"And the award for Best Picture goes to ... Annabelle: Creation!" That's a sentence we'll probably never hear, and it's unfortunate.
This may not come as much of a surprise to those of us who are used to seeing scary movies snubbed during awards season, but why has this practice become so widely accepted? Why are recent horror classics such as It Follows and The Babadook considered less worthy than the usual dramas that fill the ballots each year? That's a true American horror story, right there.
Why Creepy Dolls Deserve Love Too
Following the success of Lights Out, director David F. Sandberg was tasked with creating a prequel for the spinoff Annabelle, which would also connect with the shared universe started by The Conjuring. This was no easy feat for Sandberg, especially considering how the doll's first solo venture flopped with critics. However, Annabelle may reanimate the franchise still, thanks to Creation.
Initially scoring 100 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, Annabelle: Creation has since settled around the 76 percent mark, which is still impressive, given how the last film only managed to conjure a measly 29 percent score. Deadline also reports that Sandberg's prequel is set to crawl to the top spot at the box office this weekend for an estimated $30 million opening. Yet in spite of this success, it seems as though we're more likely to witness Annabelle renounce her evil ways and model her own line of Victorian dresses than see Creation recognized for its achievements come awards season.
During an interview with Cinema Blend, Sandberg discussed why this might be the case, admitting that bad horror movies have ruined the genre's reputation:
Even though they make so much money for Hollywood, I think there's still a little bit of that feeling of looking down on [horror] a little bit, like 'oh, this is a horror movie.' In fact, it was one person at the studio who wasn't as directly involved with [Annabelle: Creation], she was asking me after she had seen Annabelle, she was saying 'so what do you call this? Because it's not horror. It's better than horror, right?' And I was like, 'no, it's still horror. It's just good horror.'
Annabelle: Creation isn't just good horror, it's great horror, reminding us how the genre has continued to evolve as more and more talented filmmakers imbue their scares and gore with artistry. Just this year alone, Raw, Get Out and It Comes At Night have all proven themselves to be worthy of recognition beyond the usual Saturn Awards — yet bar a real-life twist ending, we highly doubt that this will happen in the foreseeable future.
Why Voters Are Just Big Scaredy-Cats
Every year, movies are snubbed by the Oscars, and every year, critics and audiences alike bemoan the perceived miscarriage of justice. But as an institution steeped in tradition, the Oscars mostly like to play by the rules, sticking to the usual weepy dramas and historical accounts of real life events. However, as all horror fans know, crafting the perfect scare is often an art form in itself, one that's arguably more difficult than creating that one riveting monologue that locks in a Best Picture win.
Fortunately, many of the greatest directors of all time seem to agree, delving deep into the darkness of horror to create Lovecraftian nightmares that are still seared into our collective consciousness, decades after their release. Stanley Kubrick, Roman Polanski, Alfred Hitchcock... each of these filmmakers are celebrated for their achievements both financial and creative, and each of these filmmakers count scary movies among their best work. However, from The Shining and Rosemary's Baby to the likes of Psycho and The Birds, only one of these game-changing movies won an Oscar, and some weren't even nominated at all.
Of course, it would be a lie to suggest that no horror movie has ever received awards recognition. The Exorcist possessed the hearts of voters back in 1974 when it was nominated for 10 Oscars. The Silence of the Lambs devoured the competition in all five major categories, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay.
However, the last horror movie to be considered at this level was Black Swan (which is arguably more of a psychological thriller), and that was back in 2011. In 2016 alone, the six horror movies that ranked among the top 100 grossing movies of the year scored an average rating of 82 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, so one can't argue that horror has taken a dip since Black Swan dived onto our screens.
The fact that modern horror classics such as The Witch and Annabelle: Creation are snubbed isn't just a fleeting, immediate loss either. In years to come, it's often the award winners that are remembered for their achievements, so there's a real risk that these films will one day slip into obscurity, unless they become cult classics in their own right. Furthermore, filmmakers such as Annabelle: Creation director Sandberg are clearly skilled at what they do and the genre could end up haemorrhaging talent if its most gifted auteurs may seek recognition elsewhere.
The idea that there are so many bad Horror movies out there should never be used as justification to explain why scary films shouldn't be celebrated. In reality, the reason why there are so many atrocious movies in the genre reflects what an art form good horror really is, and how difficult it is to master. Perhaps if more films such as Get Out and Mother! continue to push the boundaries of what the genre is capable of, then perhaps the likes of Annabelle: Creation will one day help change the conversation and remind voters why horror shouldn't be ignored.
Just because these films take place in the dark doesn't mean that they don't deserve to be seen and celebrated.