In the wake of the Oscars last weekend I could easily write something about Get Out winning (and missing out), but I feel I've covered my love of Jordan Peele's debut so I'm going to focus on something else that came up (or rather, didn't come up) on Sunday night.
Tobe Hooper, director of Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Poltergeist*, passed away last year. While later efforts may never have matched the visceral, kinetic fury of his 1974 masterpiece, Texas Chain Saw Massacre, the brilliance of that film- from the hellish design to the unforgiving plot and characters that fly in the face of the generalization that horror films lack depth- make the Texan director an important figure, not just in horror, but cinema in general.
It was a shame, therefore, that Hooper was omitted from this year’s Oscars in memoriam section.
With few exceptions horror is an overlooked genre in mainstream cinema. It was wonderful to see Jordan Peele pick up an Oscar for Get Out’s screenplay.
The mere fact that the film has garnered the awards attention it has can only be a good thing for horror. It feels to me that until horror films are regularly nominated for awards and the genre’s legends are celebrated it will be a poor relative of the genres more broadly accepted by mainstream cinema.
With horror cinema generally overlooked and only grudgingly accepted in awards ceremonies like the Oscars we have still seen films as wonderful and varied as Green Room, It, Get Out, and Raw (and that’s only from the last couple of years). Would mainstream approval or acceptance improve horror cinema? I would say no. Horror is often at its best when the filmmakers are fighting and working with tight constraints. Low-to-no budgets often force the filmmakers to be more creative. The recent Blair Witch Project reboot is a great example of how better technology and more money does not necessarily make for a better horror film. Would Saw have been a better film if James Wan and Leigh Whannell had had more money? We’ll never know, but I would suspect not.
Tobe Hooper and TCSM typifies this. While Hooper may not always have been enamored with horror (he wasn't a fan of TCSM being classified as a slasher and possibly saw himself with more of a connection to comedy**), he created one of its most enduring works of art and he did so without mainstream backing.
So, congratulations Jordan Peele and Get Out, RIP Tobe Hooper, and long live the mainstream not appreciating our wonderful, beautiful, disgusting genre!
*which has always held a question mark over Steven Spielberg's involvement which possibly says something about the general perception of horror directors
**hence Texas Chain Saw Massacre 2