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Jonathan Barkan’s Best Horror Films of 2017



And so another year comes to an end, and we look back at all that it had to offer. 2017 was a year that saw unbelievable accomplishments and landmark successes in the horror genre. We hit the box office like never before, breaking records and shattering expectations. We continued to take over TV, thrilling and terrifying masses on a regular, weekly schedule. While horror has never died, I think we can all agree that this was a year in which horror not only lived but thrived.

Looking back and trying to figure out my favorite movies of the year wasn’t necessarily easy, but it was delightful. While my choices may be a bit surprising, please keep in mind that I didn’t get to see many of the big theater releases due to a lot of traveling. So, IT isn’t on my list not because I thought poorly of it, but rather because I don’t know what to make of it!

Anyways, here’s a list of my 10 favorite movies of 2017 in no particular order!

Dave Made a Maze

Dave Made a Maze

Perhaps the most charming film I’ve seen in 2017, Dave Made a Maze is wildly imaginative, wickedly funny, and blends horror with a ton of other genres so as to create something incredibly unique and entertaining. It’s the kind of movie you want to watch with a few good friends, a few good beers, and a few slices of good pizza.


One of the most polarizing theatrical experiences of the year was Darren Aronofsky’s mother!, which I absolutely adored. Theorized as an interpretation of God, Mother Earth, and the Old and New Testaments, the film is a visual tour de force and provided one of the most unrelentingly tense and uncomfortable experiences I’ve had in theaters in a long, long time. To this day I still can’t stop thinking about it.

Anna and the Apocalypse

It’s essentially the musical episode of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” meets Shaun of the Dead, and it’s a goddamn delight the entire time! Filled with charming songs, great zombies, and wonderful performances, Anna and the Apocalypse will surely become required viewing every holiday season!


In today’s age of increasingly black-and-white viewpoints, M.F.A. comes around and provides a nuanced view on the issue of sexual assault across university campuses. Writer Leah McKendrick penned a film that refused to make Francesca Eastwood’s vigilante killer a hero, instead opting for a character that is uncomfortable to support, even if we understand her motivations. It’s a very difficult movie but one that is as powerful as it is necessary.

War for the Planet of the Apes

The final entry in the new Planet of the Apes trilogy is thrilling, epic, adventurous, and deeply moving. Andy Serkis’ performance is award-worthy, and the special effects are top-class. It’s a marvel of cinematic technology on top of being an excellent film.

Brawl in Cell Block 99

S. Craig Zahler’s Dante-esque descent into the prison system is harrowing, violent, and unflinching while Vince Vaughn’s performance as “Bradley” is a marvel to behold. This was one of the few films this year to make me cringe in my seat and avert my eyes.


Joe Lynch’s Mayhem is pure fucking fun, and there’s no other way to put it. Steven Yeun explodes on the screen while Samara Weaving oozes charm and steals every scene she’s in. Their relationship is the backbone to a film that had audiences hooting, hollering, cheering, and screaming in pure delight. Tightly edited and wasting no time getting to the action, Mayhem is a film that you’ll want to see again and again. I know because that’s precisely what I did!

The Endless

Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead proved once again this year why they’re quite possibly the most innovative and fascinating directors working today. A dark fantasy that is as much about familial relationships as it is about a “UFO cult,” The Endless weaves a mystery that is engrossing, captivating, and hypnotic. Beautifully filmed, The Endless offered me one of the most gripping and compelling theater experiences I’ve had all year.



Not really a horror film but definitely horrific at parts, Greg McLean’s Jungle still managed to grab me by the throat and grip me with anxiety more than most films this year. Following the story of Yossi Ghinsberg (Daniel Radcliffe) and how he managed to survive three weeks lost in the Amazon, McLean packs every scene with as much beauty as he does tension, resulting in a film that is thrilling, emotional, and affirming.

Creep 2

Patrick Brice’s Creep 2 is the kind of sequel that not only does something clever with the foundation of an original film but expands on it in ways that elevate it to a whole new level. Subverting expectations and redefining the game, Creep 2 sees Mark Duplass and Desiree Akhavan playing cat-and-mouse in the most interesting and, at times, uncomfortable of ways.

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Like Me – Will You Like This Dystopian Thriller?



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



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



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.

  • Strawberry Flavored Plastic


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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