It’s that time of the (new) year again. 2017 was a surprisingly strong year for horror flicks. Once you got past duds like the latest Resident Evil and Underworld installments, horror hit its stride with a slew of stellar releases, one of them already on most classics lists. Many of my favorites came out between January and April, which is not the norm. I had a hard time whittling my list down to 13, and some real quality movies just missed the final cut. Basically, I ranked movies based on how much they lingered with me long after the final credits rolled on. There are some controversial picks on here, so strap in and get ready…
#13 – CREEP 2
Mark Duplass is one hawk-eyed lunatic. I loved Creep and was anxious to see what he did with the sequel. Let me tell you, Creep 2 did not disappoint. Stakes were upped, strangeness got, er, stranger, and Peach Fuzz made a reappearance! Best watched in a hot tub with a serial killer.
#12 – SUPER DARK TIMES
As My Chemical Romance once sang, “Teenagers scare the living shit out of me.” This one creeped me out because it seemed so damn real…and terrifying. Set in upstate New York, it’s bleak both in imagery and tone. You’ll remember kids you grew up with that were just like the cast presented here, and you’ll think, “crap, this could have happened to me.” This is one that will stick with you for a long, long time.
#11 – THE DEVIL’S CANDY
From the director who gave us one of my favorite movies, The Loved Ones, this one was on my top 10 list for most of the year, getting bumped at the very end. Ethan Embry gives a stellar performance as a struggling artist caught between a rock and a devilish place. Filled with awesome metal guitar licks and psycho imagery, it’s a can’t miss.
#10 – GERALD’S GAME
2017 was inarguably the year of Stephen King. Unlike most people, IT won’t be on my list. But the adept direction of Mike Flanagan brought King’s most difficult book to life, anchored by the performance of the year by Carla Gugino. It also had the most cringe-inducing scene of the year, bar none. Netflix has knocked another one out of the park. I also suggest you head on over to Netflix to check out another King adaptation, 1922. It’s bleak and haunting, so have plenty of booze on hand.
#9 – SPLIT
Thanks to The Visit, I was chomping at the bit to see M. Night Shyamalan’s newest venture into horror. James McAvoy is brilliant, his multiple personalities putting us all on edge from start to finish. There’s not a wasted frame of film in this tight, suspenseful hostage drama with an ending that had people shouting “holy shit!” at the screen.
#8 – LIFE
I have to say, this one surprised me the most. When I saw the coming attractions, I was like, meh. Boy, was I wrong. Life is the best monster movie of the year. I tell folks it’s like Alien, only brighter and prettier. The creature in this space opera is terrifying and there are some super-sweat-inducing moments. Best of all, they nailed the ending. Life breathed life into the monster movie!
#7 – A DARK SONG
In any other year, A Dark Song might be my top pick. How can I describe it? Dark. Desperate. Bizarre. Creepy. A grieving mother hires a man experienced in the dark arts to bring her son back so she can talk to him one more time and get his forgiveness. You never know whether the shaman is full of shit or the real deal, and what he puts her through is truly torturous. A fantastic movie.
#6 – THE SHAPE OF WATER
Having known about this movie for some time, I had penciled it in as my favorite movie of the year way back in March. It didn’t quite make it, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a beautiful movie to behold. Imagine a love story between the Creature from the Black Lagoon and a mute cleaning woman. It’s lush and dreamy and at times achingly beautiful, so much so that it’s on the fringe of a true horror movie. Guillermo Del Toro is a master storyteller and his visual aesthetic is this side of stunning. I’m pretty sure I’d love this movie even if the sound was off.
#5 – THE BELKO EXPERIMENT
Now, this is my kind of horror. We all think of the work place as one of the inner circles of hell. Well, your warren of cubicles and backbiting co-workers has nothing on Belko. It’s gleefully insane, bloody and gripping. I rarely watch a movie more than once in a year, but I’ve already seen it three times. The Belko Experiment takes no prisoners. Literally.
#4 – THE BLACK COAT’S DAUGHTER
I can’t say enough good things about this atmospheric, haunting tale by Oz Perkins (son of Anthony “Psycho” Perkins). With a miniscule but fantastic cast, this is one that will linger with you for a long while. The sense of isolation in this blizzard-wracked girl’s academy will leave you shivering. I have to admit, this one bothered me for days. I watched it again to see if I could dispel the feeling, and it only got worse! It also has one of the most realistic and brutal kills of the year. Watch it now!
