This year was a big one in the horror genre. From podcasts to movies to immersive experiences, 2017 was a banner year for horror across multiple mediums, and Monte Yazzie continues Daily Dead's 2017 reflective features by reflecting on his favorite moments from the past year.
Pure Cinema Podcast: Brian Saur and Elric Kane started Pure Cinema Podcast in early 2017. The two cinephiles, better to call them film historians, compose an educational conversation on anything and everything film with a focus on theme-driven lists. The “Tarantino” and “Life Cycle” episodes are highlights with a combined running time of over 5 hours of content. Saur and Kane are the coolest kids in film school, everyone else is just trying to sit at their table.
Suspiria 4K Blu-ray (Synapse Films): Simply stunning. Synapse released a remarkable, meticulously crafted 4K transfer of Dario Argento’s masterpiece. Every inch of this transfer is beautiful, enriching the bold color palette Argento utilized while cleaning up the print. It’s the best Blu-ray release of the year, hands down.
The Thing Deluxe Edition Vinyl Score (Waxwork Records): It was an amazing year for vinyl music collectors. Waxwork Records completely outdid themselves with the deluxe edition LP to John Carpenter’s The Thing, with the original score by the legendary Ennio Morricone. The sound quality is exceptional and the sleeve design is pure fan service. The outermost sleeve cracks open, like ice in Antarctica, revealing the record, and the notes have an insightful interview with Carpenter. Waxwork continues to make these vinyl creations with the utmost detail and care.
The Devil’s Honey Blu-ray (Severin Films): David Gregory and the Severin team continue to impress, releasing films we never knew we needed in fantastic packaging and excellent transfers. The bonkers, ridiculously wonderful Lucio Fulci film The Devil’s Honey finds its strange way onto Blu-ray. One look at the cover should convince any film fan of its merit in their movie collection.
Dave Made A Maze: "Inventive" and "creative" are descriptive words that don’t come close to defining the film Dave Made a Maze. The premise, about a struggling artist who builds a fort in his living room out of cardboard boxes only to disappear into an alternate dimension, is transformed into a stunning labyrinth of intricate sets all built out of cardboard. Everything, from the flying creatures and crawling critters, to the stop-motion animated puppets, and even a walking minotaur, are ingeniously crafted. The film is funny, touching, and filled with genre influences that will make even hardened horror fans smile with amusement.
My Favorite Thing Is Monsters (Fantagraphic Books): This sketchbook diary-drawn graphic novel sees a young girl investigating the suspicious death of her upstairs neighbor amidst the backdrop of Chicago during social and political unrest in the late 1960s. The book is a moody murder mystery that elegantly portrays the life of a young girl growing up in a destructive world. Creator and illustrator Emil Harris has a wonderful descriptive sense both in language and illustrative style. This is a phenomenal graphic novel that displays the monsters living throughout our world.
Beyond Fest (Los Angeles, California): Beyond Fest has become a yearly film adventure staple… it could be described as my journey to the film mecca. The Beyond Fest programmers continually outdo themselves, raising the bar every single year to the point of wondering if they will ever better themselves from year to year. This year Dario Argento, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Walter Hill, and Jackie Chan made appearances, along with film premieres from excellent directors like Joe Lynch with the manic office thriller Mayhem and Graham Skipper with the excellent sci-fi/horror crossover Sequence Break.
George A. Romero: Between Night and Dawn Blu-ray Box Set (Arrow Films): It’s hard to measure the impact of a legend like George A. Romero. The godfather of the zombie mythos has composed a trilogy of living dead films that will forever be remembered as classics in the genre. However, the films composed during his zombie hiatus are equally as impressive. Arrow Films released a box set from the master, featuring three films that are prime for a revisit. These films will make you realize why Romero’s name will forever be remembered amongst the great directors of cinema.
