Happy 2018, everyone! For most of us, 2017 was a bit of a challenging year, but what remained a constant bright spot for this writer was the deluge of amazing horror and sci-fi offerings that kept the last 12 months from feeling like a complete loss. I was fortunate enough to have been able to take in well over 200 movies throughout 2017, so when it came time to whittle down my list of favorites, let’s just say some tears were shed while I had to make some very difficult decisions about what to include here.
Also, because we listed The Shape of Water, Get Out, and IT as our collective favorites over on Corpse Club, I’ve omitted them here because I’ve prattled on about that amazing trio of films enough already, and I wanted to go ahead and shine the spotlight on a few other movies (and some other stuff, too) that could use a little signal boost going into 2018.
Cult of Chucky: Cult of Chucky was probably one of the biggest surprise films for me during 2017. I liked Curse of Chucky well enough, but I wasn’t head over heels for it, simply because I missed the playful tone Don Mancini had established in previous installments like Bride of Chucky and the woefully underrated Seed of Chucky (read my defense of the sequel HERE). And with Cult of Chucky, Mancini successfully marries his more serious-minded story elements with his playful tongue-in-cheek sense of humor, making this latest chapter in the ongoing Child’s Play franchise one of my very favorite in the series to date.
Not only is Cult of Chucky chock-full of fan-friendly surprises, brilliantly vicious kills, amazing special effects, and top-notch performances from both Fiona Dourif and Jennifer Tilly, but it also delivers one of the best final scenes in a horror movie from 2017 to boot , featuring two amazing female performers who are clearly in the driver’s seat going forward in the realm of all things Chucky. Such a ballsy move by Mancini.
It was also cool to see Alex Vincent’s character, Andy Barclay, be brought back in a meaningful way here, and I’m already on board for whatever Mancini has in mind for Chucky’s next exploits (bring back Glen and Glenda, please!).
Tragedy Girls: Tragedy Girls is another movie I’ve chatted about numerous times throughout 2017, so my deep affection for Tyler MacIntyre’s comedic slasher deconstruction has been well-established here on Daily Dead over the course of the last 9 months or so. For those of us who feel a bit cynical at times (especially this year), Tragedy Girls hits all the right misanthropic buttons with its clever exploration of the dangers of the “Social Media Age,” as we watch two aspiring serial killers (played by Brianna Hildebrand and Alexandra Shipp) refuse to let anything—not even their murderous mishaps—get in the way of their friendship or aspirations for social media stardom.
If you haven’t had a chance to check out Tragedy Girls (I know it’s had some small theatrical runs, but I don’t think it’s made it to any digital platforms yet), be sure to keep it on your radar for 2018, because you’ll definitely want to give this one your attention. And in the meantime, another film from MacIntyre—Patchwork—is currently available on Netflix Instant, and is another fun entry from this up-and-coming filmmaker. Oh, and: Remember Al! Remember Al! Remember Al!
Suspiria in 4K: There are things you experience throughout your lifetime in which you instantly can feel your very existence being changed, and for me, that happened with seeing Synapse Films' 4K restoration of Suspiria on the big screen at Flashback Weekend this past August. I’ve been obsessed with Dario Argento’s giallo masterpiece for over 30 years now, and the lengths that Synapse went in restoring Suspiria is nothing short of a cinematic miracle, transforming the four-decade-old film into a wholly new experience, both visually and phonically.
If you didn’t get a chance to experience Suspiria 4K on the big screen, Synapse’s recently released Steelbook makes for an absolutely worthy consolation prize, and I’m so grateful that the film now has a home on my Blu-ray shelves. If they nominated distributors for cinematic sainthood, I’d bestow those honors onto every single person who tirelessly worked over the last three years to make this whole thing possible. From the bottom of my horror-loving heart, thank you Synapse!
Raw: I had the pleasure of seeing Julia DuCournau’s Raw at Fantastic Fest 2016, so I’ve been waiting to feature it in my favorites list for quite some time now (I stick with theatrical releases as a criteria for these EOY lists), and I’m psyched to see that it has popped up on quite a few other folks’ lists as well. A movie I called a “ferociously unapologetic coming-of-age tale” in my review, Raw finds new ways to explore the terror and confusion that comes with transitioning to adulthood, and it couples those horrors with a young woman coming to realize her true, cannibalistic nature.
