2017 Year End Review by Jason Minton
2017 was an excellent year for horror movies. From King Kong to Chucky, 2017 had it all. We countdown some of our favorite and least favorite horror films of 2017 in this year-end review as seen by the Headless Critic of Without Your Head.
One of Stephen King's least favorite film adaptation of his books is Stanley Kubrick's iconic version of The Shining. Not every movie can tickle your horror funny bone and these films didn't tickle ours. These may not be to our personal tastes but maybe they are yours. The great thing about the wide world of horror is there's something for everyone.
Horror may be the genre that produces the most amount of bad movies each year because their fan base is loyal and widespread. For us here at Watching Movies, it's one thing to make a bad horror movie when you're working without a budget, it's another to waste millions on something we'd just rather not see. While there may have been worse movies made in 2017, these films excelled at pissing us off by wasting big budgets or committing horror movie sins in the making of a movie we'd just rather not watch.
Artistic Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos brought his unique filmmaking style to the states with the 2015 release of the critically acclaimed, off-kilter comedy The Lobster. His long awaited second English language feature dipped its toe into the horror realm with this Greek mythology inspired tale. The problem here is while his obtuse characters worked in the offbeat dramedy The Lobster, it’s hard to take a man with a bag over his head, spinning in circles with a shotgun because he can’t decide which family member to kill seriously in a horror drama. The Greek director has proven he likes to set his films in an alternate reality. Unfortunately the IQ level of the characters in this realm makes it impossible for anyone batting average to relate. Do you only have to shoot one? We’d pretty much rather see them all die. Not only that but we’ve seen this script played out on film and just the year prior in the horror anthology XX where it plays much better as a serious role.
Full Review: The Killing of a Scared Deer
There’s little surprise that the overhyped relaunch of the iconic Universal Monsters in the newly dubbed “Dark Universe” wasn’t the success Universal anticipated. The massive studio made the same mistake we see time and time again from first time, low budget slasher directors who look to their fourth and fifth film of a franchise before the first movie has even been deemed good enough to warrant a sequel. On top of that Universal committed a crime against their American audience that more and more big studios are being charged with. With American films growing in popularity in China, Universal pandered to the wider worldwide audience. The only problem is China has many more restriction on what they allow on the big screen. Instead of focusing on a driven story with merit and cutting out whatever the Chinese government won’t let their people see, Universal produced a cookie cutter movie. It’s not even a good cookie; it’s more of a butter cookie with no depth, uniqueness or passion behind it. You also have a fifty year old Tom Cruise playing a role meant for someone in their twenties.
Full Review: The Mummy
The only movie to make our Worst of 2017 list that probably didn’t have a multi-million dollar budget. So why is young director and writer Mickey Keating’s latest stylized feature feeling the Worst of wrath? He committed a horror movie crime by our accounts by not providing a script. Sure horror movies are notoriously known for not having good scripts. We’ll be damned if we’ll let the next generation of horror slip into the mindless killing of characters without at least a set-up of them trying to get laid. We at least need some bimbo camp counsellor who’s too busy chasing boys to worry about the maniac on the loose killing people. Instead Keating directs a beautiful looking film of random murders. Where’s the fun in that? The young director is also so heavily influenced by filmmaking master Quentin Tarantino it borders pure rip-off.
Full Review: Psychopaths
The Snowman had all the makings of a wonderful theatrical experience with potential sequels to come. A layered script had Hollywood elites like Martin Scorsese and Ridley Scott wanting to direct. Swedish director Tomas Alfredson landed the coveted spot, taking the reigns of this Snowman’s slay even though he’d only directed one feature since his largely successful Let the Right One In almost a decade prior. An exceptional cast was hired to fill the roles. The end result was thirty-five million dollars being spent to make an incomplete movie that had to be pieced together into a cohesive story in the editing room. Voice overs are the glue that kept The Snowman from being a random collection of scenes. The real crime here is Universal Pictures released this Franken-movie, selling it to audiences as a completed work. If all was fair in the world, Universal would have stood trial in front of a jury of their paid audience who would have taken away their right to distribute movies for this travesty on film.
