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In 1896, Le Manoir du Diable ushered in what was to become a legacy. Horror has been a staple of film since its inception. Horror has received many notable honors within the film industry. Even the prestigious Criterion Collection has its fair share of macabre tales. The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari, Nosferatu, and Thomas Edison’s Frankenstein are considered pioneering pieces in film. Yet, many organizations within Hollywood still refuse to acknowledge horror as a legitimate genre in film.
Recently, the film Get Out was submitted to the Golden Globes as a comedy. While its merits in that genre can’t be denied, Get Out’s place in horror is what is on the surface of this film. Even the director, known comedian Jordan Peele, had to take jabs when tweeting that Get Out is a documentary. I’d believe it being a documentary over being a comedy, considering its storyline. Either way, this raises a long-standing question within the horror community. Given its history in film, why does horror get snubbed so much by film awards?
1960s Psycho was nominated for Best Director, Best Actress, Best Cinematography, and Best Art Direction. It won none of those. Audrey Hepburn was nominated for Best Actress in a leading Role for Wait Until Dark. She was denied. A Clockwork Orange was nominated for Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Picture, and Best Adapted Screenplay. It received nothing. The Amityville Horror, Carrie, Poltergeist, all snubbed by the Academy. The Silence of the Lambs was the third film in history to win the Big Five, except that it was submitted as a Psychological Thriller/Drama. In fact, The Silence of the Lambs is the only film that is considered a horror film that has ever won Best Picture.
While it seems that award shows have been forced to acknowledge horror, they’ve done so by creating awards for best makeup, special effects and what not. An American Werewolf in London won best makeup for its award year. This seems to ignore the innovations that the film made beyond the makeup effects. Before Werewolf, no one had experienced a scene like the transformation scene. It was drawn out, emotional, and punctuated by music that seemed out of place but still accentuated the drama of the scene! You could feel the pain of the transformation, you watched the physical change happening. It was uncomfortable to watch, but that was the purpose of that scene. The funny thing is that Werewolf is so much more than that one scene, though. While its merits could be argued, one cannot deny the script was well-written, the acting was phenomenal, and the humor peppered in really brought the entertainment level to the highest level. Is Werewolf worthy of best film for that year? Maybe not, but it definitely deserved more than best makeup.
When I name off a list of movies from 1973, does any movie stand out more than The Exorcist? It was the number one highest grossing film of that year. Even today, people bring up The Exorcist when mentioning the best films of all time. It was nominated for Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Editing, Production Design, and Sound Mix. The Exorcist walked away with Best Supporting Actor and Best Production Design. It was beat out for Best Picture by The Sting, which Exorcist beat out in box office sales by two hundred and eighty-five million dollars.
2017 has released some great films, many of which have or will draw in hundreds of millions of dollars. It is the 9th highest grossing film this year and a lot of buzz is spreading that it deserves just about every award possible. Still, there is just as much talk that it, too, will be another in a long line of films that are considered classic but refused acknowledgement. Why is this? That is a question best asked of the award shows that are coming up early this next year. Why does horror have to put on a mask or make up fake genres just to be considered as the great films that they are? Would it really be such a crime to give credit where it is due? The answers will come in January as award season starts. Will It, Get Out, or Split get the great honors that they deserve, or will this be another year that horror has to sit by and watch lesser films be lauded?