The annual Golden Horn Awards honors the best genre films of each year in a variety of categories; We present the decade’s Best Picture winners.
Last night, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) recognized excellence in cinematic achievements across a broad variety of categories, as assessed by the Academy’s voting membership. While the Academy Awards are intended to reflect the best work of the year, horror fans often rightfully bemoan the notable absence of much (if any) excellent genre work. Rarely does a horror film garner so much as a nod from the prestigious awards show, much less a significant win.
Of course, that’s not to say that the genre hasn’t consistently produced plenty of award-worthy work. In fact, I’d argue the past decade was one of the strongest in the genre’s storied history. Thus, if mainstream media refuses to consistently recognize the very deserving talent working in horror, it’s up to us to ensure that this work gets celebrated.
It’s in that spirit that I founded the annual horror awards show known as The Golden Horn Awards.
Now in its 9th year, my first award show took place in January of 2012. As with the Academy Awards, the show honored achievements in horror from the prior year (2011).
My goal at the time was to make a case for the quality of modern horror. As social media platforms surged during the late 2000s, so did the horror “chatter”. A couple of phrases that I began to notice, and notice often, were: “Modern horror sucks” and “They don’t make great horror films anymore.” I needed to present a proper case and defense that modern horror did NOT, in fact, “suck.”
I was somewhat of a novice with my YouTube channel called “Horror’s Ball,” named after the 90’s MTV heavy music show, “Headbanger’s Ball.” But I figured, why not use my channel to combat the sentiment that had me so on edge? Rather than just yelling about all the great horror going unnoticed, I started my awards show in an attempt to to celebrate and expose all of the great content the genre was consistently offering.
It was my attempt at creating the Academy Awards for Horror Fans.
With an astounding average of anywhere between 40-60 films per year represented on each awards show, it didn’t take long for me to realize that we were in the middle of something very special for the genre. Nine shows later, I personally consider 2010-2019 one of the greatest decades the genre has ever seen.
And I am very proud that I’ve at least tried to do my part to properly praise the quantity and quality that has emerged each and every year. I am also extremely proud that the decade has proven that truly great films can come from any budget and from literally anywhere in the world, as South Korea’s incredible Parasite (billed as a drama/comedy/thriller, but a film that fits comfortably within the genre) just proved at this year’s Academy Awards.
In that spirit, here is a look back at the films that won “Best Picture” on my awards show. You can also check out the full broadcast of this year’s show below for all the nominees and winners from 2019.
Note: As the show began honoring films in 2011, I’ve included what would have been my pick for Best Picture in 2010 in the list below.
2010: Black Swan
Ironically, one of the decade’s earliest and strongest films was a critically acclaimed Hollywood production. But luckily, thanks to Darren Aronofsky, it would, perhaps prophetically, be an indication that a big budget genre film did not have to be fueled by CGI and jump scares.
Aronofsky uses the classic tale of Swan Lake to show the evolution of an aspiring ballerina and her quest for artistic perfection. Incredibly intense and at times surreal, Natalie Portman would win an Oscar for her lead performance in this modern classic.
2011: Hobo With A Shotgun
Armed, no pun intended, with plenty of talent — including cinematographer Karim Hussein, alumni from Canadian sitcom hit “Trailer Park Boys,” and of course actor Rutger Hauer in the titular role — Jason Eisener’s debut is an epic modern grindhouse homage. Tired of poverty, crime, and corruption, Hauer’s hobo character decides to begin some vigilante justice one shotgun shell at a time.
And while the film boasts stellar cinematography, a plethora of fantastic practical gore fx, and a memorable score, it is the dynamic and unexpectedly heartfelt relationship between the hobo and a prostitute, played wonderfully by Molly Dunsworth, that elevates the film well above novelty cult status.
French contributions to the genre, over the last two decades, are well documented, but perhaps not as well received as they should be. Case in point is this meta-gothic vampire tale by modern stalwarts Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo (Inside). Lucie, who is sparked by a frustrating home life, decides to, along with her boyfriend and his brother, embark on an attempt to steal a hidden treasure from a Victorian mansion.
Taking place on Halloween night, which is sure to please horror fans, Livid contains some of the best and creepiest set pieces of the decade. The film also delivers top notch gore fx, a beautiful fantasy-tinged climax, and a truly badass and frightening vampire. It’s a film that helped solidify Maury and Bustillo as masters of the decade, as they also gave us the great Among the Living and the divisive Leatherface.
