For many, last year was filled with ups and downs, but one definite highlight was the varied and impressive output of genre entertainment. We’re in a golden age of horror in which we’re seeing incredible works of art in multiple mediums, and there’s so much out there to be thankful for.
For those that are new to Daily Dead, we handle our year-end lists differently here. Rather than just covering films, our lists can extend to TV, games, collectibles, events, and anything else genre-related. In short, we’re sharing with you a list of our favorite horror experiences from 2017.
Check back every day this week to find out what made the cut for the rest of the Daily Dead team.
The Shape of Water: I love Guillermo del Toro’s Spanish language films, but always felt that his English language output wasn’t as strong. I don’t blame the language barrier as much as I do the budget and scale of the movies. It’s hard to make something in the vein of Pan’s Labyrinth when you have a $100 million budget and executives to please.
That’s why I’m so happy del Toro went with Fox Searchlight and a smaller budget for The Shape of Water, allowing him to release his Creature From the Black Lagoon-inspired fairly tale without creative interference. The Shape of Water feels like Guillermo del Toro at his most confident, and it’s amazing to see a director turn out something like this 30+ years into his professional career. This is easily my favorite film from Guillermo del Toro and my favorite film of 2017.
Resident Evil 7: Survival horror went through terrible growing pains in the 2000s. Companies like Capcom and EA weren’t satisfied with the sales numbers, even though these games were profitable. Everyone wanted to make the next Grand Theft Auto and create games that would have the broadest appeal, so survival horror got watered down. We saw games go in a more action direction, with co-op, multiplayer, micro transactions, and needless DLC.
Thankfully, survival horror has rebounded and is stronger than ever. With a clearly PT (Kojima’s now-canceled Silent Hill)-inspired vibe, Resident Evil has gone back to its roots with a tight, first-person horror tale that is one of the best survival horror games I’ve ever played. This game’s initially slow and atmospheric pace, merged with disturbingly violent encounters, makes this feel more like an Evil Dead meets The Texas Chain Saw Massacre game, and that is absolutely a compliment. If recent Resident Evil installments make you think this is more of the same, definitely reconsider. This is an absolute must-play game for horror fans.
Get Out: Starting off 2017 on a strong note was Jordan Peele’s Get Out. Anyone who watched Key and Peele knows that Jordan Peele was a horror fanatic, but no one expected him to make a movie quite like this for his first directorial outing. There have been a lot of arguments online about how we should classify Get Out. Is it a horror movie? Is it a psychological thriller? Is it a comedy? I just like to say that it’s a damn good movie any way you slice it. Equal parts terrifying, socially important, and funny, giving a single label to this movie is the furthest thing from my mind.
It would have been very easy for Jordan Peele to continue with Key and Peele or direct a straight comedy. Even after the success of Get Out, it would have been very easy for him to take on a summer tentpole from a big studio, but he’s going to take on another original horror concept as his next directorial effort. He’s a true horror fan, the genre runs through his veins, and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.
The Overlook Film Festival: Long-time Daily Dead readers know that The Stanley Film festival was one of my favorite film festival experiences ever, which is why I’m so happy that the festival’s creative team continued the tradition with The Overlook Film Festival this year at the Timberline Lodge in Oregon (used for many of the outside shots in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining).
The Overlook Film Festival was created for horror fans by a team whose passion for the genre runs deep. Not only have they scoured the globe for the latest horror movies that fans will get excited for, but they’ve also worked with some of the most creative people in performance art and immersive entertainment to offer attendees one-of-a-kind experiences.
The immersive game is THE reason why The Overlook Film Festival was one of my favorite genre experiences ever. There are many film festivals, but there’s only one that includes a weekend filled with murders, clues, a witch hunt, and me being gagged, zip-tied, and accused of being a serial killer. Can’t wait to see everyone at The Overlook Film Festival in New Orleans this April!
