In an alternate reality, The Academy of Motion Pictures began awarding Oscars for Best Horror Films in 1980. The 80’s were an incredibly vibrant era in Horror Movie history. The 90’s, on the other hand (with a few notable exceptions), was a terrible decade for Horror. The new millennium, however, ushered in a true Horror Renaissance. Many of the films released this last decade are some of the best in Horror history. In addition to a wave on “Found-Footage” films, the millennium brought us New French Extremity, “torture porn”, and a few truly amazing remakes.
If the last decade is any indication of what’s to come, 2010-2019 is only going to get better. Less than 2 years in, and this decade is off to an amazing start with films like: Black Death, The Crazies, Insidious, The Last Exorcism, Let Me In, Resident Evil: Afterlife, Don’t be Afraid of the Dark, Final Destination 5, Scream 4, and Paranormal Activity 3 (to name a few).
Come with me, one last time, back into the past, as I recap the Best Horror Film Oscar contenders, nominees, and winners from 2000-2009.
Serious Contenders: Hellraiser: Inferno, Scream 3, and Urban Legends: Final Cut
Nominees: Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, Final Destination, Ginger Snaps, Pitch Black, and Shadow of the Vampire
Winner: Shadow of the Vampire
Recap: A fictional retelling of the filming of Nosferatu, cinema’s first truly terrifying Horror movie (1922), took home Oscar Gold. Willem Dafoe’s portrayal of Max Schreck was nothing short of brilliant and revived long dormant rumors that this obscure German actor really was a vampire. Shadow of the Vampire is also a great film for cinema lovers interested in how silent films were actually made.
Serious Contenders: Scary Movie 2, Thir13en Ghosts, Wendigo, Mimic 2, and Ghosts on Mars
Nominees: Brotherhood of the Wolf, Donnie Darko, The Hole, Jeepers Creepers, and Session 9
Winner: Session 9
Recap: 2001 was an amazing year for Horror with several top-notch contenders vying for top-prize. Statistically, this race was a five-way dead heat. Many argued that Donnie Darko and The Hole were to psychological and cerebral to be considered true Horror movies, but no one denied that these were amazing films. While Jeepers Creepers would prove itself to be a cult phenomenon, the sleeper Session 9 won the Oscar for its intelligence, great acting, twist ending, and amazing setting.
Serious Contenders: Bubba Ho-Tep, Deathwatch, FearDotCom, Ghost Ship, Halloween: Resurrection, and Resident Evil
Nominees: 28 Days Later, Cabin Fever, The Eye, May, and The Ring
Winner: 28 Days Later
Recap: After The Blair Witch Project, 2002’s winner had the most profound effect on the future of Horror films. 28 Days Later single handedly revived the Zombie subgenre, changed many of “the rules”, and sparked fierce debate about what exactly constitutes a “Zombie”. The baddies in 28 Days Later aren’t dead, they’re sick; they aren’t slow, they’re quick; they aren’t mindless shufflers, they’re rabid attackers. Many wondered why 28 Days Later was even categorized as a Zombie movie. A new subgenre sought to differentiate between the two with the term “Infected”. In that context, Zombies are undead shamblers, while Infecteds are sick psychotics. This might have kept things in neat separate categories except for the fact the future Zombie films quickly began to blur the line. Now we’ve got fast undead Zombies that yell and scream and fight like hell! The question of whether or not 28 Days Later corrupted the purity of the Zombie subgenre aside, its influence is immense.
Serious Contenders: Darkness Falls, Dreamcatcher, Freddy Vs. Jason, Ju-On: The Grudge, Willard, and Wrong Turn
Nominees: A Tale of Two Sisters, Dead End, High Tension, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Underworld
Winner: High Tension
Recap: With High Tension, the New French Extremity arrived in America, hitting Horror audiences like a gut-punch. Almost as shocking as the film and its unflinching intensity is the fact the French were emerging as the new Masters of Horror (considering the stereotypes of France being a country of mimes).
