Freddy Ruiz’s Best Horror Films of 2017
We’re getting a really awesome renaissance of studio horror films, the biggest of this year being IT, and next year starts off with Insidious: The Last Key. While I am a huge fan of both, IT being my favorite film this year, I’d like to take the opportunity of my “best of” list to reflect on lesser-known films of the year that surprised me. Most of the films on my list reflect my love for the balls-out insanity of the 80’s or the subtle character dramas in 70’s horror. Here are the top five horror films from 2017 I think you should check out!
McG, producer of “Supernatural”, is back with a direct-to-Netflix movie that feels like something Joe Dante would’ve given us back in the day. The Babysitter stars Mayhem’s Samara Weaving as the titular character, Bee, giving an awesome performance of hidden identities. Judah Lewis, as Cole, gives a stupendous character arc of a performance that is going to give him cult status forever.
The first half of the film introduces us to young Cole and his inability to grow up in any way, shape, or form as he is constantly afraid of his surroundings and bullied by his peers. His babysitter, Bee, is his best friend and the only person he feels comfortable around. Their dynamic is hilarious and really fun to watch. McG builds them up amazingly with his knack for quick editing and stylistic visuals that enhance the situations and emotions. It drives their perfect relationship and sucks the viewer into the story. By the time the horror/thriller element is introduced you’re honestly shocked because of how developed and invested you are in the characters. The relationship between Cole and Bee feels like the best coming of age film.
The babysitter turns out to be a cult leader for a bunch of stereotypical millennials and Cole has to save himself from becoming a human sacrifice! At this point we’re introduced to Bee’s cult of teenagers and each one is more insane than the last. I love the leads, but the supporting cast of killers gives way to some of the most hilarious and intense scenes in the movie. My personal favorite is Robbie Amell, the jock. He runs around shirtless, screaming crazed one-liners as he chases Cole around, laughing maniacally.
This also has one of the most satisfactory badass and rocking endings I’ve seen all year! A final showdown between Bee and Cole happens that is super intense and brings forth inner demons from both parties, ending with a blaze of glory. Each and every moment and little detail builds to something else in the flick as no joke or mannerism is wasted. Cole is the badass we all wanted to become when we were dorky kids.
The directorial debut of Julia Ducournau is easily the best body horror film you will see all year. It follows a vegetarian girl going into veterinary school as she is forced to have her first taste of meat in a hazing initiation. Justine has been overprotected and blinded to any kind of carnal or basic pleasures her whole life. The framework of the film is a coming of age story as Justine discovers herself and enters adulthood, but it’s also paralleled with an innate animalistic need as her psyche devolves into primal instincts. This gives her a physical need for meat, changing not only her mind but her body.
It’s an amazing narrative that Ducournau enhances with bold lighting choices mirroring Justine’s emotions throughout the film, as well as a mysterious and foreboding score. This film also has my favorite sister dynamic since the original Ginger Snaps.
Garance Marillier’s performance as Justine is desperately tragic and horrifying to watch. She drives the movie perfectly on so many levels and gives one of my favorite performances this year. The true reasoning for her developed taste in meat and flesh is hinted at throughout the movie but never truly identified. It leaves a mysterious science fiction aspect to the story that is amplified by the grotesque final scene in the film.
The Devil’s Candy
Sean Byrne is notorious for meticulously crafting his films for years, rewriting and reshooting segments, taking his time. It is well worth it to wait and let him create with as much time as possible because his films, from concept to execution, are always original. They feel like things we’ve never seen before visually and create stories which could be viewed again and again.
I love his film The Loved Ones, as you watch this strange, intimate story unfold with both compelling antagonists and protagonists whose lives intersect into a horrific and tense collision. He is excellent in developing characters and even turns background characters unexpectedly into main focal points to the narrative.
