Cutting Room Floor: The Disregard and Misplacement of Horror Films in the Mainstream

by Lily Carter

What do we think of when it comes to horror movies? Is it fun sleepovers, or perhaps a traumatic encounter as a child? It’s evident that everyone has a significant memory for them.

However, the sad fact is that horror movies don’t receive the attention it deserves from mainstream audiences and the big names in the film industry. Most audience members would say they see horror films to lose themselves in the adrenaline. Now, of course, this is exactly what horror is for, but people often don’t consider the underlying themes. Most creatives behind them don’t make scary films just to scare people—they exist to offer a new perspective on society. But because of the lack of awareness about horror’s valuable takeaways, they are left to be mostly forgotten.

Looking over the nominees for the 2023 Oscars shows a familiar sight: a distinct lack of horror. Not to say other films don’t deserve their nominations and wins, but the lack of genre diversity is painful. There are horror veterans featured, notably the Scream Queen Jamie Lee Curtis, and films that incorporate elements of horror, such as The Batman, but this doesn’t supplement the disregard shown.

2022 saw a great range of horror releases—Nope, X, The Menu, and The Black Phone are just a handful of films that received high acclaim from audiences and critics. And it’s not a case of relevance or production either—Jordan Peele, director of Nope, has become in high demand following Get Out (2017), one of the most significant horror films of the past decade that dealt with themes of racism; Ralph Fiennes and Ethan Hawke are well-reputed actors who have been repeated nominees for the Oscars before playing their antagonist roles in The Menu and The Black Phone.

Speaking of Get Out, it won Best Picture at the 2018 Oscars, seven years after Black Swan (2010) was nominated for the same award. With such a paramount film winning a massive award, one would think that perhaps horror would get more love. It seemed as though things were headed this way with Peele releasing Us (2019), Nope, and becoming involved in other projects such as the Candyman (2021) requel. Instead, Get Out has marked yet another dry spell for horror films in major award ceremonies.

It’s somewhat amazing that horror hasn’t had a surge in recognition recently, especially with the rise of ‘elevated horror’, courtesy of production companies like A24. With the introduction of more ‘dignified’ films that explore themes such as trauma and grief in ‘clever’ ways that appeal to wider audiences, we’ve seen the horror community expand and thrive. But I think it comes down to a simple fact: the graphicness. When you compare Get Out to films like Midsommar (2019), the latter film is far gorier and deals with dark themes head-on. Also having an R rating (which is considered box office death) doesn’t help much either.

The simple truth is that the Oscars are too afraid to promote blood when it’s in horror movies. The Oscars have featured plenty of graphic films over the years—Django Unchained (2012), No Country For Old Men (2007), Taxi Driver (1976), and A Clockwork Orange (1972) just to name a few. Ultimately, the stigma surrounding horror movies still lingers following moral and satanic panic and the scapegoating of violence in cinema, especially horror, that never ends in the US. Most significantly, the Columbine High School shooting had massive effects on the production of horror films due to the perpetrators enjoying violent films like Natural Born Killers (1994). Many drew an unproven correlation between violent media and real-life violence, forcing filmmakers to sensitise their films to appease growing concerns, which Scream 3 acknowledged in its classic meta as a production that had been directly affected. And it’s a shame because horror movies are just as important as the ones we see being uplifted at the Oscars. 

Horror has always had something to say about our world. With ‘elevated horror’ films sparking renewed interest in the genre, the opinion that commentative horror movies are a new concept has spread like wildfire within mainstream audiences, which is a massive disregard of the films that came before and continues to perpetuate this low view of horror by the big award ceremonies.

Horror has always been seen as a cheap thrill by most; the second choice. I am hopeful that horror will one day get the recognition it deserves, and maybe, we will start to see at least one horror film featured in the Oscars yearly rather than the six nominees we’ve seen in the last forty-seven years. Maybe we will see the audience better understand these gorgeous films.

And I will be right there to cheer the revolution on.

Lily Carter is a Secondary Education and Arts student, specialising in Theatre and English. From a young age, she has loved film, music and literature, and in her maturity has grown to love in-depth discussions about anything related to said mediums. You’ll often catch her writing her own fiction for hours on end in her spare time.

Blitz Editor

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