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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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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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