Gerald's Game: Considered by many to be an un-filmable story, Mike Flanagan (Hush) was up to the task of adapting Stephen King’s tale of a woman stuck handcuffed to the bed after an unfortunate set of circumstances.
Single-room movies are extremely difficult to pull off, but Gerald’s Game keeps your attention for the full hour and 43 minutes thanks to Mike Flanagan and captivating performances from Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood. Also, hats off to everyone involved in creating one of the most cringe-inducing scenes I’ve ever watched.
Scream Factory & NECA’s Silent Night Deadly Night Figure: I’ve become a little obsessed with NECA’s retro Mego-style action figures recently. For the most part they’ve stuck to fairly safe choices, such as Freddy, Jason, and Ash, but they teamed up with Scream Factory for a Silent Night, Deadly Night Billy figure that was one of the biggest horror collectibles surprises in 2017.
A limited run of only 2000 figures was included as part of Scream Factory’s Silent Night, Deadly Night Blu-ray set, and is now sold out, making this an instant collector’s item. The fact that this figure even exists is incredible and I’m so thankful to NECA and Scream Factory for teaming up to do this. Here’s hoping that we see similar collaborations in the near future.
Dave Made a Maze: Out of all the indie films I saw this year, none were as inventive or stuck with me as long as Dave Made a Maze. In other hands, this concept could have been a very by-the-numbers execution, but the risks definitely paid off here with some inventive uses of perspective and a transformation you’ll have to see for yourself. A little bit Doctor Who, a little bit The Muppet Show, and a whole lot of fun, Dave Made a Maze is a movie I’ve been recommending to friends and readers for most of 2017.
The Devil’s Rain: I didn’t come under the spell of The Devil’s Rain until much more recently, but how can you not love a cult movie starring William Shatner, Ernest Borgnine, and Tom Skerritt, directed by Robert Fuest (The Abominable Dr. Phibes)?
The fact that this was even given a Blu-ray transfer is impressive, but the care given to it by Severin Films is incredible, and the disc is loaded with bonus features. Severin is doing the Devil's work here and I'm thankful that these horror gems are reaching new (and old) audiences.
“Heaven help us all when THE DEVIL’S RAIN!” (How did no one stop them from putting this on the poster???)
IT: Get Out may have been a huge surprise in 2017, but the biggest shock of the year for me was IT. Who would have thought that this adaptation would not just be good, but an all-time great horror movie that broke box office records and did the same kind of business we see from Marvel movies?
With amazing chemistry from the cast and a killer performance from Bill Skarsgård, this R-rated, Stranger Things-inspired take on the Stephen King classic packed theaters for weeks on end. I love that we’re in a time now where studios aren’t shying away from the R rating, and where average moviegoers are more receptive to horror. IT brought horror fans together, introduced a new generation to Pennywise, and proved to studios that there’s a hunger for R-rated horror movies—wins all around and I couldn’t be more excited.
John Carpenter Live: I would have never started watching John Carpenter movies had it not been for my mother introducing me to them. Sadly, she was out of the country when I went to see him perform last year, so I was determined to take her to a show when it was announced that Carpenter was going back on tour. Thankfully, Toronto is only a quick drive away and we went to see him perform at the Danforth Music Hall in November.
The general admission venue was much better than being in seats last year, the crowd had some of Canada's biggest horror fans, and the live themes from Halloween, Escape From New York, and Big Trouble in Little China were just as good the second time around. Last year, I said that very few events in my life felt as surreal as giving the Chang Sing hand gesture back to John Carpenter. Seeing the same "how is this real life???" look on my mom's face as she was rocking out to John Carpenter was priceless.
Honorable Mentions: There were so many great genre releases in 2017. Some didn't stay with me as much as those I mentioned above, while others weren't horror enough (or at all) to make the cut. Either way, these were also some of my favorite releases from last year:
Want to know what other members of the Daily Dead team enjoyed in 2017? Catch up on all of our favorites coverage here.