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Mike Sprague’s Best Horror Films of 2017

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Many will say that 2017 was the year horror slammed back into the mainstream. And sure, with films like Get Out and It making all the 2017 box-office money, I can see what they mean.

But let’s remember that 2017 was also the year that firmly solidified the official end of an era. An era based on the idea that said quality horror goes to theaters. Trash gets dumped straight to video. 2017 proved this is officially no longer the case.

Again, yes, Get Out and It were quality motion pictures, and they played on screens across the country, but the small screen was (consistently) where the gold was mined. No longer do I – or the general public, I think – feel the stigma of a straight to Blu-ray/DVD/VOD release.

Big things are happening in the world of horror every day. And most of these advancements and achievements are happening far from the crying-child-infested multiplexes. Horror has hit home. And that’s where it’s always belonged. Welcome to the new age. Now let’s start contributing ourselves!

But before all that, let’s take a look at my picks for the best horror movies of 2017.

Let it be known upfront that I haven’t had the chance to see such films as The Shape of Water and The Endless so forgive me for not including them. From what I hear, they will no doubt make my list come next year. But until then, here are the fright flicks I dug the most in 2017…


The Babysitter

I’m a big fan of screenwriter Brian Duffield. His script for Jane Got a Gun is one I refer to all the time as a high-water mark for a succinct screenplay. And while the final product of Jane Got a Gun was a disappointment considering the strength of the script, I had high expectations for his next film, The Babysitter. Thank God the final film knocked it out of the park.

Featuring fun and blood from wall-to-wall, McG’s The Babysitter is a horror-comedy with massive amounts of heart. And brains. And blood. And gore. And more blood. And more gore. The Babysitter will delight even your most uptight buddies and gal-pals. Throw it on at a party and watch the room gravitate towards the screen. Works every time.


Creep 2

As many of you guys know by now, I am a major fan of Mark Duplass and director Patrick Brice’s original found footage flick Creep. The film has become a classic over the past few years, and I find even my non-horror obsessed friends know and love the flick. That’s a high bar for a sequel, right? Well, Duplass and Brice pull it off and do it all one better.

The sequel introduces a character that can go toe-to-toe with Duplass’ titular creep and the film delights in the subversions that ripple outward. Plus you have to hand it to Duplass, the man literally bares it all for the film. And in doing so marks the first time I’ve ever felt so much empathy for such an evil man. But that’s exactly how he gets you…


Cult of Chucky

I love all of the Chucky films. Yes, even Child’s Play 3 has a special place in my horror heart. That said, I was feeling the franchise fatigue around the time Seed of Chucky hit back in the mid-2000’s. Writer-director Don Mancini’s Curse of Chucky changed my opinion a few years back and with Cult of Chucky, Mancini has made what is arguably the best entry in the series to date. Again, arguably.

All the same, Cult of Chucky broke the perceived boundaries of the franchise and its rules to stunning effect. Hilarious, gory, shocking, and above all fun, Cult of Chucky made believers out of us all. This franchise has been invigorated from the ground up. And I cannot wait for the next film. Bring it on.


Gerald’s Game

Usually when it comes to a movie based on a novel (especially by Mr. Stepehen King) almost every review you’ll read for said film will feature the words “Not as good as the book” or “The book was better.” We’ve come to expect this. Novels usually dig deeper into the fear and the character’s inner workings. Novels usually allow the audience to perceive horrors worse than anything a filmmaker can conjure upon the screen. Not so with director Mike Flanagan’s adaptation of King’s 1992 novel Gerald’s Game.

From here to eternity Flanagan has given us all a flagship, a certified go-to rebuttal for when anyone asks “Has there ever been a movie that was better than the book?” Before Gerald’s Game, this was a tough question. After Gerald’s Game, the answer is simple.


IT

It is going to be the film that will, no doubt, land on every critic’s Top 10 list this year. Unless they want to be “That Guy/Girl”. Meaning the film was such as success that there are bound to be detractors. But in the case of It, they will be nothing more than whiny babies. Sorry to be harsh, but it’s true.

I’m a massive fan of King’s novel on which the film is based. Massive. I know the 1,000+-page book by heart. Test me. So you can imagine that my expectations for the film were over the moon. The fact that the film didn’t disappointment says a lot. The fact that Bill Skarsgård scared the hell out me more than a few times is some kind of miracle.

Bless you, Andres Muschietti. Bless you.