#3 – GET OUT
Look, I know this is going to be #1 on 90% of lists you see. Don’t get me wrong, it deserves it. Get Out is an instant classic, a Rosemary’s Baby-esque romp into dark territory and creeping dread. I loved it. Jordan Peele knows his horror and has his pulse on the stuttering heartbeat of American society. It’s crackling smart and witty and will keep you guessing all the way to the end. Everyone who loves horror needs to watch this one.
#2 – MOTHER!
I’m not going to lie, this is the most controversial movie I’ve seen in a good long while. Is it horror? It is for me. The building tension and utter confusion had my heart racing for most of the movie. Jennifer Lawrence is simply amazing in her portrayal of a woman in love beset by people and events of Biblical proportions (there’s a hint for you). No movie has set my brain on fire more than Mother! – ever. Not to mention, there are a few scenes that left me breathless and wishing I’d averted my eyes. And that’s coming from an old, jaded horror hound. I can’t recommend this for everyone, but I feel in my gut it’s going to be the kind of movie people talk about and dissect for generations.
#1 – RAW
Yeah, I’m just as surprised that this French import has made the top of my list. Set in a veterinary school that looks like a post-apocalyptic academy run by MDMA-fueled lunatics, Raw was a punch to the gut. Again, we have a small yet killer cast (the Oscars never looking to the genre for best actors is just one of many reasons it’s a sham), off-kilter storyline and moments of incredible gross-outs that easily made it my movie to least forget in 2017. Subsequent viewings have only made it even better. Raw will be on my steady viewing rotation from here until I’m rotting and raw meat.
HAPPY DEATH DAY
Just like The Autopsy of Jane Doe from a couple of years ago, I didn’t see this one until recently, after I had compiled my list. Rather than revamp the entire list, I decided to give it an honorable mention. A self-aware horror take on Groundhog Day, this is witty and fun and guaranteed to make you jump a few times. Shit, even out cat hit the ceiling at one point. If you’re a fan of The Final Girls, you’ll love this.
What do you think of the list? How does it compare to your own? How many have you already seen?
But wait, there’s more! Still looking for more horror movies to catch up on? Take a gander at my Final Guys podcast where I present a slightly different list, along with my partners in crime. Happy bingeing!
If there’s one holiday that’s been largely ignored by the horror genre, it’s Thanksgiving (hmmm, maybe I need to capitalize on that!). I mean, how scary can you make a holiday that centers around killing giant birds, indulging in unabashed gluttony, watching bloodsports on TV and recalling the calm before the genocide of a nation?
When it comes to movies, there are slim…and terrible…pickings. We’re talking scraps of meat on a turkey leg at best. You have THANKSKILLING, BLOOD RAGE, aaaand, well, not really much else.
However, if we keep with the land fowl theme, there is a little gem that is so bad it’s good – POULTRYGEIST : NIGHT OF THE CHICKEN DEAD. It’s brought to us by the fine, demented minds at Troma, the gang that brought us The Toxic Avenger and Surf Nazis Must Die.
When a fast food chicken restaurant is built on the site of an ancient Native American burial ground, the displaced spirits unite with the ghosts of exterminated chickens and transform into Native American chicken zombies seeking revenge!
So, if you’re tummy is full and you’ve had enough of football, settle down and get ready for utter insanity, comedy and gore with my Thanksgiving pick, POULTRYGEIST!
For my money, ghost/haunted house movies are by far the creepiest. Luckily for us, there have been a ton of spine tingling ghost flicks over the years. This Horrortober, if you’re looking to scare yourself before heading off to bed, why not give one (or all ten) of these movies a try?
What are some of your favorites?
10. LADY IN WHITE
9. THE ENTITY
8. THE INNOCENTS
6. THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE
5. THE AMITYVILLE HORROR
4. PARANORMAL ACTIVITY
3. THE CHANGELING
2. THE SHINING
- THE HAUNTING
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Tis the season for lots ‘o horror movies. There are so many to choose from, it’s always difficult to decide what to watch. If you’ve been following what I’ve been watching on Twitter under hashtag #Horrortober, you’ll see I’ve watched over 30 so far. I’m hoping to hit the 50 mark this year. I give a rating for each movie so you know which ones to avoid and which ones to pop in the Blu Ray player or get On Demand.
Catching up on a couple of episodes of Monster Men, we review perfect movies for Horrortober like HUSH, DON’T BREATHE, GREEN ROOM and NEON DEMON. These 4 flicks will definitely have you waiting for the Great Pumpkin.
