It’s been 24 years since The Silence of the Lambs shocked Academy Award viewers and took home the statue for Best Picture. That’s right. 24 years. Let’s put that in perspective. The year was 1991. “Grunge” hadn’t yet gone completely mainstream, four American presidents have moved into the White House since, and the term "Internet” was still four years away from being the official name for this beautiful world-changing technology that we all take for granted.
24 years. It seems to me, in all that time, we’d have seen at least ONE horror movie that could have been considered the best of the year.
But let’s get the elephant in the room taken care of right off the bat: was The Silence of the Lambs even a horror movie? It’s a good debate, and there are valid arguments on both sides. I actually tend to view it as more of a twisted, suspenseful thriller. Yet, there were definite horrific elements throughout; two truly sick serial killers, cannibalism, and Jodie Foster getting semen thrown on her (let’s face it, that is still more horrifying than anything in the Saw and Hostel movies). But however you define “horror,” The Silence of the Lambs did have more than enough to fit the category. So, for the sake of argument, let’s just agree that the Jonathan Demme classic was a full-on horror gem.
So we’ve had 24 years of watching films like The English Patient and Forrest Gump take home the coveted Oscar for Best Picture (I admit, I’m still bitter that the latter robbed Pulp Fiction of the statue it so rightfully deserved). But does that mean there have been zero horror movies in all that time that rose to the supposed level of excellence needed to be considered for Oscar gold? I can’t accept that.
Here are just three horror films in the last 24 years that immediately jumped out as worthy Oscar contenders:
The Sixth Sense (1999)
No matter what your opinion is of M. Night Shyamalan these days, the success and near universal praise for this creepy ghost story is undeniable. And this is the closest we’ve come: The Sixth Sense actually was nominated for Best Picture, and during a pretty weak year (The Cider House Rules, The Insider, and The Green Mile), unfortunately nobody was beating American Beauty that year.
The Others (2001)
The Others was a creepy, atmospheric, beautifully made ghost story, with a Nicole Kidman pedigree. But the 2002 awards show went to Ron Howard and A Beautiful Mind. No one else really stood a chance, it was Opie’s time to be ordained by the Academy as a “serious” filmmaker. Not even Peter Jackson and his bloated The Lord of the Rings mess could derail the Howard train.
The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
Not even the newly expanded nominees for Best Picture could get The Cabin in the Woods some Oscar love. Argo was a critical smash and took home the gold, but Cabin could have easily replaced at least a couple of the nominees (Les Miserables and Life of Pi? Really?) Then, as they say, once you’re in the tournament anything can happen. Maybe the voters would’ve seen this on the ballot and thought, “Argo? Nah.” You never know.
To me these are the obvious ones. I’m sure there are even more. And here’s the thing about the three movies above: in the almighty Tomatometer, two of these three “lowly horror films” actually rates higher than many of that year’s nominees, and in one instance, it even scored higher than the actual winner.
The Sixth Sense scores 85%, while The Cider House Rules scores 71% and The Green Mile scores 80%.
The Cabin in the Woods scores 91%, while Les Miserables scores 70% and Life of Pi scores 87%.
- And the kicker: The Others scores 83%, while A Beautiful Mind (THE WINNER) scores 75%.
Now, I’m no idiot, I realize a ranking on a website is not the be-all, end-all of deciding what the best movie of the year is, it’s just an easy and accurate way to compare how films were received by critics. Critics, of course, don’t decide whether someone either takes home a little gold statue or whether they leave the awards show to begin their slow, painful, drug-addled slide back into obscurity, but I’m sure a movie’s critical success plays a major part in whether it gets a hallowed nomination. Very few films that were universally panned by critics have had its name engraved on an Oscar.
Horror movies are the most overlooked and most snubbed genre in film when it comes to the Academy Awards. And I think there are two very obvious reasons for this:
1. The Avalanche of Really Bad Horror Movies
And this is really unfair. No other genre is punished as much as horror for its sludge pile. People don’t say comedy is dead because we’re subjected to two or three Adam Sandler movies every year. People don’t say drama is dead because every other movie seems to be a Nicholas Sparks or Stephanie Meyer adaptation. Horror is the bastard stepchild of Hollywood, and even when one breaks through to critical and audience approval it still gets shrugged off as “not bad for a horror movie.”
2. Mainstream American Horror
While all horror gets unfairly dismissed by the snobby elite, American horror is especially maligned. Foreign filmmakers seem to get most of the love when it comes to praising horror. And this is not entirely without justification.The Babadook
,Let The Right One In
, these are all amazing horror movies; but good luck getting any of them on the Academy’s radar. Foreign movies in general have a mountainous climb to get that Best Picture nomination, a foreign horror movie would have to jump the Grand Canyon strapped to the back of the ghost of Evel Knievel just to get those snooty voters to even acknowledge its existence.
So it’s over. We should just stay under our rocks and keep watching these garbage movies with no redeemable qualities whatsoever. There’s no way a horror movie will ever win Best Picture at the Academy Awards.
OR WILL IT?
Could 2015 be the year? It’s possible, and there’s ONE big reason to hope:
I haven’t seen a horror movie wow critics like this in a long, long time. So far there’s almost universal agreement by the critical mass that It Follows is an absolute gem. This might just be the horror savior we’ve been waiting for.
Let’s cross our fingers and toes and hope the Academy doesn’t forget that really good movies don’t only come out in December and January but in March and April, too. They have no excuse: The Grand Budapest Hotel was rewarded heavily at last year’s show and that came out in early March, and Boyhood was released in early July. So maybe, just maybe, It Follows will bring some much needed blood and carnage to the Oscar stage.