Toni Collette in Hereditary: A ‘Best Actress’ Snub and a Horror Masterpiece
Written by Kelly Kling as part of the Valkyries Horror Festival focused on Women in Horror.
As a life-long avid horror fan, I anxiously awaited the release of Hereditary (2018) for nearly a year.
After seeing the trailer for director Ari Aster’s breakout film, I knew it would be one of the best horror releases of the decade. The trailer alone was delightfully methodical—it combined rhythmic, chilling tunes with the darkness and dread from some of the film’s most eerie scenes without giving away any of its many twists. And, of course, it teased us with the unbelievable skills of award-winning actress Toni Collette. Unfortunately, the remarkable display of her skills seen in Hereditary did not receive the Academy attention it deserved.
Horror’s tempestuous history with The Oscars
The only horror film to ever win the Oscar for Best Picture was Silence of the Lambs (1991), and only six have ever been nominated. Though the genre has barely made waves in the Academy’s eyes historically, the success of Jordan Peele’s Get Out (2017) inspired hope that horror recognition would be on the upswing. Hereditary generated so much thoughtful conversation that it was expected to be a part of that upswing. But despite rave reviews and incredible performances, it landed not a single Oscar nomination. Collette’s Best Actress snub is perhaps the most egregious miscarriage of Oscar justice in regard to Hereditary, so I’ll take this opportunity to shine a light on it myself.
Toni Collette in Hereditary more than delivers
Toni Collette stuns in Hereditary as Annie Graham, a grieving mother desperate to hold her family together—even though she feels resented by them for reasons beyond her understanding at the beginning of the film. Hereditary begins with the death of Annie’s mother, and though she and her mother had a strained relationship, she attends grief counselling to share and make sense of her pain. During this early scene, Collette delivers a tragically beautiful monologue that portrays the depths of confusion and heartache that accompany loss—especially when you’ve still got unresolved trauma and a family to take care of at home.
As Annie’s life begins to unravel after another untimely and tragic loss, Collette brings unfiltered emotion to a character that is mentally and spiritually falling apart. But she not only brings layers to her character—she brings layers to the film as a whole. Going in, Hereditary feels like a dark psychological horror. However, it is so much more than that thanks to its incredible cast led by Collette. It is a family drama. A social commentary on toxic tradition. An intimate exposé on the societal pressure placed on matriarchs. Despite all its strange twists and spooky turns, Collette’s role and performance chock this wild film full of relatable moments that any parent could commiserate with.
Despite receiving no love from the Academy, Hereditary was nominated for more than 100 awards from other critics’ organizations and won over 40 of those titles. Much to horror fans’ delight, the film swept the Fangoria Chainsaw Awards: Collette taking Best Actress, Alex Wolff taking Best Supporting Actor for his role as Peter Graham, and Aster taking Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Wide-Release Film.
It’s great that stellar horror films and performances have their place in the Fangoria Chainsaw Awards to shine. But that doesn’t mean the Academy’s implicit bias against horror isn’t worth deconstructing. Are they scared? If so, it’s a shame that they were too scared to go against the grain and shine a light on a dark, praise-worthy performance by an incredible leading woman.
I hope performances like Collette’s continue to help the horror genre break its traditional moulds so that someday, they can all get the Academy recognition they deserve.
Thank you to Kelly for her piece “Toni Collette in Hereditary: A Best Actress Snub and a Horror Masterpiece”.
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