Oscar voters rarely embrace horror films but the genre had a banner year at last year’s Academy Awards thanks to “Get Out” with four major nominations. After capturing the zeitgeist, Jordan Peele won the Original Screenplay category, and his film came within striking distance of winning Best Picture. This year, there are three horror entries looking to put academy members under a spell.
“A Quiet Place”is the ninth highest grossing film of 2018, having made almost $200 million since it was released in April. The film stars Emily Blunt and John Krasinski (who also directed) as a couple trying to protect their children in a post-apocalyptic world where creatures hunt humans by sound. The theme of familial bonds and the terrifying absence of dialogue for most of the runtime turned “A Quiet Place” into a hit with audiences and critics.
The film’s best Oscar chances lie in below the line categories. Gold Derby’s combined odds currently show “A Quiet Place” receiving nominations for both Sound Editing and Sound Mixing. Horror films have performed well in these categories before, with “The Exorcist” claiming Sound Mixing and “Aliens” scooping up Sound Editing. However, the thriller also has a legitimate shot at Original Screenplay. As of this writing, the script by Bryan Woods and Scott Beck sits in seventh place in Gold Derby’s prediction center with 25/1 odds. Seven experts believe the screenplay will make the cut, and there is certainly precedent. “Get Out” proved that a horror movie can win this category, and M. Night Shyamalan was a previous nominee for “The Sixth Sense.”
A24 will be trying to get their own scary flick “Hereditary” into the Original Screenplay category but the awards strength of this film lies its performances. Toni Collette received rave reviews for her portrayal of a woman descending into madness. Amid a packed Best Actress lineup, she has the backing of two experts. Of course, Collette has already nabbed a nomination for a horror film before (Supporting Actress for “The Sixth Sense”), so perhaps she is being underestimated.
Horror films have produced six Best Actress nominees: Bette Davis (“Whatever Happened to Baby Jane”), Ellen Burstyn (“The Exorcist”), Sigourney Weaver (“Aliens”), Kathy Bates (“Misery”), Jodie Foster (“Silence of the Lambs”), and Natalie Portman (“Black Swan”). With wins for Bates, Foster, and Portman, this one is more favorable to horror than many other major categories. In order for Collette to follow these past examples, she will need to build momentum via nominations from critics groups.
The final Oscar hopeful in this trio of terror is “Suspiria.” Director Luca Gudagnino follows up his critically lauded “Call me by Your Name” with a remake of Dario Argento’s 1977 classic about a German dance company embroiled in an occult conspiracy. Critics are only just beginning to screen the film, which debuts on November 2nd, but anticipation is high thanks to a preview trailer that showcased hypnotic cinematography and an eerie atmosphere.
Striking visuals make the design categories and Cinematography within reach for “Suspiria,” but the movie also boasts Oscar winner Tilda Swinton as the domineering Madame Blanc. The role could make Swinton a threat in Supporting Actress. Angela Lansbury (“The Picture of Dorian Gray”), Ruth Gordon (“Rosemary’s Baby”), Linda Blair (“The Exorcist”), and Colette all garnered nominations in this category for scary films. Gordon won, and like Swinton, embodied an over-the-top villain in a psychological horror story. Swinton has never returned to the Oscars after winning for “Michael Clayton” despite acclaimed performances in “Julia,” “Snowpiercer,” and “We Need to Talk About Kevin.” A juicy villainous turn could be the perfect bait to bring her back to awards season.
Arguably, the biggest awards hurdle each of these films has is the others. As we saw with last year’s Oscars, too many quality genre films can diminish the chance of a major Oscar breakthrough. A year ago it was super-hero films, with “Wonder Woman,” “Logan,” “Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2,” and “Thor: Ragnarok” all netting glowing reviews and huge box office hauls. But Academy voters are even more averse to caped crusaders than they are to ghosts and goblins. The four superhero films cannibalized each other’s support with “Wonder Woman” and “Thor” snubbed entirely. “Guardians” managed a Visual Effects nomination and “Logan” pulled off an Adapted Screenplay mention, but that’s a fairly low haul considering the Oscar ambitions of these films.
Will the horror pictures of 2018 suffer a similar fate by virtue of there being too much of a good thing? Ultimately, the race may need to unite around one film in order to push it to the top of the pack. As it stands, just six horror movies have ever been nominated for Best Picture: “The Exorcist,” “Jaws,” “Silence of the Lambs,” “The Sixth Sense,” “Black Swan,” and “Get Out.” “Silence of the Lambs” is still the only one to win the top category.
This year, “A Quiet Place” has the zeitgeist and box office success on its side. The Producers Guild could come to its rescue with a nomination. “Hereditary” is bolstered by acclaimed performances that could attract the acting branch. “Suspiria” has the style to woo designers and cinematographers. There is a long Oscar season ahead, and these awards narratives will make survivors or victims out of these three scary contenders.
Be sure to update your predictions today and include them in the supporting categories if you think they will be nominated. Be sure to check out how our experts rank this year’s Oscar contenders. Then take a look at the most up-to-date combined odds before you make your own 2019 Oscar predictions. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until just before nominations are announced on January 22.