Happy Friday Every-bloody! Welcome to another exciting addition of Blood and Guts for Grown Ups!
I know how much you guys love lists and I aim to please. I considered doing a “Best of the 80’s Horror” when I got an idea: What if they gave Oscars for Horror movies? What if they started giving Oscars for Horror movies back in 1980? Which Horror movies would be considered “the best” when judged by year (as opposed to by decade)? Think about the 10 movies that would comprise the group between 1980 and 1989. Now realize how different this list is from your typical “Top 10 80’s Horror” lists. 1982 may have been a terrible year for Horror, but someone has to win, right? Conversely, 3 of the decade’s best Horror films may have been released in 1987, but only one can win the prize. Some film will win, not because they are outstanding, but because the competition was weak. Other films will miss the mark, even though they are superior to past years’ winners, simply because the competition their year was especially stiff.
Slip with me now into an alternate reality where, back in 1980, The Academy of Motion Pictures decided that Horror is such a vast, stand-alone genre, that it deserves its own “Best Picture” Award. In this context, what follows is not a traditional blog and will be presented as fact.
Find out which films were nominated for Oscars and who the winners were from 1980 through 1989 after the jump…
Academy Members (and indeed many film enthusiasts across the country) were stunned by Staley Kubrick’s adaptation of Stephen King’s The Shining. Sure, violent and supernatural movies had been around for ages (even gaining in popularity throughout the 70’s) but nothing matched this experience, this mix of extreme Horror and undeniable artistry. Truly this was one of the best movies of the year. Still, the Academy was especially stuffy and image conscious back then and its current president refused to consider it for Best Picture. When a huge faction of Academy members threatened to quit and start their own Academy with a new Ceremony, the leaders decided to compromise. Two Academies would be detrimental to both organizations, effectively splitting their target audience in half. In order to appease and keep peace, the Academy created a new category: Best Horror Movie. In essence, this award was created as a means of making sure The Shining got its Oscar. And it did!
Nominees: Altered States, The Fog, Friday the 13th, Night of the Demon, and The Shining.
Winner: The Shining
Aftermath: Horror movies gained long-lasting legitimacy, effectively changing the course of cinematic history.
Nominees: An American Werewolf in London, The Evil Dead, Halloween II, My Bloody Valentine, and The Howling
Winner: Halloween II
Aftermath: Critics claimed that John Carpenter was really being awarded for creating the first Halloween film back in 1978. Since there was no Best Horror Film category back then, giving the Oscar to its sequel was like retrograde respect. Most agreed that An American Werewolf in London was the strongest contender, but Oscars are always political.
Nominees: Creepshow, Basket Case, Friday the 13th III, Poltergeist, and The Thing
Aftermath: This was clearly a Battle Royal between Poltergeist and The Thing. Both were incredibly successful, entertaining, and influential films. But since Carpenter had won an Oscar the previous year for Halloween II, Poltergeist got the gold.
Nominees: Christine, Cujo, Jaws 3D, Psycho II, and Sleepaway Camp
Aftermath: For the first time since the creation of the Best Horror Film Academy Award, there were no stand-outs. In fact, it was an especially poor year for the Horror genre. Some of the stuffier Academy members hoped that this poor crop might signal the end of the Best Horror Oscar. Thankfully, things picked up again in 1984.
Nominees: Children of the Corn, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, Night of the Comet, and A Nightmare on Elm Street
Winner: Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter
Aftermath: Even though A Nightmare on Elm Street was the clear favorite amongst Horror film fans, The Academy was won-over by an incredible performance by a young Corey Feldmen as Tommy Jarvis. And since this would be the “Final Chapter”, the Oscar went to Friday the 13th as a salute to Jason’s final fright.
Nominees: Day of the Dead, Fright Night, The Hills Have Eyes Part II, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, and Return of the Living Dead
Winner: Fright Night
Aftermath: There was a lot of talk about giving the Award to George A. Romero since Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead were such incredible, respected, genre-redefining films. Too bad Day of the Dead fell so flat compared to its predecessors. Same goes for The Hills Have Eyes Part II and A Nightmare on Elm Street Part II: Giving the Oscar to Wes Craven for one of these films would have actually been a nod to the first Hills Have Eyes and Nightmare movies. So in the end it was a choice between Horror Comedies. Fright Night beat Return of the Living Dead which, while brilliant, was extremely gory for the time. Also, Fright Night was a great film with tons of heart.
Nominees: Aliens, The Fly, Friday the 13th V: Jason Lives, The Hitcher, and House
Aftermath: Some great films were nominated in 1986. The Hitcher and House, for example, showed real genius and could have easily been winners in 1983. The Fly still would have been the obvious winner—were it not for the Earth-shaking experience Aliens delivered. Aliens was so undeniably incredible that Sigourney Weaver was even nominated for Best Actress for her portrayal of Ripley. And, in this case, everyone agreed that this sequel was truly superior to the original. Sorry Mr. Scott. Alien definitely would have won if they gave Oscars for Horror movies back in the 70’s. P.S. Everyone was super pissed at the super lame Friday the 13th part V. How it made the list is a mystery to me.
Nominees: The Believers, Creepshow 2, Evil Dead II, Hellraiser, and The Lost Boys
Aftermath: In 1987, Englishman Clive Barker took a sledge-hammer to the Horror genre. Films had been drifting dangerously close to self-satire with their wise-cracking serial killers, their Gremlins and Critters. Hellraiser put the fear and gore back into Horror, and Doug Bradley’s Pinhead was a sensation. Evil Dead II was the only real competition for Hellraiser in 1987.
Nominees: Child’s Play, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Meyers, Hellbound: Hellraiser II, Pumpkinhead, and The Serpent and the Rainbow
Winner: Hellbound: Hellraiser II
Aftermath: In 1988, Clive Barker and Hellraiser II made Academy history. Not only was Clive the first two-time Horror Oscar winner—he won two years in a row. Hellraiser II wasn’t the first sequel to win the Best Horror Oscar, but it was the first time a franchise had won more than one—and just a year after the original Hellraiser. Amazing!
Nominees: Friday the 13th VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, Leviathan, A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, Parents, and Pet Semetary
Winner: Pet Semetary
Aftermath: Pet Semetary was the third Oscar for an adaptation of a Stephen King novel. It also helped that 1989 was another poor year for Horror. Parents was a dark horse nominee but Pet Semetary had some truly terrifying moments, and packed a killer punch. The phrase “Sometimes, dead is better” worked its way into the American vernacular.
It was a landmark decade for the Horror Genre. We didn’t know it at the time, but there were some incredible shifts in direction and amazing surprises coming our way. Come back next week for a recap of the Best Horror Oscar Winners from 1990 through 1999. Until then, sleep tight my pretties. Saucy Josh loves you!