With his latest, The Devil’s Candy, he opens with a tense and boastful guitar riff that permeates the darkly lit set pieces to form the opening kill that sets precedence for the darkest parts of the film. He then easily slides the viewer into a struggling but love-filled family. Ethan Embry plays Jesse Hellman, a metal enthusiast, artist and loving father. The dynamic between him and his daughter, Zooey, played by Kiara Glasco, is infectious and perfect. We watch him, Zooey and his wife Astrid move into a farmhouse that once belonged to a couple and their son who used his guitar to make enough noise to drive out the voice of the devil he would hear in his head. As someone who appreciates art and metal I immediately fell in love with this family that struggled to maintain who they are, thriving on love and music. The daughter/father dynamic had me smiling ear to ear because of how well it’s written. Simple scenes of them head banging together and making Metallica jokes made me want a daughter like Zooey and to be a father like Jesse.
Byrne has such a damn nice set up for the family that is fun but also has subtle foreshadowing of the horrors to come as the music choices ,while upbeat and head banging, have lyrics that are horrid and amplify what’s to come. These lyrics are over certain shots that linger, creating a terrifying atmosphere.
Pruitt Taylor Vince as Ray, the main antagonist of the film, is phenomenal. For a majority of the movie you truly feel for his character as he is constantly plagued by voices and unable to handle any type of confrontation with any other human. He is constantly trembling and scared of everyone. Jesse becomes the eyes and ears of what Ray sees in his mind as their madness becomes intertwined. The devil is more a concept in this film than a reality, but Jesse’s art shows hellish imagery of what the devil is.
It all concludes in one of the most harrowing, scary, bite your fingernails endings that is a completely beautiful yet horrific marriage of sights and sounds. It provides the representation of hell on earth in your own home with the best imagery of your own personal hell since Baskin.
The second feature film from Chris Peckover, who started with a great drama, Undocumented, is a really surprising movie. It starts off very formulaic and beat for beat like a home invasion movie that doesn’t give too much character development. You have to hold out because the style of the beginning actually plays into the rest of the film. The dialogue in the beginning is perfect for the introduction to this world, as it feels very much in the vein of an Amblin kid’s movie on a little more R-rated scale.
Once the movie turns on you, it becomes a completely different film on so many levels. The set up helps the film become the greatest sadistic performance since Patrick Bateman himself. You will be questioning the relevance of the dialogue as it seems insane. You will be laughing at the acting choices and moments for how messed up yet comedic they are. You will be in shock at the choices made by the characters and how they play out. There’s really maybe only one person to root for, as a lot of the characters are shitty people. However, the antagonists are so fun that you can’t help but be entranced by them.
There aren’t many kills, but the actions surrounding the kills are extremely satisfying. The ending is one of the most ingenious Dexter-like sequences ever filmed. Don’t research too much into this! Just watch the weirdness unfold.
I am an unashamed fan of this entire franchise. Freddy is a smack talking dream killer but Chucky feels like the everyman killer who talks shit and enjoys his work. Granted, I’m not a huge fan of Child’s Play 3 and Seed Of Chucky, but I love watching those flicks for the Chuck! It’s incredible how Don Mancini has had the ability to have his hands in the creative process throughout the entire franchise. The first three films are their own trilogy. Bride of Chucky and Seed of Chucky are their own thing, and now Curse Of Chucky and Cult Of Chucky have become part of a trilogy.
The idea that you can place Chucky in different types of films within the horror genre is extremely new and interesting. Curse of Chucky put a slasher in a gothic horror film. Now, Cult of Chucky put a slasher in an asylum horror story. Both films, spiritually, bring the franchise back into the thriller roots of the original Child’s Play. Original characters are brought back while also advancing the series in new directions.
My favorite aspect with the return of Andy Barclay is the dynamic between him and Chucky’s severed head. It’s one of the most satisfying things to watch and Tony Gardner’s FX on the doll have gotten so much better since Curse.
Fiona Douriff gives one of the greatest performances in the series. Her constant troubles as an invalid trapped within an Asylum become a story on their own that terrifies and disgusts. Her final act within the film is jaw dropping to watch if you’re a fan of the franchise. Alex Vincent and Jennifer Tilly have fun cameos that had me smiling ear to ear.
The mind games in the film with the patients and Chucky’s new found power are perfectly written and paranoid inducing for the viewer. Mancini is at his top game here on so many levels. His fan service is actually part of the plot while giving us new ideas, scares and character development that excellently compliment the new characters. It’s one of the best installments in the whole franchise. Buy the Blu-Ray for a cameo after the credits that will bleed into the next installment! Well worth the purchase!