Better late than never, we bring you a Halloween-related post that magically links into the great and prosperous awards season. We all know the trouble the horror films have trying to be seen when it comes to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. To celebrate the 31st of October, AKA Halloween, here are 31 horror films that many of us here at Filmotomy believe worthy of Best Picture recognition. I use the term “horror” sparingly of course, I mean some of you claim The Silence of the Lambs to be a horror film. Read on, for more or less appropriately labelled movies. Be warned, though, this is a beast of an article, so please hang in there, turn off the lights, and perch somewhere safe. All your comments are welcome. Happy Halloween.
Riddled with technical Oscar nominations, and rightly so, James Cameron’s explosive, non-stop action extravaganza would have made a terrific Best Picture nominee. Horror, sci-fi, monster movie, pure action, whatever – Aliens has the quality and timeless appeal to ranked at the very top of 1986’s finest efforts. Can we go as far as to say it could have beaten Platoon to win Best Picture? Had Aliens swept the techs, including a well-deserved win for James Horner’s score, and managed to reward Sigourney Weaver with the Best Actress prize, then we may well be crying “Game over, man!” in a much more euphoric way. – – – – – Robin @Filmotomy
Alright, just hear me out on this one. Wes Craven’s Scream may not seem the most likely of films to have been overlooked by the Academy. It certainly doesn’t scream Best Picture contender. But this film arrived in a year where something as generic as The English Patient was able to sweep the Oscars. A film that truly turned the horror world on its head, and, for better or worse, revitalised the lagging slasher genre.
With its intoxicating mix of pitch-perfect, self-aware humour and genuinely terrifying scares, Scream was the breath of fresh air the horror genre so desperately needed. Craven crafted a horror film that defied expectations and constantly kept you on your toes. Throw in a brilliant ensemble cast, an intelligent screenplay, and a gallons of blood, this is still the gold standard horror film of the 1990s. A Best Picture nomination was never going to happen, but it could have stood as a moment the Academy acknowledged a pop culture phenomenon. Guess the MTV Movie Award for Best Film will have to do. – – – – – Doug @itsdougjam
Train to Busan (2016)
I would not qualify myself as a foreign movie fan, a horror fan, or even a zombie movie fan. The only movie to ever make me give it a second thought was 2016’s Train To Busan, a South Korean zombie apocalypse film that takes the main thing that frustrates me about the subject and throws it in the trash. I get very caught up in trying to understand how this situation even occurred, especially in media involving the undead. Train to Busan fights this by being so rooted in its characters that you never feel like you are being cheated of any answers.
The film starts with a father and a daughter on a trip to Busan. It is elegantly simple, and it keeps the film moving. Even when the entire ensemble of characters is introduced, the premise is always kept very clear. It is the beginning of the zombie apocalypse. The questions lie in all that we knew before the insanity began: where are the people, and are they okay? If you get grossed out by gore, hate horror, can’t stand another apocalypse film, or get tired of reading captions, I would still implore you to try this movie. You are getting a zombie thrill-ride, but more importantly, you are getting a heartfelt story about community, acceptance, and what it means to be there for someone. – – – – – Celia @filmsunstuck
The Thing (1982)
John Carpenter’s The Thing shouldn’t exist – the 1950 Howard Hawks/Christian Nyby original is too good. But in reimagining it, Carpenter and screenwriter Bill Lancaster preserved Hawks’s core narrative – an alien terrorizes an Arctic military base – while emphasizing something darker. Most horror-movie fans love Carpenter’s remake because of the gore: you don’t forget the hyperreal specificity FX artist Rob Bottin brings to the alien shapeshifting setpieces. Yet Carpenter cares more about the paranoia between suspicious men. The Thing functions as a masterpiece of ambivalent machismo.
Nowadays, Carpenter casts himself a gun-for-hire, but his efforts on The Thing belay this false modesty. A gun-for-hire doesn’t mount large reshoots, as Carpenter did after seeing a rough cut and realizing the movie didn’t work. A gun-for-hire doesn’t approach the aesthetic this carefully, muting colors to emphasize Bottin’s effects or designing sets to showcase DP Dean Cundey’s anamorphic-shooting strategies. And a gun-for-hire doesn’t insist on The Thing’s finale: a sad, quiet conversation between two men too tired to care if the other is human. The Thing is a perfect film. Get lost in its yawning abysses. – – – – – Josh @TrppdnthCg
David Fincher’s Se7en is a dark and all too pessimistic look at the evil in this world, and how we are powerless to stop it. Morgan Freeman’s weathered Detective Somerset carries on, despite all of the horrors he has encountered over his long years on this earth. Fincher’s cold and cynical vision is translated into the art direction of the always gloomy and rainy city Somerset and his tragic partner, Detective Mills, inhabit. With razor sharp editing, a twisted screenplay with a killer ending and Kevin Spacey playing quite possibly the devil himself (how fitting), Se7en remains a stark and profound masterpiece of psychological horror, that will not leave your mind after a first viewing.
In fact, it will have you coming back for more because like Somerset, we want to believe that the world is a just place and worth fighting for. Se7en reminds us that the former is false while the later is still true. It is for these reasons, years before the Academy decided to reward another film that touched upon the senseless evil of this world in No Country For Old Men, that Se7en should’ve received more love from the Academy in 1995. Nominations it should’ve received include Picture, Director, Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Film Editing (Which it received) & Best Production Design. – – – – – Matt @NextBestPicture
The Bad Seed (1956)
They don’t make them like this anymore. Well, they attempt to remake them kind of like this. The 1956 film The Bad Seed is classic eerie and mystery, and one of the very best pictures of the year. The Academy were not so sure, in no doubt another neglect of the genre in such prestige categories. That said, three of the actresses were all nominated, including little Patty McCormack. Could The Bad Seed have landed a warranted Best Picture nod? I think so! This was the year that Around the World in 80 Days took the big prize – so, what do you think? – – – – – Robin @Filmotomy
The Shining (1980)
Critics can and will argue for years about The Shining. Is it a faithful adaptation of the novel? Does it make sense to cast Jack Nicholson as an average man driven to madness by isolation and the supernatural influence of the Overlook Hotel when Nicholson on a good day comes across as being three quarters of the way to crazy already? Is Stanley Kubrick a cinematic genius, an abusive perfectionist, or both?
Ultimately, we can nitpick certain elements of this film forever, but when we look at everything as a whole, what we have is a classic horror film hat has stood the test of time. The visuals that Kubrick uses throughout the film are at once artistic and terrifying, and his use of the camera to depict the eerie hotel as a character in its own right as much as any of the human film is incredible. The iconic scares in this film still work forty odd years later, and serve as a testament to the fact that The Shining should have gotten much more attention from the Academy when it first came out. – – – – – Audrey @audonamission
Ex Machina (2015)
There may be some objections to this choice, but I’ll fight to the bitter end to say Alex Garland’s directorial debut, the British psychological-thriller Ex-Machina, is at its heart a horror story about our darkest fears of AI technology and its potential. Admittedly it doesn’t have the tropes, explicit structure, or imagery of more iconic horror films but I’d argue it still has all the suspense and, by the final act, the fear inducing tension required to scare you.
It’s not a traditional horror, but it is horrifically suspenseful. Beyond that, it is also undoubtedly one of the best sci-fi films in recent memory with every element pulling out its A-game. It did garner an Oscar for Visual Effects and a nomination for Original Screenplay, as well as many BAFTA nominations; but even in a year that would have pit it against cinematic greats such as Spotlight, The Revenant, and Mad Max: Fury Road it arguably should have been considered an equal and worthy contender. – – – – – Jon @jonnbridges