The 2023 Oscars Mark Another Year With No Respect For Horror Movies

The arrival of Oscar season has always been a double-edged sword. It's the anticipated season finale for movie lovers, as we get to bestow awards to the hard-working artists who make the big screen magic possible. But at the same time, it's also rife with snubs, tearing down favorites in favor of others, and constant reminders of systematic disparities throughout the industry. The quality of a film isn't dependent on how many nominations it's secured, but with that said, it can be exhausting to see the industry continue its streak of refusing to pay its respects to horror.

History shows that the Oscars have always had a complicated relationship with the genre. In the 95 years of the Academy's existence, only 6 films have ever been nominated for Best Picture, with a handful of nominations here (Kathy Bates in "Misery") and there ("The Silence of the Lambs"). Every once in a while, you'll get a surprise win with "Get Out" or "The Exorcist," but when it comes time for the nomination announcements, horror folk know better than to expect the Academy to give the genre its due.

2022 was a banner year for horror, especially, as hits like "Barbarian," "Smile," and "The Black Phone" proved once again that the genre has always been one of the form's box office lifelines. But this year, it appears the Academy has all but ignored the genre altogether, which is baffling considering the amount of talent pushed off to the sidelines once again.

No love for Rebecca Hall, Ralph Fiennes, or Mia Goth

Toni Collette ("Hereditary") and Lupita Nyong'o ("Us") have become the go-to examples of horror performances that almost certainly deserved nominations, but ended up walking away with nothing before they could even begin. The horror films of 2022 came with their own share of tremendous performances that were likely never going to be in serious contention, but it's wild to think that none of them even made even a blip on the radar.

After delivering one hell of a performance in last year's "The Night House," Rebecca Hall came out swinging with a harrowing turn in "Resurrection," proving once again that she's one of the greatest talents working today. There's also Ralph Fiennes for his deliciously devious turn in "The Menu." Justin Long gave a career-best performance as a hilariously detestable Hollywood idiot in "Barbarian." Maika Monroe also did excellent work in the slow-burn thriller "Watcher." But if there's one horror performance that hurts to see omitted, it's Mia Goth in "Pearl."

In the spectrum of horror performances last year, few made as big a wave as Goth did. Her dual performance as Maxine and older Pearl in "X" would be a highlight in any year, but it's incredible how she was able to pull off one more for good measure, especially with that killer monologue. It wouldn't surprise me if the starry-eyed Pearl became a memorable face of the genre for decades to come. Shame she doesn't have the industry's recognition to go with it.

Mad God was an impressive piece of stop-motion animation

When you look down the line of nominations for Best Animated Feature, it shows that 2022 was an excellent year for the medium. "Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio," "Puss in Boots: The Last Wish," and "Turning Red" are all more than worthy to be recognized together, but it feels strange to not have "Mad God" among the bunch.

Phil Tippett's brutal stop-motion odyssey took over three decades to bring to the screen, and the result is a marvelous nightmare you can't look away from. It doesn't entirely surprise me that it was out for the count though. When you look at the history of the Best Animated Feature category, it always ends up going to the folks at Pixar, Disney, or DreamWorks, with the odd exception ("Spirited Away") every now and then. The industry has had a really difficult time seeing animation as anything other than kid's stuff, which of course, is far from the truth. Del Toro himself will happily refute that notion if you even say as much.

Unfortunately, this leaves "Mad God" in a difficult spot. Academy voters are already erratic in terms of what they decide to vote for. When presented with an animated feature that plays like an abstract and wordless odyssey into a steampunk hell of suffering, torment, and a filmmaker's dark imagination, there was no chance it was going to make it farther than the shortlist. As far as horror animation goes, "Mad God" is among the best to ever do it.

The makeup effects of Terrifier 2 are no joke

Although it was initially submitted for awards consideration as a joke, I firmly believe that the makeup effects of "Terrifier 2" deserve their own nomination. When the independent splatter flick was set for its limited theatrical run, word quickly spread about its jaw-dropping gore effects, which gave cinema audiences a spectacle they would never forget. This little horror movie was suddenly garnering global headlines about how the intensity of the gore had even led to folks vomiting on account of its slasher superstar, Art the Clown (David Howard Thornton).

I suppose that's where the conversation probably ended in terms of its award chances. "An American Werewolf in London" and David Cronenberg's "The Fly" are among the rare exceptions where horror makeup came out on top. However, it will be a cold day in hell before the Academy recognizes the work of a film in which a sinister pantomime slasher eviscerates the human body beyond recognition, before rubbing salt and bleach on the wounds for good measure.

The extraordinary work from Damien Leone and his effects team is the exact kind of cinematic chaos that only comes around every once in a while, which is exactly why I feel it could have easily gone toe to toe with some of the bigger contenders. I don't entirely buy that the film's grotesqueness killed its chances, seeing that they gave a nomination for Brendan Fraser's fat suit in "The Whale," which gave the audience an excuse to uncomfortably gawk at this vulnerable character.

Nope deserved MUCH better

Of all of the horror movies from last year to get neglected by the Academy, "Nope" is the most baffling of them all. To give credit where credit was due, Jordan Peele was awarded Best Original Screenplay for "Get Out," in addition to three other significant nominations. I mean no disrespect, as it will rightfully go down as one of the greatest horror films of the 2010s, but "Nope" felt like Peele's ultimate evolution as a filmmaker.

Here was a modern blockbuster that channeled the spirit of "Jaws” in the form of a terrifying and smart critique of the complicated nature of spectacle within the filmmaking industry. Even if you strip "Nope" of its allegorical monsters, what you're left with is one hell of a sci-fi horror thriller that found new and exciting ways to make you afraid of looking up at the sky. In a perfect world, "Nope" would have received nominations across the board for cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema, production designer Ruth de Jong, composer Michael Abels, and Peele himself.

In terms of performances, Daniel Kaluuya, Brandon Perea, and Steven Yeun will naturally cement themselves with the film's legacy. But the titan among them all is Keke Palmer, whose spunk, wit, and emotional core as Emerald Haywood gives way to some of the best character work of the year, bar none.

As sad as it may be to learn that the Academy Awards won't be honoring any of the horror films listed here, there is a silver lining in all of this.

When in doubt, turn to the Fangoria Chainsaw Awards

Horror has always been the underdog, proving time and time again that it's consistently more lucrative, critically and financially, than the industry gives it credit for. With the Academy proving how continually difficult it is for the genre to get their attention, there's one award show that showers horror with more than enough love.

Starting in 1992, the folks at Fangoria have held their own signature commendations with the Chainsaw Awards, although it wasn't until a few years back that it became an annual tradition. As far as I'm concerned, they've perfected the awards ceremony. In the years where the Academy has downplayed categories, along with rudely interrupting people's acceptance speeches, Fangoria has shown nothing but respect towards their nominees.

In a single ceremony, which hardly goes longer than an hour, every category is honored, no recipient is ever played off, and there's never a moment in which you don't feel the love for the form. The top 4 awards from last year included "Malignant" (Best Wide Release) "Fear Street 1666" (Best Streaming Premiere), "PG: Psycho Goreman" (Best Limited Release), and "Titane" (Best Foreign Film). If you're a horror fan who wants to pay their respects to all of the genre flicks that went unnoticed this year, this is the awards ceremony you'll want to tune into later this year when Shudder announces their airdate.

The 95th Annual Academy Awards will air on ABC on March 12, 2023.