In Defense of Horror
I got into a debate with a friend on social media. She insisted that I should not be celebrating THE SHAPE OF WATER winning Best Picture at this year’s Oscars because it isn’t a Horror movie. It’s a Fantasy, she maintained, a fairy tale. Yes, I conceded. It is both those things. It is also a Horror movie, as both those things fall under the “milieu” of Horror. Godzilla movies are Horror movies. THE OUTSIDERS is a Horror movie. LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT is a Horror movie. A Monster movie, a psychological thriller, and a grindhouse-style slasher pic. These are subcategories, but they all fit under the umbrella of the genre. I love that there is such variety to be found in Horror. Is there a Monster in THE SHAPE OF WATER? I asked. Yes, there is. Is there violence? A guy gets his fingers bitten off, doesn’t he? Then gets them stitched back on and spends the rest of the movie with dead, decomposing fingers. That’s patently Horror-movie fare.
While Guillermo Del Toro spent plenty of time before the Oscars assuring people that his movie wasn’t a Horror picture, he was just being canny. He knows about the stigma attached to the “H” word. And he knew that, if he wanted to secure votes from snooty, pretentious types, he would have to allow them a little wiggle room, the ability to say afterwards that yes, they voted for the movie because it was deserving, but it wasn’t REALLY a Horror movie. As if calling it such would somehow diminish it. It is past time for us to put a stop to the denigration of the genre, to celebrate it instead. Doug Jones should be able to proudly say, yeah, he does primarily Horror work. AND he had a lead role in a movie that won an Academy Award. A movie in which he bites off a guy’s fingers.
We need more mainstream love for the Horror movie, and that starts by properly recognizing one when we see it. Maybe next year’s Oscar winner will ALSO feature a guy getting his fingers bitten off. Why shouldn’t it?