With this year’s Oscars, the darkness of horror steps into the spotlight.

That’s how Guillermo del Toro feels about The Shape of Water collecting a leading 13 nominations for the 90th Academy Awards on Tuesday, but he is quick to highlight a rival – Jordan Peele’s Get Out, which had four nods – as another example of a new golden age for chilling movies.

“It’s a landmark year,” del Toro told EW. “I say this because Jordan Peele and myself, through different alchemies, have taken the genre and each brought a very different, very personal take. I have always been interested in the dark poetics of the genre. And Jordan has evidently been incredibly compelled to tell the story from a different point of view and has elevated it to a parable of social power that I think is unrivaled.”

Both movies are up for best picture, best director, and best original screenplay. The latter category is one del Toro says is especially significant for both movies.

“This is the year in which the genre takes its place on the stage without being backed by a bestselling book or a literary classic,” he says. “Normally when the fantastic is at this stage of the conversion, it is backed up by one of these things. I think it’s beautiful that this has happened.”

Credit: Kerry Hayes/Fox Searchlight

Get Out also has a best actor nod for Daniel Kaluuya, while The Shape of Water has acting bids for lead actress Sally Hawkins, supporting performers Octavia Spencer and Richard Jenkins, as well as nominations for original score, cinematography, editing, costume design, sound editing, sound mixing, and production design.

Del Toro isn’t sure what changed in the minds of Oscar voters but believes recognition for the genre is overdue.

Film Title: Get Out
Credit: Justin Lubin

“I look at the last 10 years, and I look at things like The Babadook, Under the Shadow, Tigers Are Not Afraid, and Let the Right One In. These are movies that are thematically strong, artistically strong. They are new proponents of this alchemy I mentioned,” del Toro says. “I think the time has come to allow the genre to be part of the conversation.”

Apart from being frightening tales, the films cited by the Mexican filmmaker all share another trait – they’re international stories. The Babadook is Australian, Under the Shadow is in Persian from a British-Iranian filmmaker, Tigers Are Not Afraid is a Mexican film, and Let the Right One In was Swedish.

Fear and magic may simply be a universal language that connects across culture. Now it’s finally striking a nerve with Academy voters.

“It’s really beautiful,” The Shape of Water filmmaker says. “This journey started at the end of 2011, and it’s been a long one. It has been a difficult one. With a movie that combines so many genres emotionally, none of these things were easy or safe. To get here is all the more sweet.”

The Shape of Water
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