Raw

A morbidly beautiful French cannibal film, Raw is at turns utterly revolting, strangely sweet, and always engaging. The film first caught my eye when reports began to leak out about people fainting at festival screenings. I quickly added the film to my must-see list and, once I had the chance to gaze upon it, was stunned by not only how disgusting the movie was, but how enduring it was as well.

Most cannibal gross-out flicks are an endurance test. One and done. And while Raw does function as an endurance test, it’s one that you’ll actually want to revisit again and again. Come for the shockingly graphic gore; stay for the heartfelt and heartbreaking tale told amongst the terror.


Get OutGet Out

While we’re not so much ranking our favorite horror films of 2017 here, I do want to say that writer-director Jordan Peele’s Get Out was my favorite horror film of 2017. Some of the others films on this list could switch positions if placed in a Top 10 format, but not Get Out. No matter the format or structure placed on the list, Get Out would remain the number one film. It is the only legit masterpiece to have been released in 2017; and from the moment Get Out hit the screen, it was a must-watch for any and all fans of thriller, horror, and suspense cinema for the rest of cinematic history. Not only as a top example of the sub-genres but for its flawless techniques, which would make even the masters such as Hitchcock and Kubrick proud. Overstatements? Obviously, you haven’t seen the film…

***

So there you have it. These are my favorite horror films of 2017. Sure there were other films that I dug the hell out of, including but not limited to Super Dark Times, Lake Bodom, A Dark Song, and Tragedy Girls, but these are the ones that got me the most. These are the films that I know I will be watching at least once a year for the foreseeable future.

What did you think of the Year of Horror that was 2017? Hit us up and let us know what your favorite films were this year in the comments below or on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!


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Like Me – Will You Like This Dystopian Thriller?

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Starring Addison Timlin, Ian Nelson, Larry Fessenden

Directed by Robert Mockler


While Like Me is not dystopian in the classic science-fiction sense, it does aptly put the downer vibe across. If the present is abysmal, then the future is downright hopeless. We learn this as we follow an unhinged teenage loner called Kiya (Addison Timlin) on a hollow crime spree that she broadcasts on social media. At first the world “likes” her—with the exception of YouTube rival Burt (Ian Nelson), who disdainfully denounces her viral videos—but pride goes before the fall, and Kiya’s descent is spectacular.

If you’ve peeped the trailer for Like Me, then you’re probably expecting a horror movie. I mean, they’ve got the requisite menacing masked baddie and they’ve got genre icon Larry Fessenden in a major role—those are a couple of the key ingredients, right? Yes they are, but this simmering, shimmering stew of Natural Born Killers, Excision and King Kelly, it boils down to a whole lotta nothing. Like Me is sort of a drama, kind of a road trip flick, and almost a thriller. It succeeds at none yet does stand on its own as a compelling collection of cool visuals and pertinent performances. But is that enough?

While Kiya is a compelling character on the surface, there’s barebones beneath. Sure, she’s a Millennial mind-fed on random online clips and snappy soundbites—but what turned her into a psychopath? Was she born that way? Is social media to blame? We’ll never know, because not a hint is given. I don’t mind ambiguity, but even a morsel would have been welcome in this case. As Kiya ramps up her reckless exhibitionistic extremes, the stakes are never raised. In the end, who cares? Maybe that’s the point.

A word of warning: If you plan on watching this movie while chomping snacks…don’t. There is stomach-turning scene after vomit-inducing scene of orgiastic easting, binging, and the inevitable purging. I’m sure it’s all metaphorical mastication, a cutting comment on disposable consumption. I get it. But I don’t wanna look at it, again and again and again. Having said that, Like Me is an experimental film and in its presentation of such grotesquery, it’s quite accomplished. Montages, split-screens and jittered motions are scattered throughout, showing us all sorts of unpleasant things…Kudos to the editor.

I didn’t hate Like Me. But I do think one has to be in the mood for a movie such as this. It’s not an easy or entertaining watch, but it is a peculiar and thought-provoking one. There’s some style and mastery behind the camera, and I am curious to see what first-time writer-director Rob Mockler comes up with next.

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Last Toys on the Left

Funko Giving Jurassic Park the Pop! Treatment as Only They Can

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It is no secret we’re BIG fans of Funko’s Pop! Vinyl line here at DC HQ, and now they’ve announced a new series that has made our hearts just about burst… read on for a look at Pop! Movies: Jurassic Park, heading our way in February. The regular figures are awesome on their own, but wait until you see the exclusives!

