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Anthony Arrigo’s Best Horror Films of 2017

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2017 was a banner year for horror, not so much because of the quality of the films released (obviously highly subjective) but because this is the first year the genre truly took the box office by storm. Sure, there have been major horror hits in the past but the performance of pictures like Get Out, Split, and Annabelle: Creation showed how horror can pass that coveted $100-million benchmark on a limited budget. And then there’s IT, an unexpected juggernaut of nostalgia that out-grossed major tentpoles like Transformers and Justice League by a wide margin. As a horror diehard, seeing these results is exceedingly pleasing…

… but then, none of the most popular titles made my list. Get Out left me so severely underwhelmed it felt like I saw a different film than everybody else. Everyone I know raved about The Babysitter but all I saw is a film that thinks it’s more clever than it is; all sizzle, no steak. IT is pretty good but, as a fan of the book, I thought Tommy Lee Wallace’s miniseries did a better job of realizing the Loser’s Club and developing their relationships. Leatherface is an irredeemable piece of shit – and that says a lot for this series. The Mummy (thankfully) killed Universal’s Dark Universe before it even got off the ground. I have yet to see Cult of Chucky, The Blackcoat’s Daughter, Raw, and a handful of titles that have been garnering acclaim. These will more than likely be jammed into my year-end free time, which comes after this list is due.


Twin Peaks: The Return

After an interminable – albeit perfectly timed – 25-year wait, David Lynch returned to the town America once embraced, but this was not the reunion many expected. Deliberately paced, occasionally frustrating but always compelling and curious, this 18-hour film felt less like the beloved series of old and more like a distillation of Lynch’s artistic oeuvre. Gone is the veneer of idyllic life in the bucolic paradise Special Agent Dale Cooper fell in love with, fully usurped by a seedy underbelly populated with shady characters and matured veterans. The Return is less Twin Peaks and more Fire Walk With Me, taking this bizarre odyssey into dark corners and delivering some of the most visceral moments in Lynch’s filmography. Angelo Badalamenti’s dark sonorities are still present, though they take a backseat to Lynch’s unique, droning sound design and the many acts featured at The Roadhouse.

Instead of pandering to audience expectations – and the endless notes of major network executives – Lynch had free reign to make the film he wanted. The result is an obtuse, lengthy trip during which many questions are raised and few answers are given; well, at least explicitly. Kyle MacLachlan, who was reluctant to return for Fire Walk With Me, is a triple threat here inhabiting not only our beloved Agent Cooper but also his Black Lodge doppelganger, Mr. C, and Mr. Jackpots himself, Dougie Jones. Lynch amassed a considerable cast, too, with numerous new faces appearing alongside returning favorites… many of which are bittersweet given their deaths shortly after filming. This may not have been easily digestible for the masses but most Lynch fans seem to agree, this is a masterwork of genius. And for anyone who doesn’t think this falls into horror, I only have this to say: “Got a light?”


A Ghost Story

A Ghost Story

David Lowery’s meditation on life, death, moving on and remaining static is one of those profound cinematic experiences that will either wholly resonate with viewers long after the credits roll… or they’ll be bored to tears. Hearing something like “Rooney Mara eats a pie for five uninterrupted minutes” sounds dreadful in theory, but in the context of the film it becomes a moving scene wracked with emotion. Casey Affleck spends 97% of the film under a white sheet, appearing as a stereotypical ghost that inhabits the one place where he last found peace. Dialogue is superfluous, with the onus placed on empathy and the obtuse concept of what it means to experience the vastness of time and space. The only time the film ever feels slightly ham-fisted is during a party, when one of the guests espouses his beliefs on humanity and our legacy. Lowery shot using a 1.33:1 aspect ratio because he wanted to replicate the claustrophobic experience of Affleck’s character being contained within a single structure for the duration of the film. This is the type of film that absolutely requires viewers to not only have an attention span but also the willingness to wonder and sink deep into thought about the meaning of life and death.


Brawl in Cell Block 99

There has never been a moment on film or TV when I have found Vince Vaughn to be remotely intimidating… until now. Leave it to S. Craig Zahler – he of Bone Tomahawk (2015) fame – to smash those preconceived notions into a bloody, pulpy mess. The story here is streamlined and simple, like the glorious revenge films of yesteryear. Vaughn plays Bradley, a former criminal who returns to the fray in order to provide for his wife and soon-to-be baby, but a decision made out of obligation during a police sting leaves him facing a solid decade behind bars. There, he is visited by a man who informs him that due to his actions his wife has been kidnapped and his unborn child will be ruthlessly dismembered in the womb unless he agrees to kill a man being housed in a maximum security prison. So begins a whirlwind of violence as Bradley steamrolls his way through every person necessary to get sent to that prison so he can kill that man. He is singular in focus and unremittingly brutal in execution. I liken the film to Taken (2008) in that Bradley is an unstoppable machine, protected less by plot armor and more by his skills. Neeson used a gun; Vaughn uses his fists – and feet, as viewers will see when he stomps a man’s head into a bloody mess before dragging it across the pavement, revealing the gleaming white skull beneath. Sound horrific? Wait till you see what he does to everyone else.