Next up, we wax unpoetic about unnecessary remakes and who we would cast in each. Do movies like Jaws, Alien and Escape from New York need to be remade? Hell no! But we all know that Hollywood can’t help itself. It will happen. If it happened today and we were casting directors, here’s where we would take things. The big question is, how would you recast them?
Today being the official start of Fall (even though it’ll feel like summer here), I’m as excited as a bat at sundown. #Horrotober, my month long celebration of the Halloween season, is just a week away. As always, I want you to revel in all things horror with me, which means filling our days and nights with scary movies, books, magazines and fun things to do.
So, first thing you need to do is line up movies to watch. I try to do 1 horror movie a day and always post them on twitter with the old #Horrortober hashtag. As a public service, here are some pretty good horror flix you can catch on Netflix to fill your schedule.
This rare Turkish horror movie starts out with five asshole cops sitting around a late night eatery. Kinda like Reservoir Dogs, except they’re not planning a crime and doling out funny names. They get called to a break in and then, my friends, all hell breaks loose. The visuals here are some of the most disturbing I’ve seen in years. This is high strangeness, a Clive Barker inspired fever dream with an antagonist that might make Pinhead shiver.
I loved the movie Don’t Breathe, which was the second half of what I call 2016’s disability horror. Hush is a home invasion movie where a deaf woman in a remote cabin is put through hell by an absolute psycho. The fact that she can’t hear him as he moves about the cabin, breaking windows, or even know the sounds she makes as she tries to lurk around really amps up the tension. It’s a little movie that packs a big punch.
Being an Irishman, I can never resist any movie set in Ireland, horror or otherwise. In this little surprise, an arborist moves his family to the woods, settling into an old house with iron bars on all of the windows. Why? Oh, you’ll find out. Very cool creature effects abound in this taut bit o nastiness.
Man gets invited by flaky ex-wife to come over for dinner with their old friends and some new ones. He obviously doesn’t want to be there, but the new woman in his life urges him on. We know right away something bad happened between these two. But that’s not what makes this little shindig so strange. You can file this under slow burn but with a great third act. It’s one of my favorite movies of the year.
THEY LOOK LIKE PEOPLE
Another low budget indie horror that has to depend on story and strong performances by a cast of folks you’ve probably never seen before. I honestly had no idea where this one was going. A down and out dude gets taken in by his friend but maybe he should have been left to his own devices. Because he’s getting strange calls and hearing voices and is a powder keg ready to explode.
I have to admit, I was watching horror flicks right down to the wire to make sure I got as many as I could in before making my annual top 13 list. There were some I had high hopes for that didn’t make the cut like Let us Prey and, believe it or not, Paranormal Activity – The Ghost Dimension. And then there were the usual pleasant surprises that just had to make the cut. Unlike other years, there was no question about my #1 movie. I love it so much, I’ve made it my favorite movie of the 21st century.
Oddly enough, there are no cryptid movies on the list this time around. Didn’t really see any worth considering, other than Zombeavers. That’s right, I said Zombeavers.
OK, enough of my preamble. Will you join me for the countdown?
#13 – A GIRL WALKS HOME AT NIGHT
Admittedly, I’m not a big vampire guy (though I do love Near Dark!). This Iranian art-house vamp flick may be a little slow for some, but I loved the change of pace. And the fact that it was in black and white gave it huge points in my book. Heavy on atmosphere and subdued performances, I give it two fangs up.
#12 – ORB
You all know I love alien movies. I can’t make a top 13 list without including at least one. Knowing that, I watched just about every alien-esque movie that came out last year. Most were total duds or just plan confusing. Not so with Orb, a neat gem that reminded me a lot of the movie Bug (the Ashley Judd one, not the awesome 1975 drive-in creature feature with Bradford Dillman). Three siblings are confined in a lake house. One of them is a vet who is admittedly crazy, but says he has something captured in the basement. Aliens + paranoia = Hunter bliss.
#11 – BACKCOUNTRY
You like Jaws? How about moving the action to land and substituting the shark for a bear? Yeah, that hits the spot. Based on a collection of camping gone wrong stories, this one literally had me holding my breath. It was one of those Netflix random discoveries that makes my subscription worth it. This city boy is staying the hell out of the woods now.
#10 – GOODNIGHT MOMMY
Ah, those crazy Austrians and their demented children. This subtitled affair is a slow burn of sheer craziness. I figured out the twist early on, but it didn’t matter. The execution makes this a must-see for true horror fans. Kids are creepy – especially twins who collect hissing cockroaches and are left on their own like feral children. TV star mommy with a shrouded face thanks to mucho plastic surgery makes for a very unsettling home in the middle of freaking nowhere. And I love what those boys do with super glue. Bad kinder!
