Written by Joshua Copus-Oxland |
Oscar season is drawing closer. In the realm of horror, there was a breadth of flicks this year that fit the bill for nominations, from the breakout hit A Quiet Placeto the redefining remake of Suspiriato the sci-fi horror Annihilation. However, for this particular topic, nothing is more deserving of a nomination for Best Leading Actress than Toni Colette’s role in Hereditary, directed by Ari Aster.
Colette plays the miniature artist and mother of two, Annie Graham, who has conflicted feelings about her own past when her mother dies, which already sets the bar high for compelling drama. However, when a certain tragic event happens at the end of the first act, it transforms from a family drama into a spiralling nightmare, with Annie at the very centre of events. It runs the gamut of emotions as the family’s already strenuous relationship begins to fray completely, both adding to the heartbreak and the horror of what’s to come when things take a turn for the supernatural.
Annie’s character is laid bare and deconstructed in this film. It not only questions her mental state, due to a troubled history with her manipulative mother, it also tests her ability as a responsible parent as she alienates her husband and son even further. Of the film’s many horrific scenes, nothing hits as close to home as the dinner scene: devoid of physical horror of any sort, but chock full of mental torture for all characters involved.
When pushed too far, Annie lashes out at her son, and nothing clinches it more than Colette’s brutal performance here, fully conveying the range of emotions in any grieving mother. From pent up rage to overwhelming sadness, she flips through both extremes so elegantly that it makes you forget you’re watching an actor, but seeing the character as a real person.
Colette’s performance is not only considered to be the standout in Hereditary, it’s also considered to be the most defining role of her career so far by publications such as Consequence of Sound, even in a line-up with many highlights such as The Sixth Senseand Little Miss Sunshine.
While the film is not without its flaws, mainly to do with how the narrative thread falls apart at the end with its transition into supernatural elements, it’s still a very formidable feature debut that’s worthy of being in the great horror canon. Yet, it defies it at the same time, being an effective character study of grief regardless of genre. Even at the time of its release, this film was considered a strong contender for Oscar season.
So why the hell did it get snubbed in the end?
Unfortunately, despite Hereditary’s glowing reception by a lot of critics, it didn’t place in any of the Oscar categories. As far as June, it was debated whether or not Hereditary would get an acknowledgement by Academy voters,because of its genre hangups and the director’s lack of previous feature films. Ari Aster’s only other notable work is The Strange Thing About the Johnsons, a very controversial short drama about an unconventional incestuous relationship, so that wouldn’t be enough for him to have a firm foothold as an auteur director yet.
Genre films tend to be looked down upon in Oscar season, especially horror and sci-fi. The only other horror nomination this year in the Academy Awards is A Quiet Place, and only for sound-editing. Granted, it comes with the territory of a horror premise about staying as quiet as possible, but still, out of the other horror movie contenders to come out this year (again, hearkening back to Suspiria and Annihilation, with the psychedelic horror Mandy also being disqualified), A Quiet Place is the only financially successful one, while Hereditary’s box office success is only moderate in comparison.
Historically, the only horror to ever win an Oscar for Best Picture is The Silence of the Lambs, so for a film in that genre to break into the Oscar season is an extraordinary feat. The only film to come close since then in recent memory is Get Out, which was an outstanding exception in horror genre films to have crossover appeal, but still didn’t win Best Picture.
While Hereditary is arguably not as well executed as its contemporaries as an unconventional horror, even without that, it’s a shame the film hasn’t been acknowledged by the Academy, especially with Toni Colette as the film’s standout role. It’s even more baffling to think about, considering the only nomination Colette has ever gotten by the Academy is her role in The Sixth Sense.
Fans are retaliating in their own way as memes have spread over Twitter of this year’s nominations snubs, so while the elite might not recognise it, at least the internet will.