The Academy is known for having a genre bias against horror films. They sometimes nominated horror films but they had to be some kind of a cultural phenomenon or have a great box office to gain recognition and even then, some shocking snubs happened.
Here are some of those great performances that people expected to be nominated but they ended up missing and also some who never had a chance at the first place because of nature/tone of their films.
15. Kirsten Dunst – Interview with the Vampire (1994)
Neil Jordan’s adaptation of Anne Rice’s famous gothic novel was commercially successful, but it struggled to please some film critics and fans of the book. Some loved the atmosphere, while some claimed it lacks the right atmosphere. Some said it’s thrilling, some claimed it’s boring and nonsense, blaming Rice’s script.
Tom Cruise was great in an unlikely role but his chemistry with Brad Pitt, who admitted that he was miserable during the production, was criticized as dull and lifeless. Its gore scared Oprah Winfrey even who left the movie after just ten minutes in.
Whatever you thought of the movie, there’s no denying: its highlight was Kirsten Dunst who gives one of the best child performances. She was spotted by talent scouts and was the first girl tested for the role of Claudia, a vampire child. She shines in every scene she is in, even though the film has a notable all-star cast, she hold her own against her famous co-stars and got some great moments (particularly the incident in which Claudia tries to cut her hair).
Dunst earned some nominations and awards from critics groups, won a Saturn award, nominated for a Golden Globe but subsequently snubbed for an Oscar. But here’s a more surprising thing: Dunst grew up, made a lot of great films since then including some terrific work like “Melancholia” and she’s still not nominated. How unfair is that?
14. Gary Oldman – Dracula (1992)
Francis Ford Coppola’s take on “Dracula” was also criticized by some fans as being “confused” and relying too much on its atmosphere, but it was still much more critically acclaimed film compared to the previously mentioned “Interview with the Vampire” and even though some of the cast members (particularly Keanu Reeves who was so bad that Coppola later said he won’t work with him again) were criticized for their performances, Gary Oldman got almost universal praise for his portrayal as Count Dracula / Vlad the Impaler.
Oldman was long considered as the best actor with no Oscar nomination until he finally got nominated for “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” and finally won for “Darkest Hour”, but does it make us all forget that he was snubbed for so many times for so many great performances?
Oldman’s performance has also had some impact on pop-culture and become somewhat of an influential performance. For example, “What We Do in the Shadows” (2014) actor Jemaine Clement based his performance as Vladislav on Oldman’s Dracula.
13. Sam Neill – In the Mouth of Madness (1994)
Of course, we can’t expect an Oscar nomination from a John Carpenter film, even though Jeff Bridges was able to snatch a nom for “Starman” (and Kurt Russell was an Emmy nominee for “Elvis” but that was not a genre film), which is a shame because there had been so many amazing performances in his movies; Kurt Russell’s iconic roles in “Escape from New York” and “The Thing” or James Woods’ cool turn in “Vampires” among them.
“In the Mouth of Madness” had even a less chance to get nominated for anything (other Saturn awards of course), because it received some very negative reviews when it first came out, but years later, the reception has started to get better and some articles have been started to write about what kind of a “misunderstood masterpiece” it was.
Was it a masterpiece or not is a different subject, but it’s a great film with some really iconic scenes. Sam Neill’s amazing performance in the lead role as a man who loses his understanding of reality makes it even better. For general audiences, Neill had always been “a guy from Jurassic Park” (and even there Goldblum overshadows him), but films like “In the Mouth of Madness” shows what a great actor he truly is.
12. Kiefer Sutherland – The Lost Boys (1987)
“They’re only noodles, Michael.” Another performance nobody expected to get nominated for an Oscar or anything major because it was a teen vampire horror-comedy, but it would make such a cool nomination because through the years Kiefer’s amazing performance as David, the leader of the vampire bike gang, has enjoyed even more popularity than it was when the movie got released.
Well-known movie critic Peter Travers puts his performance among the best vampire characters of all time, citing the scene where he attacks Surf Nazis at a bonfire as a particular highlight.
The film is still beloved as ever and you can see people still having a David make-up in Halloween or can come across some characters in teen vampire films and TV shows influenced by his performance. His demonic charisma, remarkable screen presence and the way he delivers his lines still entertain the fans.
Sutherland later collaborated with director Joel Schumacher again and gave other great performances, portraying dark characters in his films “Flatliners” (1990), “A Time to Kill” (1996) and “Phone Booth” (2002, probably the best voice acting performance in a non-animated film?), but “The Lost Boys” still remains as their most iconic collaboration.
11. Jennifer Carpenter – The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)
Possibly the only half-horror, half-courtroom drama in history, Scott Derrickson’s “Exorcism of Emily Rose” aims to look at the exorcism phenomenon from both religious and scientific perspectives and make his audience to question what do they believe in.
Probably the only scary parts in a “traditional” sense of horror are the ones that feature Jennifer Carpenter in flashback scenes. She’s famous now for her “Dexter” role but was a newcomer back in time. Derrickson was smart enough to avoid effects or over-the-top make up in favour of a truly effective, fantastic performance and Carpenter just shines in all of her scenes.
10. Michael Pitt – Funny Games (2007)
Even though he slowed down a bit recently, Michael Pitt has an impressive auteur resume given his age. He already has worked with Martin Scorsese, Martin McDonagh, Gus Van Sant, Bernardo Bertolucci and also appeared in this highly divisive Michael Haneke film which deemed both as a “masterpiece” and “arthouse torture porn” by critics and film fans alike. You may agree or disagree but one of the superior sides of “Funny Games US” to the original “Funny Games” was strength of the acting performances.
Tim Roth, Naomi Watts and Brady Corbet are all good, but it’s Michael Pitt who ends up being the most memorable of them. He is creepy, he is charismatic, he is violent, he is sadistic and even bit charming.
You may dislike his performance if you’re among the haters of the film, but if you loved the film, then his performance had a lot to do with it. We knew that he’s good at playing disturbed psychos, as his character was probably the most interesting thing about “Murder by Numbers” (2002), but here he reached a next level.
9. Essie Davis – The Babadook (2014)
Recently arthouse horror has probably entered its golden age. Almost every year we get one particularly acclaimed horror film, like “It Follows”, “The Witch” and “Hereditary”. “The Babadook” is one of those.
Expertly directed and crafted by Jennifer Kent, the film shines a light at the effects of pain of loss and how our grief can be some kind of demonic presence and can mess up our psychology. It’s not exactly the twist or should we say, reveal of the mystery here that is strong but how the film explores the complex nature of motherhood and how a person deals with grief.
For an inventive film like this, Kent needed a strong actress to display all the devastating feelings our main character goes through and Essie Davis is the perfect choice. She makes us understand her fears, her depression and also makes us scared by shifting madness.