Last night, as I inexplicably suffered through yet another Academy Awards, there was one moment when a glimmering ray of light promised to shine through the dreary landscape of ego-stroking and award purchasing. The moment the words "tribute to horror" were uttered by the voice-over, my heart raced. Could it be that the Academy was actually going to tip its hat from way up on its high horse, to the genre it has so long overlooked? I was anxious to see the clip reel and rejoice with a pair of my horrorphile buddies in the room as our favorite titles garnered representation. But any and all dignity the Oscars had deigned to bestow upon our beloved genre was abruptly decimated when the presenters entered the stage.
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We here at Horror Squad have made a commitment not to provide any coverage whatsoever to a certain abysmal film franchise based on a certain abysmal book series. If my overt attempts to be vague are too cryptic for you, and I'm sure they are not, I am speaking of Twilight. Twilight is to horror as Scooby Doo is to psychological thriller. It's a neutered, pandering horror shell painted with some of its most classic elements and marketed as junk food to love-starved tweens. I know it sounds snobby--even a touch pretentious--for a horror film critic to denigrate Twilight and, granted, I am not the demographic for these films or these books. But there was something very specific that was said by the two cast members presenting the horror tribute that struck me as wildly hypocritical and totally absurd.
I was already seething at the idea that these two, and by association this series, was being associated with respectable horror films by the time I heard the incendiary words leave Kristen Stewart's dreary lips, "these films don't often get the respect they deserve." I couldn't even comprehend the rest of the speech; my ears were filling up with blood from the massive aneurysm in my brain. The thing is, she is entirely correct. Horror, especially as far as the Academy is concerned, is the black sheep of cinema. But what is so infuriating about her delivering that statement is that Twilight is part of the reason why horror is not given the respect it deserves. Don't get me wrong, I know the genre has been sidelined in terms of recognition for many years, but it is still outrageous to have two vessels of genre embarrassment try to serve as our champions.
Am I overreacting? Is Twilight a harmless distraction for a microcosm of film-goers? Perhaps. I was once that age and was not at all a horror fan. What changed that for me was my father sitting me down and introducing me to John Carpenter's Halloween. From there, the floodgates of curiosity were opened and I started watching any and every slasher film I could get my hands on, subsequently branching out into haunted house films, creature features, etc. The indignation here stems precisely from my being such a horror fan and wanting the younger generations to follow in our appreciation of this genre. That is not going to be the outcome if their only exposure to "horror" is Twilight, and the more the franchise is associated with horror, the more the potential danger that we will lose a major chunk of the youth.
I don't mean to equate being a horror fan with admission into some kind of cult, but I know we are all passionate about this genre and Twilight is cashing in on its name without making any effort to contribute to it. And if you don't think Twilight is ruining horror for younger fans, I direct you to the angry letter a fan wrote to Latino Review lambasting The Wolfman for ripping off New Moon. At first, I wanted to smack this kid across the face with the business end of a cricket bat. But then I realized that this poor, deluded kid actually has no concept of the Universal Monsters, the most basic rogues gallery of horror characters. The idea that Team Shirtless Oiled-up Doofus may be this person's only concept of a werewolf is heart-breaking. There is an argument to be made that these films are designed to appeal to girls and therefore get a pass, but since when is being a horror fan reserved for males? I think our own Alison Nastasi would disagree. The ovary-sploitation of Twilight is just as offensive as the misogyny that some associate with real horror.
Throw all of this out the window if you want. Tell me I'm a crazy old man who doesn't understand kids these days if you must. But the fact that this pair introduced the horror tribute, and by the inclusion of Twilight in the reel, demonstrates that the Academy still knows exactly as much as it cares to (absolutely nothing) about the genre. In a ceremony that otherwise displayed deep reverence for the legacy of film (with the cavalcade of posters from the last time ten films were up for best picture, for example), tossing in a shameless plug for a non-horror film in a horror tribute just because the un-nominated stars could be enlisted to boost the ratings is despicable. It is clear to me that this was no tribute at all and further illustrates the back-handed, patronizing regard the academy has for our passion.
Don't believe me? How many horror films have ever been nominated for best picture? It rhymes with four. Winners? Try one.