Full Review: The Snowman
Darren Aronofsky is a critically acclaimed director whose works have been nominated for numerous awards. He also directed and co-wrote 2014’s Noah. Unfortunately that wasn’t his worst feature. With Mother!, (exclamation point added to the title to cover Jennifer Lawrence’s inability to show emotion as an actress) Aronofsky speaks to the pretentious film elite by simplifying the bible into childish terminology. I’m all about paying for movie experiences, just not the ones that make me want my money back. I’m all for movies that make you think, just not movies that make me think I wish I’d spent my time watching Tyler Perry in a fat suit. We get it, it’s a metaphor for biblical stories. As entertaining as consuming the body of baby Christ is, we just don’t want it. While Noah was laughably bad, Mother! (with the Jennifer Lawrence excitement exclamation point) is frustratingly bad. Once you understand what’s going on, you just want to leave. The biggest frustration was I had to finish Aronofsky’s biblical telling to write a fair review. The result, a film travesty...
Full Review: Mother!
Narrowing down the best horror themed movies of a year like 2017 is nearly impossible. There was so much going on this year we know we didn’t see it all here at Watching Movies Without Your Head and we are the professionals. Movies slipped by us and we know some slipped by the horror faithful out there. Did you know that the B-Horror classic Attack of the Killer Tomatoes was basically reincarnated in donut form this year? Even better, the Attack of the Killer Donuts actually tastes pretty good. Legendary writer Elmore Leonard’s granddaughter made a horror movie in 2017 as well. We’re sure that Ice Cream Truck would have made her famous grandfather proud.
There’s so much that happened in horror in 2017 we can’t mention it all. An amazing zombie poster came from Dawning of the Dead. There’s a wonderful clown performance this year by someone other than Bill Skarsgård in Tim Abell’s role as Circus Kane. Veteran comedian Bob Golub gives a killer performance in his self-written horror pun Die Laughing. Out of the sandbox zombie movies like It Stains the Sands Red are reinvigorating the overplayed undead genre. Forgotten 80’s B-Movie distributor TROMA released my guilty pleasure movie of the year in Rose & Viktor: No Mercy. TROMA vet Debbie Rochon’s feature film directorial debut is a blast in Model Hunger. Australia’s Inner Demon gave us one of the most intense first halves of film I’ve seen all year. The small, first person filmed VooDoo gives one of the most shocking turns I’ve seen in a movie since the vampires came out in From Dusk till Dawn. There’s so many remakes, sequels and Netflix releases in 2017, I don’t dare try to mention them all. However we’d be remiss if we didn’t give a handful of honorable mentions.
Gerald’s Game – Playing her husband Gerald’s Game, a woman finds herself tied to a bed as her husband dies on top of her with no one else around to find them.
Full Review: Gerald's Game
House by the Lake – Trying to reconnect at a lake house a couple’s young daughter begins to fixate on an imaginary friend in the lake who may just not be so imaginary.
Full Review: House by the Lake
Raw – A young vegetarian undergoes a carnivorous hazing ritual at vet school causing an unbidden taste for meat to begin to grow inside her.
Full Review: Coming Soon…
Tragedy Girls – Two death obsessed high school girls gain followers by killing residents of their small mid-western town.
Full Review: Tragedy Girls
Who’s Watching Oliver – A mentally unstable man with mommy issues tortures women for mommy’s pleasure until he falls in love with a would-be victim.
Full Review: Who's Watching Oliver
From creature features to serial slashers, 2017 had it all. Now it’s time for the movies that got us through 2017. These are our favorite horror movies of the year here at Watching Movies Without Your Head. When you’ve reviewed well over 200 movies in a year it really makes you appreciate finding a good one. You may agree or disagree but there’s no right and wrong in the realm of opinion. In a sea of Hollywood horror movies it’s about getting the word out about movies others might enjoy.
Now it’s time for the main event. Here’s the Top 10 movies Reviewed by Watching Movies Without Your Head that were predominately released in 2017.
An artistic endeavor that keeps you guessing. Wonderful performances in a visually stunning film sets the tone for a movie experience you’ll be happy if you saw it on the big screen. Mia Goth naturally fits into her creepy role. Dan DeHaan reminds me of a young Leonardo DiCaprio for a reason, providing yet another exceptional performance. Beautiful cinematography and a paced, suspenseful build will keep the viewer intrigued while watching this art in motion.
Full Review: The Cure for Wellness
The aborted Hollywood fetus that lived, Red Christmas is an outside Hollywood production that should have gotten a wide theatrical release in the states. Breaking outside of the boring studio mold might have kept Christmas 2017 from running red but the blood soaked footprint of Red Christmas is definitely left behind. Dee Wallace give one of her best performances which is enough for any horror fan to watch alone. This is definitely one to add into the holiday rotation to get you in the Christmas mood.
