No Oscar Nomination for Toni Collette/The Horror Genre?

2018 was another strong year for horror. There were several indie films that made waves, such as Mandy, Terrified, and Revenge, but two films specifically broke into the mainstream, generated buzz and conversation, and were deserving of the Academy’s attention.  I am talking about A Quiet Place and Hereditary. Both films were snubbed, though A Quiet Place did earn a nomination for Sound Editing. That said, I’m not surprised that the horror genre has once again been shut out of the awards season, even if the genre has been earning more and more attention over the last five years or so. Last year, I argued that Get Out deserved Oscar nominations, and it did receive a few, including Best Picture. Jordan Peele, meanwhile, won an Oscar for the screenplay. When writing about Get Out, I noted that very, very few horror films have ever won an Oscar. The Silence of the Lambs won Best Picture in 1992. The Exorcist was nominated for several Oscars, but only scored two for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Sound Mixing.

A Quiet Place is at least deserving of a nomination for Best Original Screenplay, which was penned by John Krasinski. The film is one of the most innovative horror movies of the last decade, a metaphor on grief and losing a child. While the film may not be the first to use sound, or a lack of sound, so effectively in the genre (think Hush or Don’t Breathe), it does so in a way that makes us really feel for the family, especially after the tragedy that occurs within the first fifteen minutes. Additionally, the film contains strong performances by Krasinski and Emily Blunt, who do everything they can as parents to keep their children safe and alive. We generally want them to survive, especially after they endure one calamity after another.

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(Toni Collette as Annie in Hereditary)

Hereditary is a much more difficult film to watch. It begins with a funeral for the family’s matriarch, and within the first half an hour, it takes a sudden twist with the loss of another major character. Yet, it’s one of the strongest portrayals of grief that I’ve ever seen on film, let alone the horror genre. Furthermore, Toni Collette’s performance as Annie is never-jangling. Her facial expressions alone are powerful and unnerving. She is a mother who can’t take anymore loss. Additionally, I think the film should have received nominations for Best Director (Ari Aster), Best Original Screenplay, and perhaps, maybe even Best Picture. Yet, it was totally shut out…

So, after giving a single Oscar to Jordan Peele last year, which was well-deserved, it looks like the Academy is back to ignoring the horror genre. Meanwhile, fans can continue enjoying the state of horror right now because there’s a lot to be excited about, even if the Academy doesn’t think so. Horror is having a moment.

What do you think about the Oscar nominations? Were A Quiet Place and Hereditary deserving of the Academy’s attention? Feel free to let me know what you think.

List of Oscar nominees.

 

 

 

A Quiet Place: Masterfully Suspenseful Mainstream Horror

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John Krasinski is not the first name that comes to mind in the horror genre. Yet, A Quiet Place, which he directed, is one of the most memorable mainstream horror films of the last few years. The film stars Krasinski as Lee and his real life wife, Emily Blunt, as Evelyn. Together, they exist in a post-apocalyptic world and try to protect their children from monsters that are blind but have a heightened sense of sound.

The film handles suspense masterfully, especially in the first 15 minutes, when the family hunts an abandoned store for medicine. Evelyn needs pills for her sick son, and she slowly has to turn the bottles on the shelf to read the labels. One little sound, and she knows her family will be meat for the monsters. After exiting the store, the family walks barefoot on trails of sand so their footsteps don’t echo and alert the monsters. You hope that all of them will make it home.

The rest of the film is relentless in its use of suspense, sound, and silence. Any wrong move, like the creak of a floorboard or a scream, will doom the family. The monsters, meanwhile, break the silence with their screeches and loud thumps when they invade the family’s home.

Like any good horror film, A Quiet Place serves as a metaphor for a larger issue: parenting and the dread that you can’t protect children from a world that can be unbearably cruel. At one point, Evelyn asks Lee, “Who are we if we can’t protect them?”. Blunt and Krasinski are stellar on screen together, especially in one of the early scenes where they share earbuds, cling to each other, and slow dance. You root for this family and want them to survive, but their pained facial expressions and the threat of a monster that is always lurking in the cornstalks surrounding their farmhouse make you wonder if they’ll last until morning.

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Emily Blunt’s performance as Evelyn is fantastic. She has one of the most terrifying birthing scenes I’ve ever seen on screen. It is visceral and jarring. Her character gradually transitions to a mother who will do whatever needs to be done to protect her children. In a movie that relies so much on silence and has so little dialogue, Blunt pulls off much of her performance through body language and facial expressions.

Krasinski has a mainstream horror hit on his hands. He may be new to the genre, but he certainly understands that character development and suspense that doesn’t rely too heavily on gore are elements that make a good horror film. Blunt, meanwhile, is emotional and powerful. A Quiet Place is the best mainstream horror film of 2018 thus far.