I can’t say I was a big fan of life in general circa 2017 but mercifully, it was a gonzo year in horror entertainment. It’s like the old saying goes, “When life hands you lemons, sell those lemons and use the cash to buy a movie ticket.” The list below represents my favorite horror offerings from an otherwise odious year. Whether they’re “good” or “bad’ is somebody else’s burden to decide, these babies kept my paper boat afloat either way. (In no particular order….)
IT. Yep, some of these picks are going to be obvious no-brainers. How could I not dig one of the most kindertrauma-iest movies ever made? I loved the characters, the town and even the clown and at least two scenes freaked me to the core. I’ll be looking forward to returning to this one again and again.
GET OUT. This flick is fascinating on too many levels to count and who would of thunk a scene involving someone simply searching for keys could be so damn suspenseful? Taking paranoid cues from ROSEMARY’S BABY and THE STEPFORD WIVES, this scorching social critique is in a league of its own.
SPLIT. Don’t call it a comeback, M. NIGHT’s momma said knock you out. I don’t see how anyone could not be thoroughly entertained by this darkly humorous, twist-infested thriller. It’s like a long lost Di PALMA film complete with a side dish of BETTY BUCKLEY. My hometown of Philadelphia has never looked better on screen and JAMES McAVOY is non-stop mesmerizing.
ANNABELLE: CREATION. Forget it’s a prequel and part of a franchise; this creepy flick can stand on its own. You could replace the titular doll with any raggedy moppet and it’d work just as well. The camerawork and cinematography are surprisingly exquisite and I love the time period detail and the moving way loss and loyalty are represented. This is a keeper in my book.
THE SHAPE OF WATER. 2017 was not only the year of astounding commercial success for horror films; it was host to some the genre’s greatest critical glory as well. GUILLERMO DEL TORO’s poetic fairy tale clarifies that there are infinite uncharted depths for monster movies to explore.
THE EVIL WITHIN. I’m not sure if this counts because it was made 15 years ago but 2017 saw its unlikely release (two years after its creator’s death) and so here we are. This movie is disturbingly bonkers but it’s also a one of a kind personal vision and I’ve got to throw laurels upon it for originality alone. Batty as it may be, the bizarre effects are eye-popping and the dank, morbid dread it conjures is surprisingly potent.
TRAGEDY GIRLS. Sadly, I don’t get to see more independent horror in these parts and even sadder, I’ve been burned by so many bad independent horror films that I’m not crying too many tears over that fact. Thankfully PUFF (The Philadelphia Unnamed Film Festival) knows how to separate the wheat from the chaff and I got to see this HEATHERS-esque dark teen comedy. This flick might have sunk like a stone with lesser casting but its two leads are charismatic as hell. Don’t be surprised if this one quietly becomes a cult classic.
KONG: SKULL ISLAND. Is it kosher if I add a movie simply because I’m in love with its lead? Good, because I love King Kong! He’s awesome and he really knows how to throw a helicopter and clearly has a taste for seafood grander than my own (he eats an octopus). I felt like a kid watching this movie and that’s gold.
TERRIFIER. Speaking of feeling like a kid, this movie brought me back to that unsafe space of watching sleazy VHS tapes as a teen and giddily fearing what obscenity could happen next. I can’t recommend the plot too much (besides the fact that it’s set on Halloween) but killer clown “Art” genuinely had me shaking in my shoes and the almost too realistic gore scenes are horrifically impressive.
CULT OF CHUCKY. Long running horror franchises take note — a great way to revitalize a sagging storyline may be to add an interesting new character. I’m sure I’d watch any movie featuring my friend ‘til the end Chucky but the addition of FIONA DOURIFF to the last two CHILD’S PLAY installments has greatly sharpened the killer toy’s blade. DON MANCINI deserves mucho credit for pushing the mayhem into less familiar zones and for keeping fans on their toes.
LOGAN. I know this isn’t considered a horror movie but my library only had the B&W “noir” version to borrow and it ended up tasting like a late night horror classic to me. I mean, essentially, it’s really about people perceived as “monsters” being chased cross-country by an ignorant torch-carrying mob. Furthermore it’s got a killer kid in it so that even further justifies its inclusion here. In any case, I’m sticking with the B&W version and hope to never see it in color.
BETTER WATCH OUT. This movie shocked the hell out of me and I thought I’d seen everything. The premise is as hoary as the hills, involving a babysitter besieged by intruders during the holidays but before you know it, the old grey mare is flipped on its head. It also happens to feature my hero for life, CANDYMAN’s VIRGINIA MADSEN. Do you have a library card? If so, you can watch this FOR FREE on HOOPLA right now. If you don’t have a library card, all I can do is shake my head.
SUPER DARK TIMES. Imagine A SIMPLE PLAN but instead of finding money, a trio of teens accidentally kill a (rather obnoxious) peer. What follows is a haunting nosedive into regret that crashes into true horror. There’s something slightly heartbreaking about this movie and its exploration of the limits of social connection. It’s beautifully shot too, full of memorably moody images and the performances are so real you almost feel like an accomplice.
GERALD’S GAME and 1922. I hope it’s not rude to lump these two together but they’re both NETFLIX originals based on the work of by STEPHEN KING and they’re both exceptional works of psychological horror. In fact, they are rather like flip sides of the same coin. GERALD’S GAME explores the mind of an abuse survivor haunted by her past while 1922 rummages through the aftermath guilt of a man who chooses to murder his wife. I found GERALD’S GAME superior in the suspense department but I ultimately preferred 1922’s more consistent tone. The other thing these two films have in common is that they both feature absolutely stunning performances from their leads (CARLA GUGINO and THOMAS JANE, respectfully).
ONE DISAPPOINTMENT: ALIEN: COVENANT. I appreciate this film’s visual style and overall impressive artistry but egad, I’ve never liked an ALIEN movie less. I found myself so surprised by my aversion toward it that I gave it a second viewing hoping it would gel and it only left me feeling more slighted. Maybe movies are like people and there are just some that you can’t click with no matter the effort. On a bright note, it did make me reconsider 2017’s other Sci-Fi monster effort LIFE in a more favorable light. That movie at least closed with one truly mortifying scene that really stuck with me.
LOOKING FORWARD TO: WINCHESTER. Hey, my very own brother wrote the screenplay to this movie WINCHESTER and it’s opening February 2 in the US (and March 2 in the UK). It stars HELEN MIRREN (!!!) and it’s all about the fascinating Winchester house, which is said to be one of the most haunted places on Earth. You can read up on Winchester House HERE and watch the spooky, badass trailer below! Here’s to WINCHESTER starting off another epic year for the genre!
What were you favorite horror films of 2017 and which ones are you looking forward to in 2018? Leave us a comment and let us know!