In his debut and unfortunately only feature film, Brandon Cronenberg (son of film legend David Cronenberg) brings us a startling and certainly relevant parable on our obsession with celebrities. Caleb Landry Jones gives a blistering performance as an employee for a company that grants consumers a chance to be injected with an actual virus just withdrawn from one of their favorite celebrities.
It’s an outstanding social commentary backed with plenty of bloody body horror that Brandon’s father made so famous decades before him.
2014: Pieces of Talent
This film personifies the sheer strength of the indie horror scene that churns out great films year in and year out. A snuff filmmaker, played by David Long — — who should go down as the most adorable serial killer ever portrayed on screen — befriends an aspiring actress who he decides to cast in his upcoming “masterpiece.”
Gory, fun, and unnerving, director Joe Stauffer has given us a beautiful and original piece of horror art with Pieces of Talent.
2015: Starry Eyes
As someone who has been in bands for decades, I can certainly relate to the struggles, passions, and desires of an artist. The decade is a shining example of how that theme can be perfect horror fodder, with great films like the previously mentioned Black Swan, Joe Begos’ feverish Bliss, and Nicolas Refn’s beautiful The Neon Demon. But, for me, none was as impactful and as purely entertaining as another indie entry, Starry Eyes.
In one of my favorite performances of the decade, Alex Essoe plays an aspiring actress who must find out how far she will go to land a coveted lead role. Led by a great synth driven score, Essoe’s masterful portrayal culminates in an incredible and gore drenched final act that left me in awe. The satanic and cult undertones are a wonderful and satisfying tongue in cheek commentary on Hollywood and its dark secrets.
2016: The Witch
The decade was loaded with plenty of incredible debut films from extremely talented filmmakers. But none were as potent, memorable, and as polarizing as Robert Eggers’ The Witch. Perhaps the quintessential “non-Hollywood” horror film, it somehow received theatrical distribution much to the joy of fans like me and the dismay of others. Ripe with liberal amounts of atmosphere, slow building dread, disturbing imagery, and old- English dialect, it would serve as the antithesis for the average horror fan who would visit the theater in hopes of obligatory jump scares and big fx.
From the foreboding score and amazing performances to the richly satisfying climax, Eggers gave us a new Folk-horror masterpiece. And lest we not forget, it also gave us the incomparable Black Philip, who has inspired so many of us to live deliciously!
2017: The Monster
I like complex narratives. I love metaphors (i.e. Mother and The Last Circus). But sometimes a basic and old fashioned monster story, when combined with a perfect script and powerful performances, can be just as alluring. And in this case, it’s the perfect recipe for a Best Picture winner. From Bryan Bertino (The Strangers), The Monster tells the story of an alcoholic young mother, played by Zoe Kazan who is taking her daughter, played by Ella Ballentine, for a visit with her father. An accident leaves them stranded on a rainy deserted road and face to face with a deadly creature.
Excellent practical gore and creature fx aside, it is the character-driven dialogue and superb performances that viciously tugs on the emotions of even the most cynical horror fan. Deeply affecting and moving, The Monster bares teeth… and heart.
As I mentioned earlier, the decade has given us great films from the most unexpected places. And in this case, that unexpected gift comes from Turkey. Can Evrenol’s follow up to his nightmarish debut, Baskin, which coincidentally won Best Foreign film on my awards in 2017, is a gorgeous and demented treat. A young woman’s suppressed memories of traumatic childhood events are uncovered by a charismatic and popular cult leader, propelling her life into a waking nightmare.
The sexy Clementine Poidatz offers up a sympathetic and unhinged performance atop a beautifully menacing score. But it is the film’s visuals that leave the biggest mark. The lush technicolor cinematography compliments the excellent and nasty gore fx. It wears its Italian horror influence proudly on its sleeve. In fact, if Dario Argento made a hypnotic HP Lovecraft-fueled tale, it would be Housewife. Yes, it’s that good.
2019: The Lighthouse
Robert Eggers returns to the list for his second Best Picture award. And that’s a testament to Eggers’ extreme talents. He manages to take a film set in essentially one isolated location, with only two actors, shot in black and white in a shortened aspect ratio, and delivers a veritable feast for the senses. Stark and claustrophobic, the cinematography still manages to exude a menacing beauty. The ominous score and sound design hits, when needed, like waves on a rocky shore. And much like The Witch, the imagery in The Lighthouse is visceral and penetrating.
While Eggers more than delivers on the technical front, stars Robert Pattinson and Willem Defoe chew the vast dialogue with a poetic fluidity. For good measure, throw in some perfectly placed humor and flatulence and you have an eerie, surreal, and subversive experience draped in rain, tentacles, and seaweed. In a word: brilliant.