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Josh Millican’s Best Horror Films of 2017

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It may just be that my love of horror grows every year, but it honestly feels as though 2017 has been a red-letter year for the genre. Not only are films like Andy Muschietti’s IT and Jordan Peele’s Get Out generating Oscar buzz but we’ve seen horror elements seep into mainstream movies and TV shows, from Logan to “Stranger Things”.

And this hasn’t merely been an amazing year for mainstream horror, with powerful indies emerging as some 2017’s best; it’s further proof that many of the most compelling and important genre flicks are being produced outside the traditional Hollywood system. Below, in no particular order, are my selections for the Best Horror Films of 2017. Let me know what you think in the Comments section!


Brawl in Cell Block 99

Though the subject matter is completely different, S. Craig Zahler’s Brawl in Cell Block 99 has many parallels to his first film, 2015’s Bone Tomahawk. Both movies build slowly and are anchored by compelling characters and engrossing dialogue; furthermore, both films are deceptively understated until an explosive and shocking 3rd Act hits like a gut-punch.

Vince Vaughn delivers a genuinely poignant portrayal of Bradley Thomas, a down-on-his-luck drug runner willing to do anything to protect his family from disgruntled former associates. Don Johnson also deserves a shout-out for his turn as corrupt Warden Tuggs, the most unnerving fictional jailer since Cool Hand Luke.

Brawl in Cell Block 99 isn’t your typical horror movie, presenting a meandering narrative, but it’s still as entertaining as anything that follows an established formula. Horror is always most compelling when we can connect with a film’s protagonists, and this film delivers in spades.


Raw

Julia Ducournau’s Raw both benefited and suffered from reports of audience members fainting and falling ill during the film’s 2015 premiere at TIFF. Upon its limited theatrical release, The Nuart in Los Angeles passed barf bags out to moviegoers, a tactic usually reserved for the most extreme and outlandish of B-movies, films intentionally crafted to trigger the gag-reflex. While Raw does indeed contain scenes that are very difficult to stomach (pun intended!) it’s hardly a 2-dimensional gross-out.

Before classifying the film as horror, it’s a coming of age saga first and foremost. Themes of cannibalism and bodily mutilations become metaphors for sexual awakenings and transitions into adulthood. Raw is also a compelling study of sibling rivalries and the powerful influence of heredity on personal development.


The Blackcoat’s Daughter

Though released after I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, The Blackcoat’s Daughter is actually the debut film from Oz Perkins (son of horror icon Anthony Perkins). It combines the supernatural terrors of a possession movie with the compelling complexity of a murder mystery. The all-girls boarding school in winter provides a moody aesthetic with Gothic undertones while serving as an incubator for sexual awakenings and religious guilt.

The Blackcoat’s Daughter hinges on a powerful twist, but this doesn’t hit the audience like a ton of bricks; rather, the film’s secrets are gradually unraveled, resulting in a slow realization that’s as poignant as it is shocking. The film succeeds in no small part thanks to compelling performances by a trio of talented young thespians: Emma Roberts, Kiernan Shipka, and Lucy Boynton.


The Devil’s Candy

Sean Byrne is one of the most talented horror practitioners to emerge from Australia in the 21st Century. His debut film, The Loved Ones, is an under-seen sleeper that balances teen angst, dark comedy, and extreme violence. With his follow-up film, The Devil’s Candy, Byrne is finally getting the attention he deserves.

It’s less extreme than The Loved Ones, but The Devil’s Candy’s understated presentation, genuine drama, and slow-burn build-up delivers more palpable dread and a lasting resonance. The Devil’s Candy is a chaotic mix of heavy metal music and inner demons and can be viewed as a metaphor for how the blind pursuit of art can destroy families.

Ethan Embry deserves a shout out for his harrowing portrayal of father and artist Jesse Hellman. Who’d have thought the kid from Can’t Hardly Wait would develop into such a skilled actor?


Get OutGet Out

Historically, Q1 is a bad time for horror movies, as studios are prone to dumping films they have little faith in. Jordan Peele’s Get Out breaks the rules in many ways and, though released in February, it remains one of the most lauded and analyzed films of 2017—in any genre. The inclusion of sociopolitical elements makes Get Out both unique and timely, although even without its social agenda, Get Out is a compelling and unnerving experience, one that stokes paranoia by exacerbating primal fears related to deception and isolation.

Peele has become an exciting and refreshing figure in horror with plans for more socially-conscious thrillers in the years to come.


47 Meters Down

Nearly unceremoniously dumped directly to DVD in 2016, In the Deep was rebranded 47 Meters Down and given a theatrical release last Summer, where it became an unlikely hit. Perhaps hampered by preconceptions relating to lead actress Mandy Moore, 47 Meters Down is nonetheless immensely entertaining, eclipsing 2016’s shark-horror blockbuster The Shallows.

I do have doubts about the film’s ability to spawn a franchise (there’s currently a sequel in the works, being produced under the temporary title 48 Meters Down) considering this film hinges on a twist that can only be used once, so it’s difficult to imagine a sequel with the same impact—but who knows?

Ultimately, though, even a bad sequel won’t diminish the shine of 47 Meters Down. The film also proves there are still plenty of ways to pack legitimate terror into a PG-13 horror movie.

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Jesper Kyd Returning to Score Vermintide 2

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From the cover of Kyd's first Vermintide OST

Get your headphones ready, Warhammer fans because State of Decay and Darksiders 2 composer Jesper Kyd is back to score the upcoming Warhammer title Vermintide 2! The game will be coming to PC and consoles early this year.

Kyd was inspired by Norse mythology, utilizing ancient tribal music as well as dark fantastical elements to build upon the acoustic soundscapes he composed for the first Vermintide game. Channeling his own Scandinavian roots, Kyd will blend Viking and Norse-inspired vocals with ritualistic percussion styles to create a unique soundtrack experience.

Three tracks from the score can be heard below.

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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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