Serious Contenders: The Eye 2, Lightning Bug, Malevolence, Shutter, and Three…Extremes
Nominees: Dawn of the Dead, The Grudge, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, Saw, and Shaun of the Dead
Winner: Dawn of the Dead
Recap: Rarely is a remake as well regarded or respected as the original. Almost unheard-of is a remake that eclipses the original. Sure, John Carpenter did it with The Thing, but almost no one has seen the original film from the 50’s. Still, as unbelievable as it might sound, Dawn of the Dead was considered superior to the original by most Horror critics. What makes this so incredible is that the original Dawn of the Dead was an extremely successful film in its own right. Sure, some purists were upset by the fact that the Zombies were fast and crazy (more like the infected in 28 Days Later), but the newer generation
had no problem with the upgrades. Dawn of the Dead answered some basic, but important questions: “What happens if you die of natural causes?” And: “What happens to an unborn baby if his mother is bitten/infected by a Zombie?” Sara Polly was a tour-de-force.
Serious Contenders: Boy Eats Girl, The Devil’s Rejects, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, The Fog, and Land of the Dead
Nominees: The Decent, Feast, Hostel, Sheitan, and Wolf Creek
Winner: Wolf Creek
Recap: Another amazing year for shocking, innovative Horror films. Academy members were pretty evenly split between the 5 Nominees and there was even talk about a possible tie. The Decent was a brilliant British flick that featured a cast that was almost exclusively female. Feast was the incredibly successful result of Project Green-Light. Hostel shocked audiences worldwide and inspired the term “Torture Porn” (a moniker I’ve never like or considered accurate). Sheitan was another brilliant example of New French Extremity and had a huge following among younger Horror fans. In the end, the Oscar went to Wolf Creek for its uncompromising portrayal of human cruelty. Wolf Creek also marks the first Best Horror Film Academy Award for an Australian film.
Serious Contenders: The Abandoned, An American Haunting, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, Bug, Dark Ride, Fido, The Host, Pulse, The
Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, and Turista
Nominees: The Hills Have Eyes, Saw III, Severance, Slither, and Them
Winner: The Hills Have Eyes
Recap: The Hills Have Eyes is another one of those amazing remakes that even critics agree was superior to its source. While this film was produced by an American company, French director Alexander Aja (who rose to fame for his work on High Tension) was recruited. This gave the film a more nihilistic tone. Brutal, unnerving, and gruesome, The Hills Have Eyes was everything great Horror film should be.
Serious Contenders: 28 Weeks Later, 30 Days of Night, Borderland, Dead Silence, Grindhouse, Halloween, I Am Legend, Inside, Primeval, Resident Evil: Extinction, Shrooms, The Signal, Teeth, and Vacancy
Nominees: Frontier(s), The Mist, The Orphanage, Paranormal Activity, and [REC]
Recap: Another feather in the cap of New French Extremity, the Best Horror Film Oscar went to newcomer Xavier Gens. What made Frontier(s) unique, however, is that it’s the first NC-17 film to win the Academy Award. Frontier(s) never had a theatrical release and would have been ineligible for the Oscar
except for the fact that it ran as part of After Dark’s 8 Films to Die For festival. Frontier(s) set a new bar for Horror—no small feat in an era of such amazing creations.
Serious Contenders: The Alphabet Killer, The Burrowers, The Children, Cloverfield, The Cottage, Deadgirl, Eden Lake, Frozen, Otis, Quarantine, The Ruins, Shutter, Splinter, and The Uninvited
Nominees: Diary of the Dead, Lake Mungo, Martyrs, Let the Right One In, and The Strangers
Recap: Those who though Horror couldn’t possibly get more intense that Frontier(s) were left stunned by Martyrs—yet another gem from those freaky French. While many mainstream theater-goers were unable to stomach the non-stop violence against women, those who connected to this film saw an intense beauty beneath it all. To this day, Martyrs is considered especially extreme and should not be viewed by those with delicate sensibilities.
Serious Contenders: The Collector, Friday the 13th, The Haunting in Connecticut, La Horde, The Human Centipede (First Sequence), Last House on the Left, Mutants, Splice, The Unborn, and Underworld: Rise of the Lycans
Nominees: The Decent 2, Drag Me to Hell, Pandorum, Pontypool, and Trick ‘r Treat
Winner: Trick ‘r Treat
Recap: It wasn’t the scariest, most inventive, best produced, or most intellectual, but Trick ‘r Treat pleased Horror fans and detractors alike. So 2009 might not have been the best year for Horror, but this decade certainly was–by far.
Check back in 7 years for my recap of Best Horror Oscar Winners from 2010-2019!
Talk to you soon, my Sweeties. Saucy Josh loves you!