Hey everyone. Having written and rewritten this introduction four times, I’ve resigned myself to a simple fact: I can’t rewrite what has been. I can’t change what is done. But the future isn’t set in stone, and my present is better than it’s been in a very long time. I guess which is to say that I’m forever an optimist; I can’t help it and frankly, I don’t care to change. It’s just the way I’m built. So, it was a busy year, and many of the reasons why you’ll see described below with my list of favorite things from 2017. As you’ll see, horror—and horror people—never let me down.
FAVORITE TV SHOWS
Okay this will be very short, so let’s get it out of the way: I didn’t see any horror TV this year at all. I’m SORRY, OKAY? TV always seems the one format that is the easiest to slip through my grasp—perhaps because it’s always just there, waiting—but indeed it has survived and thrived, with great notices for season two of Channel Zero and The Exorcist (both which made my fave list last year). I promise I’ll do better in 2018. Um, I’m almost done watching Hannibal, though, does that count?
Again, it’s been a crazy year on the work and the home front; I’ve always loved to read, but it seems the more I write, the less I’m able to dig into a good book. There are two, however, that have (wait for it) bookended my year:
Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy: The Making of Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street: Yes, it came out in 2016, but I read it when I read it, and I’m so glad I did. Author Thommy Hutson wrote and produced the amazing doc of the (partial) same name, but instead of the whole series, here he focuses on the ground zero original, allowing it to breathe and expand beyond the allotted time given in the doc. Essential reading for any fan of the film or just great, in-depth “making of” tomes.
Monster Squad: Celebrating the Artists Behind Cinema’s Most Memorable Creatures: Written by Daily Dead’s very own Managing Editor and Top Critic Heather Wixson (alternate spelling: Wixon), Monster Squad delves into the stories behind some of your very favorite practical makeup effects by the people who created them. I’m nowhere near finished with this book (it packs in a ton of info and it was released late in the year), but Heather’s talent and love for these creature makers oozes off of every page. This is a tremendous undertaking from a gifted, passionate writer.
I greased up my ear holes with many a podcast this year; most of them horror-based, all of them terrific in their own way: engaging hosts, interesting topics, and a passion for film that’s contagious. In no particular order, this is what I fed my auditory canals:
I’m sure many of the above are already on your listening lists, and if not, give each and every one a go—I promise there’s something for everyone.
This was another very good year for feature film horror, not only for content, but for the box office; it seems whenever real life gets to be too much (and 2017 had way too much 2017 in it, for everyone), audiences turn to escapism to possibly overcome their fears in a safe environment. (Pop psychology to be sure, but I think it holds some truth, and us horror lovers would be there regardless of our environs. That’s just how we roll.) These are my top picks for the year:
IT: My first Stephen King adaptation on the list, and I believe the best. Confession: I still haven’t read the book, so my only previous knowledge is the 1990 miniseries, which is still beloved by some and derided by many. (Personally, I think it’s a mixed bag with some great moments. Not that you asked.) Andy Muschietti (Mama) has crafted a rare beast: a studio-made horror film with an emphasis on winning, fully developed characters over cheap scares (although it has more than its share of shivery terror). I eagerly await his 2019 follow-up to see what’s in store for the grown ups. It should end well for everyone, right?
Gerald’s Game: Hell, I might as well throw another King on the pile, as Mike Flanagan (Hush) solidifies his standing as a modern master of horror with an adaptation of a seemingly un-filmable book. Again, another King that works because of a belief that character is enough to drive a film. Plus, THAT SCENE. Plus plus, Carla Gugino should be noticed for her heroic performance. Oh and plus plus plus, can I have the number of Bruce Greenwood’s trainer?
Dearest Sister: The power of film is such that I first saw this back in January on Shudder and it has never left my thoughts. Laotian director Mattie Do has crafted a ghost story that projects that country’s social and economic disparity in a haunting, delicate light; when a poor village girl travels to the city to help her recently blinded and wealthy cousin, she finds that the cousin can communicate with the dead, which she uses to her financial benefit. There’s an eerie sadness to the villager’s plight, and to the film itself.
Get Out: Call it “horror,” call it a “social thriller,” call it whatever you want, but never forget how groundbreaking it is for the genre. Saturated with commentary on (sadly) still hot button issues of racism, cultural appropriation, and fear of assimilation, comedian Jordan Peele’s directorial debut is direct and fierce in its message while still managing to be a cracking love letter to the genre. Judging by the success of this film, Peele will be able to make whatever movies he wants, and I’ll be first in line.
The “IT’S NOT OUT YET, BUT YOU’RE GOING TO LOVE IT WHEN IT IS” Award Goes To:
Tragedy Girls: From the makers of the hilarious Patchwork, this breezy romp manages to make many cunning observations about the disconnect of social media in a warm, disarming, and winning way. Well-rounded characterizations, good laughs, and solid kills (will) make it a delight for horror lovers, mark my words.
The “IT’S CLOSE ENOUGH TO HORROR FOR ME” Award Goes To:
Mayhem: Joe Lynch knows horror inside and out; even better, he has the talent to back up the talk—in a similar vein to his previous action extravaganza, Everly (2014), Mayhem simply pops off the screen with sly humor and hyperkinetic moves. It’s Office Space meets Lord of the Flies, laced throughout with splatter-ific fun that is becoming Lynch’s specialty. At least I hope so. Nobody does it better.
So, there you have it, some oases in a continually burning desert. We all have our own; and I hope that whatever you take pleasure in, it helps get you from one day to the next, and maybe even inspire you to help make a better tomorrow. Never forget that in the horror world, we’re all in this together. That should always count for something. And to anyone who has ever read my blathering here or listened to me prattle on Daily Dead’s very own Corpse Club podcast (what, you thought I wouldn’t mention it?), my most sincere and humble thanks. I hope to keep doing it until they change the locks. Wishing you all the light and love in 2018.
Want to know what other members of the Daily Dead team enjoyed in 2017? Catch up on all of our favorites coverage here.