrets about their ancestry and the fate they have inherited. It was one of the most talked about films of 2018 and had massive Oscar buzz surrounding its release. The film launched Ari Aster into the public eye and received great acclaim from critics for its screenplay, directing and score. When the 91st Academy Awards nominations were announced, it was very surprising to see this one was totally overlooked for Best Picture.

This was spine-tingling combination of horror, drama and thriller that kept audiences on the edge of their seat from start to finish. Each member of the family deals with grief and trauma in different ways, with it becoming clear that something supernatural is going on beneath the surface. It is a true whirlwind of a movie, and you are never quite sure you know what’s happening until you’re watching the horror play out as you hide behind your pillow.

Whilst I can’t fault any of the other nominees in the Best Picture category that year – we don’t need to put down others to boost someone else up – it was interesting to see that the academy only nominated 8 films as opposed to the 9 in previous years. This means that there was a potential slot available for this film which ended up with a total of zero nominations. With 'Get Out' having been nominated the year before, many expected that horror would make more of an appearance in the Academy Awards moving forward, only to be left sadly disappointed.

Best Actress, Elisabeth Moss - The Invisible Man [2020]

Let’s not beat around the bush here, 2020 was a bad year for films. With cinemas closed and city streets looking like the set of 28 Days Later, it was no surprise that most new movies opted to push their release dates to 2021 and beyond. However, 'The Invisible Man' was one of the few films to get a theatrical release before the world went into lockdown. This should have made it a shoo-in for the Academy Awards – so I was livid when Nick and Priyanka didn’t announce that this film had been nominated back in March.

'The Invisible Man' is a dark sci-fi thriller about a woman who believes she is being stalked by her abusive ex-boyfriend following his apparent suicide. It’s tense, it’s creepy and it will make you question every floorboard creek in your house for the rest of your life.

Elisabeth Moss’s performance as architect, Cecilia, is masterfully done. Being stalked by your invisible ex is an insane situation to find any character in, but Moss’s performance really bridges that gap between absurdity and entertainment and keeps the audience fully engaged throughout. There is a lot said in the body language and subtle expressions in this story, as the characters never knew when they are being watched, and Moss brings each of these moments to life. Not to mention the fact that she was reacting to an invisible antagonist, it truly was a test of her acting chops and boy did she ace this one.

Best Original Screenplay - Cabin In The Woods [2012]

Written by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard,' Cabin in The Woods' tells the story of a group of college students who fall victim to a ‘zombie-redneck-torture-family’ being manipulated by a secret underground facility.

Okay, so this is a controversial one. I do not condone anything that Whedon may have done, lets make that clear, however, I stand by my statement that Cabin in The Woods deserved a nomination for Best Original Screenplay. How many stories can give you a paint-by-numbers genre piece, whilst simultaneously subverting all the tropes you have come to know. It was, without a doubt, an original concept and it breathed new life into both the slasher and meta-horror genres. In fact, it out meta-d the meta-horror in a way that had not been done since its conception in ‘Scream’ back in 1996 – another movie which was robbed of a screenplay nomination by the way.

I distinctly remember watching this film in the cinema and I think it’s an experience I will remember until I am horrifically murdered by The Ancient Ones. I knew very little about it going in and I was completely and utterly blown away. I truly loved every second and it became an instant classic for me and many other horror fans.

Had 'Cabin in The Woods' been considered at the 85th Academy Awards, it would have competed against 'Flight', 'Django Unchained', 'Zero Dark Thirty', 'Amour' and 'Moonrise Kingdom'. That is some tough competition, but interestingly 'Cabin in The Woods' is more highly rated on Rotten Tomatoes than 3 of these films, and just 1% lower than the other two – so who knows what could have been!

Best Production Design - Midsommar [2019]

'Midsommar' is a 2019 folk horror written and directed by Ari Aster. It tells the story of Dani, a young woman who travels to Sweden following a traumatic event and unknowingly takes part in a deadly festival organised by a pagan cult.

I distinctly remember being shocked that this movie was not nominated for an Academy Award last year. I thought it bordered on drama, enough that the Academy would see past its horror roots and deservedly crown Florence Pugh as the May Queen once and for all. However, as incredible as she was in this movie, she did receive a nomination for her performance in Little Women the same year. So, forgive me, Flo, but I’m not going to fight your corner on this one as I believe there was an even bigger snub taking place for this movie - 'Midsommar' was robbed of an Oscar nomination for production design.

Everything about this movie was iconic, but none more than its production design. The locations, the set pieces, the buildings, the artwork…everything about this movie’s aesthetic was stunning. The way the bright and airy festival starts to feel closed in and isolated as we learn more and more about the cult is inspired. I will never be able to look at a triangular building again without thinking about this movie. It truly was art and it deserved so much more recognition than it got.

Best Original Score - Under The Skin [2013]

This 2013 sci-fi horror stars Scarlet Johannsson as an otherworldly woman preying on young men in Scotland. It provided a unique concept, portraying the world we know through the perspective of an extra-terrestrial. There is zero doubt in my mind that this movie was robbed in broad daylight by the Academy.

Although not a financial success, 'Under the Skin' was well received by audiences and critics alike and was even listed on the BBC’s 100 greatest films of the 21st Century. Frankly this film could have been nominated for several categories, including Best Actress, Best Director (Johnathan Glazer), Best Visual Effects and even Best Picture. However, the one I believe it was robbed of the most is Best Original Score.

Composer Mica Levi created a beautifully uncomfortable soundtrack that perfectly captured ScarJo’s journey of discovery in this new world. The way the music changes throughout the story, shifting from industrial to more natural as The Female becomes more accustomed to her surroundings was a stroke of pure genius. The soundtrack truly was out of this world – see what I did there? – and it both manages to feel familiar and disturbing at the same time.

Best Costume Design - Ready Or Not [2019]

Starring Samara Weaving and Adam Brody, 'Ready or Not' was one of the standout horrors of 2019. It follows bride, Grace, as she fights for her life against her new in-laws in a deadly game of hide-and-seek. I am a bigger fan of the horror comedy than the average person, and I imagine right about now you’re thinking okay, I let you off with Cabin in The Woods, but Ready or Not? Really?

Yes. Really. ‘Ready or Not’ should have received a nomination for Best Costume Design. Everybody in this movie was dressed beautifully, from their wedding outfits to the cult style robes to the flashbacks for that period clothing the Academy love so much. However, nothing in this movie upstages the bride, and Grace’s dress feels like a character in itself. From the pristine clean and white garment during the movie's opening to the blood soaked, ripped and ruined remains during the movie's close, this dress goes through hell and the eye to detail of costume designer Avery Plewes is nothing short of perfect.

If nominated, it would have been the only nomination in that category not to be a period piece of sorts. It likely would have still lost to Little Woman, which featured multiple historically accurate gowns, but it still would have been great to see some recognition thrown towards costume in horror – Do you know how hard it is to get blood out of white lace?!

So, what do you think? Let us know on the socials if you agree with our list, and as always, we would love to hear your personal recommendations.

Matt Butler is an MA Screenwriting graduate and proud member of the LGBT+ community. Can be found on twitter @mjpbutler

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