#9 – ALMOST MERCY
You know that weird kid that everyone swears will grow up to be a school shooter? Well, in Almost Mercy, he has a friend – a strange girl, no less – to keep him grounded. Or can she? I can’t get over how good this movie is. It’s bleak, funny, sarcastic, loaded with social commentary and drenched in blood. And if you think you know what it’s about by my description or the blurb on IMDB, try again. Watch this so you can be one of the cool kids.
#8 – THE GREEN INFERNO
Man, a lot of people have dumped all over this cannibal gore fest. I guess I just don’t run with their crowd. The latest movie from Eli Roth, starring his lovely wife, Lorenza Izzo (who was also in Knock Knock – yowza), delivers on what it promises to be – a brutal movie about conservationists getting what they deserve, at least according to Trump. The gore in this one was way over the top for a theatrical release, and for that, I applaud Roth. And you will truly hate the asshole activist leader. Watch it on an empty stomach. Or if you’re truly badass, watch it during a pig roast. Mmmmm, long pig.
#7 – CREEP
2015 was the year for Mark Duplass, who gave us a great indie horror movie like Creep, and a big budget clunker like The Lazarus Effect. Creep is a 2 man show about a dude hired online to film a guy going about his regular day because he’s dying and wants to leave a record of his life behind for his child. Duplass is downright unsettling. You will never be able to get ‘Tubby Time’ or ‘Peach Fuzz’ erased from your brain after watching this. This is part of a series of low budget horror flicks that Duplass is slated to make for Netflix. You have to check it out.
#6 – BONE TOMAHAWK
Of course an author who wrote a horror western (Hell Hole) is going to love a horror western movie. The fact that it stars my hero, Kurt Russell, had me all in from the word git! Part The Searchers and part The Hills Have Eyes, Bone Tomahawk is a dusty ride through dangerous terrain with the ragtagiest bunch of ragtags ever assembled. The spooky race of Trogs that have kidnapped a woman and Russell’s deputy are freaking bizarre. Saddle up and hit the trail!
#5 – WE ARE STILL HERE
Horror movies need more main characters north of 40 (coming from a man living in that altitude). You get better, more believable actors and a sense of gravitas that can’t be found in most tits ‘n zits flicks. Barbara Crampton is one of my all time faves (and yes, I met her last year!), so I had to watch this one. An older couple settle in to a house that is very haunted, but by what? There are several scenes that actually disturbed me and made me jump. And the third act is just bat shit wild. After watching this, I dare you to go into your basement with the lights off. Go on, I triple dog dare you!
#4 – THE VISIT
M. Night Shyamalan is back! The Visit is about the most fun you’ll have with a horror movie. And, it’s found footage done right. The performances by the kids are great and grandma and grandpa are simply off their rockers. If I was staying with them overnight, I’d need a diaper (like grandpa and his dirty diaper shed) and 10 Xanax. This is one I can watch again and again. Naturally, there’s a twist at the end, and the payoff is damn good. Let’s hope M.’s days of The Happening are behind him.
#3 – THE FINAL GIRLS
This wonderfully original premise has a girl who gets reunited with her deceased scream queen mom by transporting into the 80’s slasher flick that gave Mom her start. I loved living in an 80’s slasher movie for an hour and a half, considering I was a teen during that golden decade. The Final Girls is snarky, nostalgic and touching as all get out. My wife actually cried when we watched it. And she’s as jaded a horror fan as I am. It’s a trippy movie with lots of blood, just enough laughs and a few salty tears. This one really took me by surprise.
#2 – SPRING
In any other year, this would be my top movie. Maybe because I’m getting older and soft, but I can’t get Spring out of my head. It’s a horror love story. That’s right, a horror love story. Set in Italy and beautifully shot, the story centers around an American 20-something who stumbles into and falls in love with an exotic, mercurial beauty who just happens to turn into a different creature every night. These are the two best performances of the year, hands down. It was done so well, I was ready to pledge my love for Louise despite her monstrous nature and the possibility she may kill me. I had vivid dreams about this for nights afterward. I haven’t had a movie affect me like that in at least 20 years. Right after it ended, I ordered it on Amazon. This will be one I go to every year.
