The 2018 Oscar nominations are here and, with the usual contenders (The Shape Of Water, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) came some delightful surprises (Willem Dafoe is up for The Florida Project, James Franco is not up for The Disaster Artist). The biggest shock of all, albeit a really wonderful one, if you’re a horror fan, is that Get Out is up for a whopping FOUR Academy Awards. Including Best Picture.
Let’s take a moment to think that over: a horror movie is up for Best Picture at the 2018 Oscars.
Around this time last year, I wrote about how we, collectively as horror fans, need to stop being annoyed at the lack of Oscar recognition for horror movies. After all, our beloved genre is like the deformed cousin of “proper” movies like La La Land (barf). Its output is never going to be considered in the same breath as something with a jaunty score and woozy, magic hour shots of L.A. Last year, it would’ve been nigh-on impossible to imagine a horror movie competing against something as dreamily artistic as Call Me By Your Name, or a historical prestige pic like Darkest Hour.
Hell, a year ago, it would’ve been unthinkable to consider the possibility of a horror movie competing against a fucking Christopher Nolan movie of all things. And yet, that’s exactly what’s happened. Jordan Peele’s magnificently well-crafted, and truly, gut-wrenchingly terrifying debut, the best horror movie of a super-strong year for horror movies that also included IT, The Autopsy Of Jane Doe and The Devil’s Candy, is up for the highest honour in movie land.
It shouldn’t be all that surprising, of course. Get Out is a brilliant film that will stand the test of time with audiences regardless of awards hype (unlike, say, La La Land), confirmed by its stellar reviews from audiences and critics alike. And yet, the past twelve months have seen attempts to take its horror stamp (a badge of honour for Peele, a proud, lifelong horror fan) away from it by labelling the movie a social satire, a drama, a comedy — anything but a horror movie. The first time writer-director, to his immense credit, dismissed such bullshit anti-categorisations by tweeting that Get Out is a documentary.
And then there were those who (wrongly) accused the movie of being reverse-racist or racist against white people or not authentically black enough. Or something. Remember those people? Attention-seeking loons led by the once-great Armond White? White, now so consumed with being a naysayer he can’t even bring himself to champion a film he should’ve immediately and unquestionably got behind, led a tiny wave of backlash that, thankfully, failed to sink Get Out either in theatres or on home video, where it flew off the shelves.
Get Out is an important film for a variety of reasons, not least its firm standing as a capital-H horror movie. It’s also proof, if any were needed, that a horror movie fronted by a black actor, and with a cast made up mostly of black actors, with a black writer-director at its helm, could sell with worldwide audiences. Lest we forget, the best drama of 2017 was a black movie (Moonlight) as was the best comedy (Girls Trip). In fact, Girls Trip co-writer Tracy Oliver has spoken out about how she struggled to get her script for a horror movie read by producers who claimed that black people don’t watch horror movies.
Likewise, Peele has come under fire for supposedly showcasing his wife, actress and comedian Chelsea Peretti’s, white family’s racism in Get Out in spite of the fact the film’s story, by his own admission, is universal and not based solely on one individual experience. In a lovely NY Times profile, at the end of last year, Peele even confessed to not believing himself that the movie could get made because he’d never seen anything like it before onscreen. “To me, it was the missing piece of the conversation. I’d never seen my fears as an African-American man onscreen in this way,” Peele told the paper.
It’s a timely reminder that a huge section of the horror community has been left out of the conversation thus far, which is another reason it’s so gratifying to see Get Out championed by critics, horror fans and the Academy alike. It’s not just a horror movie, it’s this horror movie. This important, intelligent, brave, unapologetic horror movie. Sure, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter whether horror is well-represented at some dumb awards show. Or even this film in particular. We still know how important it is and we will still push as hard as possible within our big-little community to get things seen and talked about.
But even so, how incredible would it be to see Get Out take home Best Picture on the night? Beating out all the safe choices like Dunkirk, Darkest Hour, et. al? Or to see newcomer Daniel Kaluuya take home the gold for his fearless and utterly committed portrayal of doomed protagonist Chris? Performances in horror movies so rarely get nominated because, more often than not, they’re not the showiest or most attention-grabbing of the year. Think of Ethan Embry in The Devil’s Candy, of Garance Marillier in Raw, or Anya Taylor-Joy in The Witch. All passionate, committed, soul-baring performances that wouldn’t give most normie pundits a second thought, but that we recognise as worthy of acknowledgement and acclaim.
Get Out’s Oscar noms aren’t that strange or shocking. Really, we should’ve expected and demanded them harder. They’re well-deserved and, if there’s any justice in the world, Peele will take home at least one statue on the night. But this moment is also a sign that the times are finally changing and horror is being taken seriously as an art-form, as it always should have been. This doesn’t correct the many awards-less years past, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction and a reason to celebrate. Finally, our day has come. And it couldn’t have happened for a more deserving movie.