On March 12, when film enthusiasts gather for the 95th Academy Awards, the most prestigious films in Hollywood will be recognized with the usual glaring omission: the horror genre. Although its absence has become expected, the 2022 horror revival was riddled with amazing works that are deserved of recognition on the biggest stage available.
Over the 90+ years of celebrations and upsets at the Oscars, the horror genre has been treated as the dirty secret of the movie industry and left off the stage in favor of its more conventional film cousins. Less than twenty movies classified under the horror genre have won an Academy Award, with only six ever being nominated for Best Picture. Although fans have come to support genre specific award ceremonies like the Saturn Awards and Fangoria’s Chainsaw Awards, the genre’s lack of acknowledgment from the Academy remains ever present.
That being said, the past year saw quite a rally from the genre, from the perspective of both the audience and critics alike. As Hollywood plans for another year of horrorless prestige, here are ten nominations for which horror movies were wrongly ignored as they flashed their brilliance in the last year.
Best Picture: You Won’t Be Alone
There is no agreement on what qualities of filmmaking tend to push a movie to Best Picture status, but there is a general threshold of quality expected across all of its elements. From its engrossing cinematography and mature tones to the overall direction into the highs and lows of humanity, horror had a clear contender for Best Picture from Australian director Goran Stolevski and his film You Won’t Be Alone. While there have been many celebrated movies from the genre this past year, none quite felt as grounded enough in their perspective as this tale of a shapeshifting witch on a poetic journey to understand humanity.
In a story about an American woman who believes she is being watched after moving to Romania, director Chloe Okuno uses every aspect of the production process to emulate the lead actor’s experiences in Watcher. From her focus on camerawork and utilizing the concept of space to further embody the character’s paranoia to the way she naturally weaves tension throughout the narrative, Okuna proved she understands how to utilize suspense. She tells an enthralling and terrifying story embedded in female reality that is seamlessly digestible without feeling overly sociopolitical. It is rare to find a debut director worthy of such recognition, but Okuno’s adaptation of Zack Ford’s original screenplay is one of those rarities.
Best Actor: Sebastian Stan (Fresh)
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Similar to Christian Bale’s transformative breakout in American Psycho, Sebastian Stan bathed himself in a remarkable aura as he left his Marvel Studios safety net and starred in the Hulu original film, Fresh. In this performance, he innately balanced the personality of a sociopath by capturing the endearing qualities of a charming man who secretly breaks into dance while butchering human flesh. A lot of the movie’s notoriety can be tied to his chemistry with co-star Daisy Edgar-Jones, but the success of the underlying themes of modern dating hinge on Stan’s ability to be whimsically romantic given the reveal of his intentions. His turn as Bucky Barnes in Captain America: Winter Soldier may remain his most recognizable character, but his role in Fresh should be known as his greatest performance.
Best Actress: Mia Goth (Pearl)
Mia Goth may be the safest pick, but she is also the most deserving. Less than ten years after her debut in Nymphomaniac, Goth became synonymous with horror in 2022 for her roles in Ti West’s X and Pearl. Focusing on the latter, Goth falls deep into the well of a character-oriented performance as she brings the titular Pearl to life with boundless commitment. She elicits the intricate details of accepting one’s own madness while also capturing the female rage in a relatable way. Goth is the definition of a scene-stealer, and she came with a level of seduction in her performance that was beyond worthy of mesmerizing her way to an Oscar.
Best Original Screenplay: The Menu
So many entries make their case for this category, but it is Seth Reiss and Will Tracy’s writing for The Menu that earns this honor. To think that a story could deconstruct themes of elitism, passion, and the food industry over the span of a violent ten-course meal with such artistic precision should be ludicrous. Every character was written with such care and detail that the perspective from which the movie is experienced can quickly change throughout what becomes one of the most stressful dinners in cinematic history. Sharp dialogue, an engaging plot, and a few shocks are some of the highlights from the screenplay for this horror/comedy/satire.
Best Adapted Screenplay: Bones and All
After garnering little steam ahead of its release, Bones and All has developed quite a critical fanbase for the ways in which it adapted the 2015 novel of the same name. In the transition from a 340-page novel to a 113-page screenplay, the writers used delicate hands in translating the sensibility towards the narrative’s focus on being an outsider. The film’s 1980s setting perfectly encapsulates the writing of characters whose journeys of love and acceptance are stamped onto a cannibalistic package, all while echoing themes of craving human connection and the tribulations of marginalized communities. This script exists in a place far deeper than the teenage love story that it presents itself as.
Best Cinematogrpahy: Nope
Perhaps no movie was better set-up by its genre influences to capitalize on amazing camera work than Nope, Jordan Peele’s horror/sci-fi/western hybrid. Capturing the vast and sprawling landscape of the main ranch setting aside, the movie exhibits a masterclass in lighting when it comes to the movie’s pivotal night scenes. There was such a smoothness to those scenes that allowed the splendor of the night sky to exist alongside the extraterrestrial presence in stunning realism. Peele and Swiss cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema created so many engrossing images that are both complex in sight and simple in emotion. It is a shame to see their technical efforts unrecognized.
Best Visual Effects: Terrifier 2
Photo courtesy of CINEDIGM
Damian Leone’s follow-up to the cult classic Terrifier was universally praised by horror fans and recognized positively by many critics. With Terrifier 2, every aspect of the Art the Clown story is done bigger and better, but nothing stood out more than the film’s grotesque visual effects. The quality of the practical effects is astonishing and defies the reality that this movie was made on a $250,000 budget. Rather than looking cheesy and second rate, this movie’s effects pull you into a gore lover’s demented dream with accuracy and precision. One need only to watch the infamous “bedroom scene” to understand the quality and effort this sequel put into raising the bar for why practical effects still have just as large a role in modern moviemaking as CGI.
Best International Film: Piggy
The Academy tends to love films that speak on the zeitgeist of modern society and the Spanish film Piggy(Cerdita) does exactly that, albeit with a few buckets of blood. It delivers a social commentary on fat culture and bullying, but it is very conscious about not being shallow in how it delivers that message. Laura Galán delivers a raw performance as main character Sara and exudes the resentment that brews in a victim’s heart while promoting a sense of seriousness in the story’s dark comedy moments. The entire film, from its characters to setting, are shaped from Sara’s hurting teenage perspective, an unappreciated dedication in devotion to those for whom the movie seeks to speak.
Best Animated Film – Mad God
The process of filmmaking is an art form all to itself and stop-motion animation takes the meticulous approach of that art to a different level. The 30-year journey that become Phil Tippett’s Mad God builds upon those ideas and exemplifies film as an artful experience in the most fantastical and grotesque ways. The movie abandons the traditional plot-focused storytelling for a highly detailed spectacle that explores a nightmarish world through the actions of a handful of archetypal characters. Art is in the eye of the beholder and this movie gives one’s eyes plenty to take in with its expertly crafted stop-motion that oozes with original ideas.
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