Delivering easily one of the most boldly defiant genre debuts in some time, DuCournau’s done something very special with Raw, making for one of the most harrowing genre experiences of the year that expertly blends together body horror tropes with the filmmaker’s wickedly funny, pitch-black sense of humor.
Creep 2: I’m pretty late to the Creep train (I only boarded recently when I took on covering the sequel a few months back), but man, both Patrick Brice and Mark Duplass have found an ingenious way to make found footage horror exciting yet again with their pair of collaborations. There’s a subtlety to their approach in Creep, but what made Creep 2 such a standout effort to me was the fact that they completely changed the game they are playing with their antagonist “Aaron” (played by Duplass), ultimately giving viewers a wholly new storytelling experience that still feels perfectly in line with what made the first Creep so great to begin with (and that’s no easy feat).
Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Desiree Akhavan as Sara, who squares off against Duplass’ cryptically charismatic character throughout Creep 2, because she gives one helluva compelling performance in the sequel, effortlessly going toe-to-toe with Aaron.
Hounds of Love: I’ve watched Ben Young’s feature film debut, Hounds of Love, on three different occasions so far, and with each viewing, not only do I fall deeper in love with his gut-wrenchingly brutal tale of torment and survival, but I find new things buried within the film’s layers to connect with as well. Based on a real-life Australian couple who would kidnap and torture young women during the 1980s, Hounds of Love works so well by preying on our imaginations. Young smartly chooses to play most of the horrific acts in his debut off-screen, making Hounds of Love more than just another movie about watching someone get tortured.
The beauty of Hounds of Love is that even though the film goes to some very disturbing places, it’s really a story about hope and love, and I don’t know if any film’s final moments made me cry harder in 2017 than Hounds did (yeah, I blubbered my way through the finale all three times). Also, the film’s trio of stars—Stephen Curry, Emma Booth, and Ashleigh Cummings—all deliver incredible performances, but Booth’s portrayal of a quietly desperate woman who yearns to be reunited with her children, and her deep-seated longing for the reciprocation of any kind of affection, is truly one of the best of the year, genre or otherwise.
Blade of the Immortal: For his 100th movie (yes, you read that right), prolific filmmaker Takashi Miike delivers up one of the best action films of the last few years in Blade of the Immortal, his cinematic adaptation of Hiroaki Samura’s manga that follows a young girl named Rin (Hana Sugisaki) who enlists a samurai cursed with immortality (Takuya Kimura) to help her avenge the death of her family after an evil warlord named Aotsu has her parents brutally murdered.
Beyond the fact that the action sequences are masterfully conceived and often breathlessly paced, Blade of the Immortal successfully brings together classic samurai storytelling with pulpy comic book stylings, all while managing to take the time and ask the hard questions revenge-fueled stories so rarely do: what is justifiable vengeance, and at what point does the cycle of violence need to stop? Blade of the Immortal also becomes something of a buddy film at times, with the unlikely pairing of Kimura and Sugisaki’s characters transforming them both throughout their cinematic journey together. The very final line of Blade left me with a big goofy grin on my face, something I certainly wasn’t expecting going into it.
And here’s to hoping we get 100 more films from Miike in the future! What an amazing legacy, and one that’s still continuing to build, hopefully for many years to come.
Super Dark Times: Teenage angst heads back to the 1990s for Kevin Phillips’ Super Dark Times, which explores what happens when accidental murder comes between a few high school friends. Akin to the aforementioned Raw, Phillips’ debut feature is an emotional stunner, bleak and wrought with paranoid tragedy, making it a deeply effective cinematic experience, one that has permanently embedded itself within my own psyche.
I don’t want to say too much about the plot of Super Dark Times (except to note that the title is very much on the money, when it comes to the thematic elements crafted by co-writers Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski) because some of the film’s more unexpected turns are better experienced when you don’t see them coming, but what I can say is that SDT perfectly encapsulates the confusion, anger, and simple joys of being teenagers (and in this case, being teenagers in the ’90s, which I know a few things about myself).