#1 – IT FOLLOWS
There is nothing I don’t dig about It Follows. First, it’s a totally fresh idea wrapped around familiar territory. From the opening scene of a neighborhood that brought me right back to Halloween to the nerve jangling synth soundtrack, I was smitten. A curse in the form of a shape shifting ghost that will follow you until it catches you and kills you can only be transmitted by sex. That’s right, VD meets an ethereal Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees. I posted a full review when I saw it that you can read here. It Follows is my favorite horror movie of the past 30 years. I don’t think I’ve been this jazzed by a movie since The Thing. I’ve watched it several times and it only gets better. I listen to the ass kicking score when I write. I may even tattoo a scene from it on my body one day. Yep, you can count me in as an unapologetic, rabid fan.
If you want another top 13 list that is very different from my own, check out my partner in Monster Men crime’s list. Old Jackie has quite a few great recommendations even I have yet to watch. Between the 2 of us, you definitely have enough movies to keep you busy during a big ass snowstorm!
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God bless Spencer Mitchell. Just when my blogging mind is getting weary, he comes to the rescue with another indepth look at our favorite genre. I absolutely love this particular topic. I mean, horror without sex is like Halloween without candy, football without arrest records, politics without worthless bastards. OK, enough of me. Spencer, take it away…
Sex and horror have always had a twisted relationship ever since the iconic shower scene of Hitchcock’s Psycho, but there’s a lot more to it than simply providing titillation for the genre’s target demographic. In fact, just about every horror flick has some sort of sexual insinuation or encounter that leads to the untimely demise of those involved. The Cannes Film Festival hit It Follows, recently released on Blu Ray, involves a sexually transmitted “haunting” that follows its infected victim with the intent of murder. Sitting as a prime example of an examination of the relationship between teenage sexuality, taking that step into adulthood, and typical horror tropes, this film does not condone or condemn the sexual encounter like others typically do.
1980’s Friday the 13th (available on Vudu) practically created the slasher subgenre, and a running theme of that and countless other horror franchises is the villain’s tendency to punish those who engage in drinking, drug use, or premarital sex. This almost always leads to a finale in which a “virtuous virgin” who has abstained from temptation throughout the film is able to defeat the monstrous evil she confronts. This “Final Girl” trope, originally coined by Carol J. Clover in her book Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film, is typically portrayed as the conservative idea of what a women “should be,” and has pervaded horror cinema for decades, leading to dozens of predictable climaxes.
But as the trend became more obvious, horror filmmakers began to examine and deliberately subvert it, to varying effect: Cherry Falls (hard to find, but you can get a copy here) tells the story of a killer who targets virgins at a high school, and Wes Craven’s Scream (currently on Netflix) gave us characters who were fans of horror films and knew about both the sex and Final Girl rule – rules which the film cheekily broke in its third act. The 2009 film Jennifer’s Body (on Verizon on-demand) gives us a demon who possesses a gorgeous teenager and feeds on her male classmates. When the trope is inverted in this manner, the killing often occurs during intercourse. This is made as explicit as possible in the unsettling French film Trouble Every Day (hiding, but is on Google Play), about a femme fatale who seduces men so she can eat them, and in the 1995 sci-fi thriller Species, in which an alien takes the guise of a beautiful woman for the purpose of mating with a human and creating a new breed to destroy all of humanity.
Regardless of how the trope is utilized, the misogyny behind it remains intact. There often seems to be a notion that women’s sexual behavior is to be scrutinized, revealed, and accounted for, whether she is villain or victim. This idea has close ties to the puritanical culture that demonizes sex in the first place, and reinforces the concepts of “slut-shaming” and male-dominated, patriarchal society. The flip side of the argument is that the Final Girl trope itself originally grew out of feminist ideals; the physically strong male film hero who fights his way through danger had been replaced by a willful young woman who uses guile to escape a grisly fate. Whatever the reasoning, the stubborn trope continues to exist, even in films that set out to deconstruct it.
The use of the monster as an STD metaphor in It Follows further strengthens the link between sex and death in horror, and reinforces the absurd notion that having sex, which creates life, could lead to murder, which ends it. Why is this link so durable in horror cinema? Perhaps it’s the commonly held belief that premarital sex is somehow wrong and deserving of punishment. A more plausible psychological explanation is Freud’s “death drive”, the impulse in us that is drawn to danger and actually thrilled by the prospect of potential harm. Furthermore, Freud presented the overarching idea that this death drive coincides with a drive to seek pleasure, inexplicably linking sex and horror as part of human nature.
Regardless of what drives it, sex and horror will continue to have a long and fruitful relationship. As long as films like It Follows and Cabin in the Woods (see here) continue to find new and intriguing ways to explore the connection, there’s no reason for it to stop anytime soon.