Getting graphic: While the Academy notoriously snubs horror, it thrives in the gaming community
THE LAST OF US PART II (2020)
We’re pretty much at the point where New Year’s resolutions are starting to fall flat and the cyclical phrase “Maybe next year!” begins to be thrown away. A similar sentiment has become pervasive with The Oscars when it comes to horror. Year after year, despite horror films breaking box office records and dominating cultural discussions, the glimmer of hope that this year The Oscars will recognize these films is off several times.
At this point, it’s expected that – when this year’s nominees were announced, fans were quick to point out the omission of last year’s hits: no recognition for the cinematography of a creepy beauty of Elisha Christian for The night house? John Carpenter’s exceptional score for halloween kills? The case of the repression of horror by the Academy and, by extension, serious film critics (whatever that means) is not new, but an interesting gap is notable with the neighboring film industry: when hen it comes to video games, horror is widely recognized and celebrated as a serious genre.
The Game Awards, arguably the most important gaming awards event of the past decade, is a great example of how far apart when you think of the Oscars as its awards counterpart. In its sixth year, The Game Awards presented its most prestigious Game of the Year award to his first horror game with Naughty Dogs’ The Last of Us Part II in 2020. To put things into perspective, in the 94-year run for the Oscars, only one horror film has won its highest awardwith Thesilenceofthelambs winner of Best Picture in 1991 – his 64th performance.
This gap isn’t just limited to the Oscars and The Game Awards. The general attitude between the two tends to differ drastically when it comes to horror. Where many would describe horror movies as cheap, insane, splatterfest watching movies like Yell or the street of fear series, others tend to praise horror games as harrowing emotional experiences with titles like The last of us Where Days gone.
For starters, there are often polarized discussions about what exactly classifies a movie as “horror.” For example, Netflix Don’t look up, a devastating yet satirical take on the apocalypse, is nominated for Best Picture this year. When I looked Don’t look up, I found myself laughing at some of his cartoons that play off real-life phenomena (people who are so obsessed with media attention that it literally prevents them from recognizing that a giant meteor is crashing into them). Still, I came away from the film more anxious and troubled than amused — something even few movies advertised as horror can inflict on me. It’s the apocalypse!
All of the protagonists die in brutal, flamboyant destruction, and the film does a great job of showing how quickly society can crumble when great tragedy strikes! And yet, I can guarantee that if I described the movie as horror to someone, nine times out of ten, they would viscerally respond, “No, no. If anything, I’d say this movie is actually a psychological thriller.” Don’t look up does not have delight me. It scared me!
There seems to be a prevailing thought that the classification of “horror” is tainted – as if you’re doing the film a disservice by defining it as horror. A movie can not be the horror – it’s a psychological thriller. A black comedy. science fiction. And if he East horror, it carries the connotation that it is cheaply made, reuses redundant cinematic techniques, or lacks depth. And yet, when you look at video games, there doesn’t seem to be as much trepidation with a game’s brand as horror. If someone said: “The silent Hill series is a great horror series!”, you’ll never hear someone quickly say, “Hey, it’s more of a psychological drama.”
Perhaps this is because the film industry has become more set in its ways over time than modern plot-driven games. As is the case with The Academy, a century has given critics time to establish a canon of what is “good” and “bad” when it comes to cinema. Historically, horror films tended toward smaller budgets, more “off” content, and embraced social taboo. This may have contributed to the foundation of horror by leaving a bad taste in the mouths of many critics. Video games also do all of the above, but the medium has taken hold over the past few decades. Rather than relying on preconceived notions of genre, the video game industry has thrived in a time when art is much more accessible and pushing boundaries is more accepted.
Social media has undoubtedly helped expand the dialogue surrounding gender and give credit where credit is due. there is something comical see the Academy’s official account tweet celebrating the long history of the Scream series, only to have countless people jump into his mentions to say, “So where are the rewards for this?” Even more interesting, the Academy has created a new “Fan Favorite Award”, which allows viewers to “have their voices heard” by voting for the generic films of their choice. This is undoubtedly an effort to increase viewership to counter the rapid decline in its audience.
This begs the question: is there perhaps a whole, untapped audience of genre fans who are put off by the repeated snubs? It may be time to put aside preconceived ideas. Just look at the numbers: A Quiet Place II, The conjuration: the devil made me do itand candy man were all among the top 50 best performing movies of 2021. Clearly horror is doing something right! On the other hand, horror is one of the most famous genres currently in gaming, and so it’s thriving. Dead in broad daylight and Dying Light 2: Stay Human are both in the top 25 most streamed video games on Twitch right now (and Dead in broad daylight almost six years old). Horror games are constantly celebrated and recognized, and the fandom benefits. The only reaction you’re likely to hear when talking to someone about a horror game is, “No way, I’d be too scared to play it!”
It seems like attitudes are changing a bit in the film industry when it comes to gender. Many believe that the recent series of tragic and anxiety-provoking world events have led many to embrace horror as an escape. I really think that’s a huge contributing factor, but I also like to believe that the generally positive attitudes toward horror in the gaming space can carry over to the movie space as well!