Horror Films Deserve More Respect From the Academy

“Out there, just beyond the far reaches of the fire light, there is something that will kill you,” could very well be the first story ever told. If it wasn’t the first story ever told, you can bet that it wasn’t far behind it.

Take a look at the story, and think about it for a minute.

If you go wandering out on your own, too far from the norms of our culture, beyond the boundaries of the known world, you’re gonna die.

That sounds like a horror story to me.

Horror stories have been with us from the dawn of interpersonal communication among humans. It’s inherent in our anxieties, just as it is inherent in the anxieties of every animal on the planet. A healthy fear is what keeps a species alive.

That’s what the whole fight or flight response we’re born with is all about.

Yet, the oldest stories of all time, the stories responsible for keeping us alive from our beginnings, are ignored by the governing body of congratulatory practices in the cinematic universe.

Horror films simply don’t win Oscars.

Sure, there have been a few horror films to earn love from the Oscars, but horror in general has been treated like a family secret, never to be discussed in public.

The Oscar winners didn’t really win the award for the film in general,the awards have been more for technical achievements, or maybe one actor’s performance caught their eye. Rosemary’s Baby is often cited as a horror movie to win an Oscar, but it was just Ruth Gordon who walked away with a trophy, and it was for Best Supporting Actress. The movie was also nominated for the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar, but lost out to a movie called The Lion in Winter. The Lion in Winter also won Best Music, and Katharine Hepburn won Best Actress for her role as Eleanor of Aquitain in the film.

Then there was the horror genre’s great white hope, The Exorcist, in 1973, which was nominated 10 times, but won only two Oscars. Those two Oscars were for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Sound.

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Best Sound and Best Screenplay.

Hmph.

The Sting took Best Picture over The Exorcist that year.

I don’t seem to remember any major 25th anniversary celebrations, or special edition re-releases for The Sting in 1998, but there was plenty of that going on for The Exorcist. There is no doubt, The Exorcist is a better picture than The Sting on just about every level.

The biggest difference between the two is just the subject matter.

The Exorcist is a pure horror film.

An American Werewolf in London. another horror film, inspired the Academy to add a new, special category to its awards show.

Was the category Best Horror film?

Nope.

The category was Best Makeup, and the inaugural award was given to Rick Baker, who worked on the film, and did the work that inspired the category’s creation. Why create a new category? Well, they couldn’t rightfully give a werewolf movie Oscars for Best Editing and Visual Effects. That was reserved for films like Raiders of the Lost Ark.

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The Omen, Alien and Aliens, if you want to call them horror, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and The Fly, are a few other titles that have seen nominations, in one category or another, but never got serious consideration for much more than a sound, or visual effects award.

Horror films have one of the most loyal fanbases in the film universe.

There aren’t 20 magazines dedicated to comedy films, dramas, or thrillers, on every newsstand, but there are at least that many dedicated to horror films. The number of horror conventions around the globe even dwarfs the number of magazine titles dedicated to the genre.

The people love them.

The movies continue to be money makers for the film companies still cranking them out for public consumption. The old ones even make money for distributors who take the titles, repackage them, and breathe new life into its legacy in film history.

Two of the top ten grossing films of all time, when adjusted for inflation, are horror films, Jaws (#7) and The Exorcist (#9).

Robert Shaw Jaws

We will always have fear. It’s not going anywhere. When art touches our fear and makes it tingle, there will always be an audience waiting to suck it up, and basque in the synthetic fear it creates. So for the Oscars to continue treating horror films like a child locked away and kept under the stairs, yet shamelessly cashes the government checks the kid under the stairs earns because of his mental condition, is a travesty of titanic proportions.

There is really only one reason horror films are treated so poorly by the academy.

Horror films scare the pants, and pant-suits, right off the asses of every member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

It has to be true.

It’s the only thing I can come up with that makes sense.

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