Horror like comedies, are looked down on as ‘genre’ movies. They’re regularly seen as predictable, not insightful, and not justifying Best Movie. Yet, it’s not rare for horror movies to be nominated for visual effects or sound editing; they’re often just excluded in the acting, directing, and screenwriting categories.
The exception is, of course, Silence of the Lambs (1991), which achieved all five major awards at the Oscars. So, horror doesn’t always miss out, but it only gets a look-in if it’s thrilling, psychological, and insightful rather than full of jump-scares and gore. Those nominated are, usually, ‘elevated horror’ – think Jordan Peele and Ari Aster rather than Wes Craven. At least some horror movies are getting nominated, certainly Peele’s Get Out (2017) was well-deserved. However, we’re (sadly) very unlikely to see Neve Campbell nominated for portraying Sidney Prescott in the Scream franchise.
But, what’s wrong with Scream (1996, 1997, 2000, 2011, 2022), I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997, 1999), and A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984-)? What makes these well-loved slasher-horror flicks not Oscar-worthy? Scream became the highest-grossing slasher in the world until 2018’s Halloween and it was credited with revitalising the horror genre in the 90s. Neve Campbell won Best Actress in the Saturn Awards, from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, in 1996. All the audiences (and critics!) love for meta-horror and slasher flicks shows horror-movie acting is just as good as acting in dramas. Therefore, the lack of love for ‘genre’ movies in the acting and directing categories at award ceremonies shows the ceremony is too prestigious and exclusionary.
Scream simply wouldn’t be as effective without Campbell’s version of Sidney. Viewers have told her that Sidney represents survival to them- that’s a powerful thing for any movie to do and unexpected for a slasher. I believe horror should be nominated over comedy (although there should be room for both!), as a comedy struggles to have their characters leave a feeling with the audience that resonates long after the finale.
Comedies are generally ignored by major awards, especially Oscars. While this year Adam McKay’s comedy Don’t look up is nominated for Best Film, less than 10 comedies have won this award since the first ceremony. The Golden Globes, with their category “Best Picture – Musical/Comedy” are slightly more inclusive. However, winners such as Green Book or Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood are not necessarily pure comedies but rather belong to a hybrid genre. At the same time, truly hilarious comedies such as Bridesmaids or Crazy, Stupid, Love, which make the whole audience laugh out loud, continue to be unfairly ignored by any prestigious awards.
The categories I would like to see more comedies being honoured in are especially best actor/actress and screenplay. To come up with an idea and write a film that is truly funny without being cringy and repetitive is a difficult task, and therefore, deserves recognition. Glenda Jackson, an acknowledged English actress, said: “Comedy is much harder to do than drama. It's not true that laugh and the world laughs with you. It's very hard to make a group of people laugh at the same thing; much easier to make them cry at the same thing. That's why great comic acting is probably the greatest acting there is.” I genuinely think that Emma Stone’s performance in Crazy, Stupid, Love is as remarkable as in Oscar-winning La La Land, and in some ways more challenging. Of course, there are plenty of comedies where the actor’s performance didn’t live up to the expectations, but it only proves how difficult it is to create a convincing role in a comedy.
On the other hand, as much as I appreciate that horrors can be very good films, I don’t think they’re as problematic to make as comedies. It’s relatively easy to build a scary atmosphere and make the audience afraid by the use of creepy music, makeup and special effects. Moreover, my problem with horrors is that monsters and supernatural events are way less scary for me than, for example, war films depicting real tragedies.