This is powerful and gripping horror storytelling at its very best, anchored by a pair of brilliant performances from Charlie Tahan and Owen Campbell, whose tangible on-screen chemistry is what makes Super Dark Times the emotional gut-punch that it is.
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter: Look, I’m positive there won’t be a ton of people out there who are going to be putting Resident Evil: The Final Chapter on their year-end lists, and that’s totally cool. I get it. But the thing is that, for me, I’ve been a longtime fan of the Resident Evil live-action film series, and when you get invested in a franchise, but you know it’s all coming to an end, as a fan, you just have to hope that it all comes together in some sort of satisfactory fashion that doesn’t feel like a cheat in any way.
Thankfully, Paul W.S. Anderson (Event Horizon FOREVER!) delivered a satisfying concluding installment with The Final Chapter that not only brought the character of Alice full circle (in more ways than one) and gave Milla Jovovich a proper send-off, but also allowed the actress to do more with the series’ heroine here than perhaps in previous films. The upside-down gunfight was a franchise highlight, and I love how The Final Chapter pays a few homages to the original Resident Evil, too.
The Bad Batch: I’ll be the first to admit that Ana Lily Amirpour’s The Bad Batch isn’t a film for everybody, but holy hell, does this movie feel like it was tailor-made just for little ol’ me. Another film I first fell in love with at Fantastic Fest 2016 (read my review here), Amirpour’s tale is one woman’s journey of self-discovery and self-worth set against the dusty, sun-drenched backdrop of a desert commune. The best way to try and summarize The Bad Batch is to call it a cannibalistic western-meets-techno-desert-trip love story, but I think the more perfect label might be “one of the most audacious movies released during 2017.”
Featuring some boldly unique performances from Keanu Reeves (who aptly plays “The Dream”), Jason Momoa, and a wholly transformed Jim Carrey, The Bad Batch feels precisely like Amirpour was reading my diary (if I had time to actually keep one) and concocted a wildly weird tribute to all of my favorite things.
War for the Planet of the Apes: As mentioned, there’s nothing I love more than a story arc that concludes in a satisfactory fashion, which is precisely just what War for the Planet of the Apes did, and then some. When this new trilogy began just a handful of years ago, I never could have imagined that we would see such a sublime treatment of the iconic character Caesar, but between these three Apes movies, we’ve been given so much more than I ever could have hoped for.
And with War, the destination isn’t completely an unexpected one, but Matt Reeves delivers the perfect swan song for Andy Serkis and his iteration of Caesar, and if there was ever a year where he should be nominated for an Oscar, this is it. He’s done amazing work with his character in the past, but the evolution of his heroic ape comes full circle in War for the Planet of the Apes, and Serkis finds even more ways to give his motion capture-based performance nuance and emotional complexity, which is no easy feat. What a beautifully conceived and crafted ending to Caesar’s cinematic odyssey over the last six years. Thank you, Matt Reeves. Thank you.
The Blackcoat’s Daughter: One image of Osgood Perkins’ The Blackcoat’s Daughter, in which Emma Roberts covers her mouth in an effort to choke back the heightened emotions pouring out of her character, remains one of the most memorable moments I experienced in any film throughout 2017, as it has haunted my psyche for nearly 10 months, and continues to do so even now.
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m an easy mark for Roberts’ work (Scream 4 and Scream Queens will always have special places in my heart), but her performance in The Blackcoat’s Daughter is on a completely different level than anything we’ve ever seen from her. Same with Kieran Shipka, who I only knew from her television work over the years. Perkins’ slow-burn psychological thriller allows both the story and his talented ensemble the room to breathe, culminating in a tragically horrifying finale.
It may not be a film for every genre fan, but viewers with a bit more patience will undoubtedly reap the rewards awaiting them in The Blackcoat’s Daughter, and it’s an even better experience on the second viewing, too.
Favorite Non-Movie Experiences of 2017:
Honorable Mentions (aka “Movies That Are Also Really Great”):
Great Movies I Saw in 2017 That Haven’t Been Released Yet:
Want to know what other members of the Daily Dead team enjoyed in 2017? Catch up on all of our favorites coverage here.