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
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!
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.
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.