Kong: Skull Island

Finally, an American King Kong movie where the big ape doesn’t fall off a tall building or die of a heart attack. Jordan Voght-Roberts brought a sense of Ray Harryhausen to his creature feature, stocking Skull Island with plenty of mega fauna and quadrupling the size of Kong to a massive 100 ft. Anyone who knows me knows I am a diehard fan of both King Kong and Godzilla, and this new MonsterVerse is off to a smashing start between this film and Godzilla (2014). I will readily concede the characters are a bit thin, though properly motivated, and there are more than a couple of gaping plot holes but, above all else, this is a damn fun film full of color and rife with monster melee action. The final battle between Kong and the “big one” is a raucous brawl that is – hopefully – emblematic of what we can expect once he squares off against Godzilla in 2020. And before anyone gripes about their size difference, remember this film mentions Kong is still growing and, you know, it is a movie.


The Shape of Water

This is such a beautiful movie. Del Toro often gets knocked for favoring style over substance – criticisms made with sound reason – but here, even with a story containing cliches and contrivances he has managed to craft a stunning piece of romantic cinema. Every actor in this small ensemble delivers a powerful performance, with Sally Hawkins as the clear standout. This is such a love letter to monster lovers and outsiders; I actually stopped myself from criticizing the film at one point, deciding to simply wallow in the experience and revel in del Toro’s romanticism.  The make-up is exquisite, Alexandre Desplat’s score is a career-best, and Doug Jones is no doubt making many women in the audience question the definition of bestiality. Del Toro throws in a few horrific moments to sate his fan base; it is disturbing what an actor like Michael Shannon can do with two fingers. The musical number (yes, there is) may be my favorite movie moment of the year.

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New Alien First-Person Shooter Video Game in the Works

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“Game over, man. Game over!”

I’m not one for playing video games but even I will have to check out this new first-person shooter set in the Alien universe currently in the works at FoxNext Games.

This new and untitled game is the first original Alien-inspired game since “Alien: Isolation” and Cold Iron Studios is developing the game after recently being acquired by Fox (and now Disney).

“Cold Iron Studios has amazing design, craftsmanship, and development talent that we are excited to welcome at FoxNext Games as we pursue our goal to build a multi-platform, multi-genre portfolio of great games,” said FoxNext Games president Aaron Loeb. “I am a personal fan of Cold Iron’s previous work and all of us at FoxNext Games are thrilled to be working with them as they create an action-packed persistent world, steeped in the mysteries of this beloved Alien universe.”

“We believe in FoxNext’s vision and we are thrilled about the opportunity to explore an amazing and rich universe,” said Cold Iron CEO Craig Zinkievich. “Our background in building online worlds and taking established franchises to the next level in interactive entertainment is a precise fit with our product roadmap ahead.”

How excited are you for a new Alien game? Let us know below!

A release date hasn’t been announced yet but we’ll let you know when we hear more!

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Poster Debut: Nicolas Pesce’s Piercing Starring Mia Wasikowska and Christopher Abbott

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One of the films that I’m most interested in hearing the feedback about during this year’s Sundance film festival is director Nicolas Pesce’s psychological horror-comedy Piercing.

Not only did Pesce’s last flick The Eyes of My Mother impress the hell out of me but his new film boasts a killer premise and cast including Mia Wasikowska (Stoker) and Christopher Abbott (It Comes at Night).

The movie will be premiering at Sundance this weekend and today we have the film’s poster to share with you guys. You can click on the poster to the right for a higher-res version.

After checking it out let us know what you think!

Piercing is based on the critically acclaimed cult novel by Ryu Murakami and directed by Nicolas Pesce (The Eyes of My Mother) and stars Mia Wasikowska (Stoker) and Christopher Abbott (It Comes at Night).

The film hosts its World Premiere at the Sundance Film Festival Saturday, January 20th.

Synopsis:

Reed (Christopher Abbott) is going on a business trip. He kisses his wife and infant son goodbye, but in lieu of a suitcase filled with clothes, he’s packed a toothbrush and a murder kit. Everything is meticulously planned: check into a hotel and kill an unsuspecting victim. Only then will he rid himself of his devious impulses and continue to be a good husband and father. But Reed gets more than he bargained for with Jackie (Mia Wasikowska), an alluring call girl who arrives at his room. First, they relax and get in the mood, but when there’s an unexpected disruption, the balance of control begins to sway back and forth between the two. Is he seeing things? Who’s playing whom? Before the night is over, a feverish nightmare will unfold, and Reed and Jackie will seal their bond in blood.

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First Details on Eduardo Sanchez-Directed Supernatural Episode 13.13 – Devil’s Bargain

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The upcoming 13th episode of the 13th season of “Supernatural,” titled “Devil’s Bargain,” is notable for two reasons: (1) it’s directed by none other than Eduardo Sanchez (The Blair Witch Project, Lovely Molly), and (2) it features a guest appearance by series star Jensen Ackles’ wife, Danneel Ackles (“One Tree Hill,” The Roommate).

The CW has released the official synopsis for the ep, which you’ll find below.

Are you still a fan of the show after all these years? Looking forward to seeing how Sanchez leaves his mark on the Winchesters? Sound off in the comments section or on social media!

“Supernatural” Episode 13.13 – “Devil’s Bargain” (airs 2/8/18)
Sam (Jared Padalecki), Dean (Jensen Ackles), and Castiel (Misha Collins) search for Lucifer (Mark Pellegrino), who, meanwhile, strikes an unlikely deal with a local faith healer named Sister Jo (guest star Danneel Ackles). Asmodeus (guest star Jeffrey Vincent Parise) inches closer to finding Jack (Alexander Calvert). Eduardo Sanchez directed the episode written by Eugenie Ross-Leming & Brad Buckner.

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