Friday, December 29

Favorite Horror of 2017

Favorite Horror Films of 

Horror made a big impression in 2017. The utilization of the genre to tell stories that touched on aspects of race and culture, gender concerns, sexual empowerment, political turmoil, and insights into human nature was especially noticeable. Still, horror also continued to do what it has always done best, offer imagery that will keep you awake late into the night and scares that made you jump out of your seat. 

Horror has, and will always, take new forms; offering opportunity to filmmakers to take risks and make statements, to portray and paint the world in different ways with different perspectives. That's what film has the power to produce and what horror has always offered artists looking to share their visions and voices. Here are my favorite horror films of 2017.

13.    Super Dark Times

Numerous films tackled the coming-of-age story this year. However, this 90’s set film boasts an incredible cast and tackles the loss of youth and innocence very effectively. When it takes a turn into more genre oriented themes, “Super Dark Times” becomes a moody thriller with a strong visual characteristic. Director Kevin Phillips is definitely a talent to keep an eye on.

12. Personal Shopper

It’s hard to call director Olivier Assayas’ film “Personal Shopper” a horror film at times, though it does have one of the most effective scares of the year. This story is more of a character study about the grieving process, specifically how death, loss, and solitude can motivate and influence someone in peculiar and supernatural ways. Kristen Stewart is fantastic here, her performance is one of the primary reasons this film becomes as absorbing and haunting as it does.

11. The Girl with all the Gifts

Zombies have been done to death, but every year it seems that one film breaths new life into the walking dead mythology. Director Colm McCarthy does just that with “The Girl With All The Gifts”, making an engrossing zombie film that has all the usual stylings that have come to define the subgenre and tweaking it just enough to make everything interesting. Part of the success comes from the cast including the stellar performance from young Sennia Nanua who is gentle yet wholly intimidating as one of the infected in a dystopian research compound. “The Girl With All The Gifts” is an old story told in a unique way.

10. It Comes At Night

The unseen monsters can have the greatest power. “It Comes At Night” utilizes that idea to great effect, taking the threat of something terrible and showing how fear can change regular people into the real monsters. Director Trey Edward Shults crafts a film that is less a horror film and more a meticulously paced character study, though that doesn't make it any less scary. "It Comes At Night" may not be the film that makes you jump in your seat but it's the kind of film that will stay with you long after you leave the theater. 

9. The Devil’s Candy

Sean Byrne’s second feature “The Devil’s Candy” is a stark, simplistic film that pits a family verse an evil entity embodied by a lumbering killer with voices in his head. The soundtrack, which features thrash metal titans Metallica and Slayer, gives the film an edgy pulse. The cast, which features a gritty performance from Ethan Embry, are well established, fleshed out characters that add substance to the family dynamic on display here. Byrne is a talented director, shaping and styling this otherwise standard horror film into something special.

8. The Transfiguration

Milo, played by newcomer Eric Ruffin, is growing up in the inner city. Surrounding Milo is crime, drugs, and bullies, to escape these bad influence Milo embraces the world of vampirism. Director Michael O’Shea takes this familiar story and injects it with social commentary about race, gender, and social class. All of this hinges on the steady work of actor Eric Ruffin who embeds into the character a sense of consciousness concerning his surroundings but also an awe of fascination that is pushing Milo towards villainy. “The Transfiguration” is slow burning film that is definitely worth the time.

7. Gerald’s Game

It was definitely the year of Stephen King. With “It” and “Dark Tower” making big theatrical splashes, both negative and positive, the best adaptation was a streaming release on Netflix. “Gerald’s Game” is an exceptional King adaptation, possibly one of the best in recent memory. Guided by the steady hands of a new master of horror, Mike Flanagan, “Gerald’s Game” is thrillingly rendered from its simplistic premise and startlingly envisioned in its visual design. It also features one of the most gruesome scenes of any horror film this year.

6. A Dark Song

The end result is crucial in a horror film; that perfectly timed scare, the gore scene that feels so wonderfully creative, and the monster that is revealed just as chaos begins to happen. The process towards these wonderful moments, however, isn’t always given the just due that it deserves. Liam Gavin’s film “A Dark Song” relishes in the process; slowly and methodically detailing everything that needs to happen during a ritual that will connect a grieving mother with her dead son. The film is somber, gruelingly so at times, yet establishes early on that the downtrodden journey for the two characters is necessary in order to build the structure that will support the final revelation. 

5. The Blackcoat’s Daughter

First, it’s about time this film was released. Second, everyone should watch this film. Oz Perkins’ film, formerly known as “February”, is a self contained, meticulously paced supernatural film that operates like something from the past, when horror films were less concerned about consistent jumps and jolts and instead resisted for effective moments when scares could do the most damage. “The Blackcoat’s Daughter” is such an effective film and completely understands exactly what it is and what it wants to do.

4. Untamed

Amat Escalante’s film “Untamed” is an unusual and at times unnerving erotic genre film, constructing horror tropes to tell a story that analyzes, embraces, and manipulates aspects of sexual exploration and empowerment. Escalante pulls impressive performances from the cast and builds a narrative that never offers easy answers. It relishes in its own mystery, embraces its eroticism, and maintains a steady realism throughout. It’s a film that will garner different meanings to different viewers. 

3. Hounds of Love

Director Ben Young composes an unsettling character study in the debut feature “Hounds of Love”. The film centers on a serial killer couple living in Perth, Australia during the 1980’s. Mr. Young shrewdly constructs this film, utilizing effective filmmaking techniques that help in building the suspense and making the nastier bits much more shocking than they actually are. Emma Booth, Ashleigh Cummings, and Stephen Curry are exceptional here, their performances and the creative hand of Ben Young makes “Hounds of Love” an effective piece of cinema.

2. Raw

Director Julia Ducournau has crafted an impressive debut film with her uncomfortable and emotionally daring film “Raw”. Ms. Ducournau utilizes the film to challenge how filmmakers are utilizing the genre to tell stories, especially ones dealing with commentary concerning gender and sexual empowerment. “Raw” is a coming-of-age film that displays the fragility of the process of growing up but also the complicated relationship found in every individualized family unit. Raw, in many ways, is the best description for this film.

1. Get Out

No film, of all genre of films released in 2017, felt more timely and of the moment than Jordan Peele’s “Get Out”. Released mere months after the divisive Presidential election, the United States was at a boiling point with social concerns surrounding race and gender. “Get Out” tapped into race, cultural, and socioeconomic issues, transcending yet honoring the horror genre with a film that manipulated tension and crafted an atmosphere like a Hitchcock film. Jordan Peele proves himself more than just a comedic talent but perhaps one of the most conscious filmmakers currently working.

Honorable Mention:
  • Better Watch Out
  • 1922
  • Thelma
  • Tragedy Girls
  • Annabelle Creation
  • The Killing of a Sacred Deer

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