From the Funko Blog:
Jurassic Park fans, get excited! To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the iconic film’s appearance on the silver screen, Jurassic Park is coming to Pop!

This series of Pop! features paleontologist Dr. Grant, Jurassic Park CEO John Hammond, mathematician Dr. Malcolm, and embryo-smuggler Dennis Nedry. (Keep an eye out for Dr. Ellie Sattler in Pop! Rides coming soon.)

We couldn’t forget the Jurassic Park dinosaurs! Featured in this line are the great T. rex, Velociraptor, and Dilophsaurus. Look for the Dilophosaurus chase, a rarity of 1-in-6.

Be on the lookout for exclusives. At Target you can find a wounded Dr. Malcolm, and the Dennis Nedry and Dilophosaurus 2-pack is available only at Entertainment Earth.

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American Psycho Meets Creep – Strawberry Flavored Plastic Review

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Starring Aidan Bristow, Nicholas Urda, Andres Montejo

Directed by Colin Bemis


Recently I wrote up an article here on Dread Central which was basically an open letter to anyone who was listening called “I Miss Found Footage.” Well, it seems like someone WAS listening, as I was then sent the link to an all-new found footage film called Strawberry Flavored Plastic from first-time writer-director Colin Bemis.

The film follows the “still-at-large crimes of Noel, a repentant, classy and charming serial killer loose in the suburbs of New York.” Basically, you could think of the flick as American Psycho meets Mark Duplass and Partick Brice’s Creep. That, or you could think of it as “Man Bites Dog in color!” However you choose to label Colin Bemis’ psychological thriller, just make sure you check out the film once it hits in the future.

As I alluded to above, the film is basically a found footage version of American Psycho. But that said, the film sports a twist on the charming serial killer subgenre that I have yet to see play out in any of the above-mentioned classics. I’m not going to go into spoiler territory here, but I will say that the film introduces an element to the tale that spins it into much more of a character drama than a straight horror film. Not that there is anything wrong with that!

Truth be told, the film’s turn from serial killer flick into a layered character study might have been its kiss of death, but this slight genre switch is rendered a minor issue as the film’s central narcissistic antagonist is played by Aidan Bristow. Bristow is an actor you may not have heard of before this review, but you will hear his name more and more over the years to come, I promise. The guy gives (no pun intended) a killer performance as the film’s resident serial killer Noel Rose, and time after time surprised me with how chilling, charming, or downright vulnerable he chose to play any given scene.

Bristow’s performance is, in the end, the major element the film has going for it. But that said, as a fan of found footage, I was smiling ear to ear at first-time director Colin Bemis’ understanding of what makes a found footage suspense sequence work.

In Strawberry Flavored Plastic director Colin Bemis is confident and content to allow full emotional scenes to play out with the camera directed at nothing more than a character’s knees. Why is this so important? Because it keeps the reality of the film going. Too many found footage directors would focus on the actors’ faces during such emotional scenes – no matter how contrived the camera angle was. In this film, however, Bemis favors the reality that says, “If you were really in this emotional state and holding a camera, you would let it drop to your side.” I agree, and it is small touches like that which make the film feel authentic and thus – once the shite hits the fan – all the scarier.

On the dull side of the kitchen knife, the film does feel a bit long even given it’s short running time, and there doesn’t seem too much in the way of visceral horror to be found within. Again, graphic blood and gore aren’t a must in a fright flick, but a tad more of the old ultra-violence would have gone a long way in selling our main psychopath’s insanity and unpredictability. But all the same, the film does feature a rather shocking sequence where our main baddie performs a brutal home invasion/murder that puts this film firmly in the realm of horror. In fact, the particular POV home invasion scene I’m talking about holds about as much horror as you’ll ever wish to witness.

In the end, Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic is a must-see for fans of found footage and serial killer studies such as American Pyscho, Creep, and Man Bites Dog. I recommend giving it a watch once it premieres. If only to be able to point to Aidan Bristow in the near future and tell all your friends that you watched (one of) his first movies.

Until then, check out the film’s trailer HERE, and follow the movie on Facebook.

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Lead actor Aidan Bristow turns in a star-making performance in Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic, a found footage film that plays out like Man Bites Dog in Color before introducing a new element to the charming-serial-killer subgenre and becoming more character study than a straight horror. Think American Psycho meets Creep.

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