Full Review: Red Christmas
The prequel to the prequel of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre may not have lit the world on fire for 70’s cult fans. Abandoning the set backstory of the flesh wearing, chainsaw wielding maniac didn’t do it any favors with Chainsaw loyalists. The Sawyers and the slasher series isn’t the reason Leatherface is one of the best horror movies of 2017. Supporting characters Ike and Clarice take this center stage of crazy. As a standalone film Leatherface is viciously brilliant. Renamed and unassociated with the series they love, I feel more horror fans would agree with me that this 1960’s gritty film is the most fun I’ve had from a crazy family since the Devil’s Rejects. Leatherface may have killed the franchise but if you ask me it went out on top with their best film since the Tobe Hooper originals.
Full Review: Leatherface
This almost horror film covers the early life of cannibalistic killer Jeffrey Dahmer. Based on a series of graphic novels by Dahmer’s childhood best friend, My Friend Dahmer may not meet the needs of some horror fans but I can’t think of anything scarier than this descent into madness, exploring the mind of a serial killer who eats his victims. What’s even scarier is you’ll find sympathy for this real life cannibal along the way.
Full Review: My Friend Dahmer
In a year that’s heavy with remakes and sequels, Blood Feast is one that was actually worth remaking. Remaking movies just years after their original is always a cry for money. After 50 years the 1963 film that is credited as creating the gore genre is turned into a stylized arthouse horror film. The 2017 redux may not have created a new horror genre like their predecessor but it is a beautiful addition. It’s a travesty that the MPAA fought Blood Feast every step of the way, ultimately stifling their release.
Full Review: Blood Feast
M. Night Shayamalan returns to his horror glory of the early 2000’s that made fans fall in love with him. When directors fall on hard times and resort to making sequels to their more popular films, it’s usually a bad idea. Shayamalan may have resurrected his fledgling career with a potential multi-film series aided by two excellent performances from James McAvoy and young Anya Taylor-Joy. The expected M. Night twist ending may not have surprised but it did give the viewer exactly what they want.
Full Review: Split
Rising star horror director Sean Byrne follows up his growing cult favorite The Loved Ones with another excellent horror film that should have found a wider theatrical release. The Devil’s Candy is a rock fueled thrill ride of crazy. Ethan Embry leads For Whom the Bell Tolls with an outstanding performance as a father faced with a madman trying to kill his family. It’s time to man up to madness. The devil has a sweet tooth and he’s knocking on your door.
Full Review: The Devil's Candy
The biggest horror movie of the year that reminded Hollywood that horror films are marketable. The big screen remake of Stephen King’s novel isn’t flawless but it’s a fun and exciting film that far exceeded my wildest expectations. Bill Skarsgård somehow managed to fill Tim Curry’s clown shoes in differing but equally terrifying portrayals of the now iconic horror figure Pennywise. Stephen King is best when he's writing about children and It is no exception. Let’s just hope we find chapter two equally intriguing as the Losers grow up.
Full Review: It
Jordan Peele’s comedy script turned horror success is one of the most innovative horror films in years. Playing the race card, Peele distracts from what’s really going on in his breakout hit. As methodically paced as a Twilight Zone episode, we go for a ride of racial tension uncovering a plot way deeper than surface level hatred. Maybe more comedic minds should be blowing us out of the water with horror scripts. That perfect combination of comedy and suspense scares isn’t easily captured and I’m not sure Peele's successful feature captured it either. I believe what we got instead is something else, on a whole other level, that hasn’t even been defined yet.
Full Review: Get Out
There’s good horror, then there’s good movies. Often horror isn’t atop that second list. Guillermo del Toro’s creature feature, love story is simply a magnificent movie experience. Anyone who argues that The Shape of Water shouldn’t be included in a list of horror movies, I’ll refer you to Frankenstein and the Creature from the Black Lagoon as Universal classics. Sure it’s a love story but it’s a love story with a monster as mankind defines him. A creature feature in the truest sense, The Shape of Water is a perfectly fitting fairy tale. Sometimes you don’t need a movie to challenge you. Sometimes you just want to be given what you want. Guillermo del Toro delivers exactly what I wanted to see in a film that isn’t just the best horror movie of the year but should also be in contention for best film of the year. It’s just beautiful.
Full Review: The Shape of Water
Didn’t see your favorite horror film of 2017 listed? Maybe we didn’t see it. Feel free to comment below and tell us what you loved about horror in 2017!