Last night, MAD MAX: FURY ROAD took home 6 Academy Awards (!) for Best Costume Design, Production Design, Makeup & Hairstyling, Film Editing, and both Sound Mixing and Editing. But in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Oscar was more about madwomen than mad men. In 1988, FATAL ATTRACTION got six nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actress for bunny-boiler Glenn Close. She didn’t take the gold, but three years later, another female frightener went all the way to the big prize: Kathy Bates for her unforgettable portrayal of MISERY’s Annie Wilkes. This was the first acting nom for a Stephen King film since CARRIE’s Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie, and Bates duly thanked the author when she accepted the award:
This victory was the prelude for the 1992 Academy Awards, which saw the genre make its biggest score ever. THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS had been a huge critical and audience favorite when it opened in February ’91, but conventional wisdom had it that movies released that early in a year were doomed to be supplanted in voters’ favor by those that debuted later on. But SILENCE held in there, and won not only Best Picture, but Actor, Actress, Director and Adapted Screenplay—just the third film to do so after IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT and ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST. (It was nominated for Best Film Editing and Best Sound as well.) The night belonged to SILENCE right from the beginning, as host Billy Crystal made a Hannibal Lecter-styled entrance:
Bates returned to the stage to announce Hopkins’ win, for which his stiff competition included another screen psycho, CAPE FEAR’s Robert De Niro:
Foster, taking her second Oscar in just three years (the first was for THE ACCUSED), delivered a long and eloquent speech:
While Demme seemed noticeably, and notoriously, overwhelmed when he accepted his award:
And then came the big prize, making SILENCE the first horror film to take Best Picture:
On top of all that, CAPE FEAR’s Juliette Lewis was up for Best Supporting Actress, and hardcore sci-fi made a strong showing too as TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY was in the running for six awards, and won four: Best Visual Effects, Best Makeup (with Stan Winston part of both teams), Best Sound and Best Sound Effects Editing.
In 1993, another big-ticket frightfest made a major showing, as BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA nabbed three out of the four Academy Awards it was up for. Most notably, Greg Cannom grabbed the first of his three Best Makeup Oscars (followed by MRS. DOUBTFIRE and THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON) as part of the DRACULA team, tying him with Ve Neill for second most wins in this category after Rick Baker.
DRACULA also took the gold for Best Costume Design (for which the competition included THE ADDAMS FAMILY) and Best Sound Effects Editing, and got a nod for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration.
One of the biggest monster movies ever, JURASSIC PARK, did well in 1993, winning in all three of its nominated categories. Chief among them, of course, was Best Visual Effects, presented by future LORD OF THE RINGS star Elijah Wood.
PARK also won Best Sound and Best Sound Effects Editing; its Visual Effects competitors included THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, and ADDAMS FAMILY VALUES sneaked in a Best Art Direction-Set Decoration nod.
For the next several years, movies about horror filmmaking did better than actual genre flicks. INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE was nommed for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Makeup and Best Original Score in 1995; SE7EN got a Best Editing nod in 1996; and THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK was up for Best Visual Effects in 1998. But the genre-centric film to make the greatest showing during this period focused on a man who never came close to Oscar: ED WOOD, which in 1995 won Best Makeup and Best Supporting Actor for Martin Landau’s indelible portrayal of Bela Lugosi.
Then in 1999, Bill Condon took the Best Adapted Screenplay trophy for GODS AND MONSTERS, a biopic about FRANKENSTEIN director James Whale, which was also up for Best Actor (Ian McKellen) and Best Supporting Actress (Lynn Redgrave). Executive producer Clive Barker was among the people Condon thanked from the stage, and there was a touch of controversy when the telecast camera cut away from Condon kissing his boyfriend after his name was called: