Powerhouse actresses are dominating horror, so where is the recognition?


Toni Collette, Emily Blunt, Lupita Nyong’o, Florence Pugh. What do all these names have in common? They’re all actresses who gave exceptionally acclaimed performances in the horror genre in the past few years, lauded by critics and audiences, only to be mostly shut out of the conversation when it came to awards season. Why is this? Well, the clear answer is that it’s an indication of the ever-present prejudice from industry elites against the horror genre, or any genre picture for that matter. This year, the resident big-league actress knocking it out of the park in horror this year is Elisabeth Moss in The Invisible Man. As of the time of writing, I have not yet seen this movie, but the conversation surrounding her performance has striking parallels with the previous names mentioned. Will this year prove to go a different way than the rest?

For my money I would probably say not. For starters, the time of year is not ripe for awards contenders. Like Us, The Invisible Man is a February/March release, something that will most likely be forgotten when Oscar buzz comes around. Part of the reason why Lupita Nyong’o received such attention was because of the dual nature of her performance. It dominated Us and many critics saw that as worthy of recognition. As such, she received a slew of Best Actress gongs from critics groups across America, and even landed a SAG nomination, despite not being able to get the Oscar mention. Moss’ performance, while still being described as remarkable, doesn’t have the uniqueness that Nyong’o had, which may make it less memorable down the line.

In reality, the nature of Moss’ role is clearly more similar to that of Collette and Pugh, i.e more conventional in the fact that its one character, but powerful enough to dominate the conversation surrounding the picture. Collette’s performance in Hereditary was particularly well received, garnering her plenty of new fans and arguably making her one of the most popular actresses of the moment, despite not getting the Oscar recognition. I would however say that the performance served as a vehicle for projects that would be more likely to receive awards. For instance, Collette is possibly a shoe in for Best Supporting Actress in a Limited Series at this year’s Emmys for her performance in Unbelievable despite not being the most impressive actress in that series. The good will received from her horror work is paving the way for recognition of more awards friendly material.

The same can be said for Pugh, who had a fantastic year in 2019. As well as the horror work in Midsommar, she received an Oscar nomination for Little Women. I personally thought that she was the standout in her Supporting Actress category, but part of me wonders whether if she had not had the success in horror earlier in the year she would have made it into the race. There was stiff competition in the field, heck, not even J-Lo could make it for Hustlers. If Pugh hadn’t received such plaudits for Midsommar, would the Academy have acknowledged her for Little Women?

Thus I see Moss being in the awards conversation relatively soon, not for The Invisible Man but for a more Oscar friendly pic later this year. For my money, I would bet on Next Goal Wins, the follow up from new Oscar winner Taika Waititi. The performances in Jojo Rabbit were some of the most acclaimed parts of the film, with star Roman Griffin-Davis picking up numerous youth performance awards and Scarlett Johansson successfully getting into the Academy race. A Best Supporting Actress nod for Moss next year is something I would keep an eye on, and something I can definitely see happening.

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