Slashback Video (Los. Angeles, California): The older I get, the harder it is to recreate emotions that I felt as a child. However, upon entrance to Slashback Video, an art exhibit located in a shop in Burbank, California called The Bearded Lady’s Mystic Museum, I was transported back to my childhood and into the video stores that shaped and molded me into a film fan and furthermore into a horror fanatic. Filled with vintage videotapes and that wonderful charm of the’80s and’90s, Slashback Video was an experience I won’t soon forget.
Mixtape Massacre (Bright Light Media): Bright Light Media wants you to embrace your inner slasher. The board game Mixtape Massacre (a Kickstarter project founded in 2015) allows players the ability to choose their characters, all of them slasher characters that resemble some memorable icons from horror cinema, and make their way through a small town killing anyone in their way. The gameplay is loads of fun and the design is simple yet gorgeously rendered. Get your horror movie friends together, pour some strong drinks, and get ready for an evening of old-fashioned board game fun.
Paperbacks from Hell (Quirk Books): Author Grady Hendrix moves to non-fiction territory with Paperbacks from Hell, a lavishly organized book that documents the history of the horror paperback boom of the ’70s and ’80s. It’s a deep dive into a subject that influenced numerous areas of the genre. Mr. Hendrix is a talented writer who makes even the most mundane subject pop with pulse. It's informative, humorous, and thoroughly engaging.
Cathy’s Curse (Severin Films): Severin again provides a film that must be seen to be believed. No need for a synopsis, no need for a lengthy review, just get your friends, put on the movie, and prepare for a strange and uproarious time.
Brawl in Cell Block 99: Craig Zahler is one of the most innovative and interesting directors currently working in film; the new movie Brawl in Cell Block 99 is a violent, action-packed prison grindhouse film. Mr. Zahler, even when working with heavy doses of genre influences, always takes everything deadly serious in his film. Still, what ultimately makes this film a home run is the knockout, absolutely intimidating performance from Vince Vaughn. It’s one of the best performances of any film this year.
Night School (Warner Archive): Warner Archive is quickly becoming one of my favorite labels, and not just because they released one of the best slasher films of the early 1980s with director Ken Hughes' Night School. The Warner Archive team have released a fantastic transfer of the film, allowing director of photography Mark Irwin’s impressive work to shine even brighter.
Rebecca Blu-ray (Criterion): Criterion, still a mainstay on many film collector’s shelves, released one of Alfred Hitchcock’s best films. Rebecca, starring Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine, is the only Hitchcock film to win the Academy Award for best picture. That’s amazing considering the Master of Suspense’s catalog of work. Criterion collected an impressive set of extras for this release, also providing their patented work with restoring this film to its very best sound and picture qualities.
Sole Survivor Blu-ray (Code Red): Thanks to the team at Shock Waves podcast, I discovered a diamond in the rough with Thom Eberhardt’s 1984 film “Sole Survivor”. The premise may sound very familiar; a lone survivor of a plane crash becomes consumed by feelings that she shouldn’t have survived the incident. Then dead people start coming after her to collect her soul. Seemingly influencing the films “Final Destination” and “It Follows”, “Sole Survivor” has an atmosphere of dread throughout, assisted by a fantastic score from composer David Anthony, and methodically moves from scene to scene building the tension as it lumbers along. This one was released on DVD by Code Red a few years ago but found its way to Blu-ray in 2017. For the horror completists, this is must watch.
Get Out: No film, of all genre of movies 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.
Hounds of Love: Director Ben Young composes an unsettling character study in his debut feature Hounds of Love. The film centers on a serial killer couple living in Perth, Australia during the 1980s. Mr. Young shrewdly constructs this movie, 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 making “Hounds of Love” an effective piece of thrilling cinema.
Untamed: Amat Escalante’s film Untamed is an unusual and at times unnerving erotic genre film, constructing horror influences 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.
Raw: Director Julia Ducournau has crafted an impressive debut film with her uncomfortable and emotionally daring film Raw. Ms. Ducournau utilizes the movie 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.
Want to know what other members of the Daily Dead team enjoyed in 2017? Catch up on all of our favorites coverage here.