We did it everyone. Pat yourself on the back, we survived another year . . . somehow. And, hey, despite all the madness going on it was actually an amazing year for movies! We’re definitely gonna need all this escapist entertainment in the coming apocalypse. This was an amazing year for horror and one of the few years where I had trouble reducing the list to just ten. I even thought of breaking tradition and maybe doing at Top 15 list, but my laziness won out and I just decided to settle for ten.
This year also featured the most difficult decision I’ve ever faced for the number one spot. It was literally a three way tie with each one changing place over the course of several hours. I honestly agonized over the top three of this list, but I finally came to a decision. That being said the gap between one, two, and three is razor thin and are all number one in my heart. So, with all that sentimental shit out of the way, let’s get to the list!
10. Kong: Skull Island
If you’ve read my previous lists then you know that I’m a huge sucker for giant monster movies and lately we’ve been living in a golden era of them. This year gave us the wonderful “Kong: Skull Island” and while the leads were as dull as white bread, there’s no denying that this was an amazing rendition of King Kong. Set in a post-Vietnam War world, “Skull Island” takes themes of war and brutality and applies it to a giant monster flick to give scenes of awesome destruction some much needed meat. It’s probably not saying much, given the quality of previous King Kong films, but this is easily my favorite portrayal of the big guy since the original 1933 movie.
9. Gerald’s Game
Imagine being an adaptation of a semi-known Stephen King story coming out in the same year as such titans as a new “It”, an adaptation of “The Dark Tower”, and a TV series based on “The Mist.” You really could not fly more under the radar if you tried and, yet, Mike Flanagan’s adaptation of “Gerald’s Game” wound up being the second best Stephen King product put out this year. “Gerald’s Game” is a deceivingly simple story where Jessie and her husband (Gerald) travel to an isolated cabin for a weekend retreat. During the getaway Gerald tries to spice things up by handcuffing her to the bed. When Gerald has a heart attack, Jessie finds herself trapped in the bed. Surviving both psychological horrors and real ones, Jessie must find a way out if she wants to survive. And, while not an ultra-violent movie, “Gerald’s Game” features one of the nastiest moments on this list.
8. Creep 2
The first “Creep” was a movie I really enjoyed despite it’s completely bonkers ending that defied all common sense. “Creep 2” takes a similar premise, but manages to present a stronger and more compelling ending. “Creep 2” follows the Creep from the first film (Mark Duplass) as he lures another video artist to his isolated cabin to play a sick game of cat and mouse. However, the Creep quickly learns that his latest victim is more than a match for him. “Creep 2” does what all good sequels should, it takes all the best parts of the original and builds upon it and even flips the script when needed.
7. Annabelle: Creation
My favorite growing trend in recent years is this phenomenon where really bad horror movies are getting really good sequels. “Lights Out” director David F. Sandberg had the arduous task of crafting a sequel to “Conjuring” spin off flick “Annabelle” and he proved more than up to the task. In the continuing saga of the “Annabelle” doll we’re treated to her origin story where we meet the dollmaker who put Annabelle together and the tragedy that infused her with demonic evil. I think it’s important to mention here that so far the common factor in “Ouija: Origins of Evil” and “Annabelle: Creation” being better than their predecessors is the inclusion of actress Lulu Wilson who played a prominent role in both films. So if you’re in charge of putting out a sequel to a bad horror movie released this year, find a way to write Lulu into your movie.
French cannibal film “Raw” is a very stylistic and fresh take on the cannibal genre that blends the horrors of becoming an adult in college with the insanity of desiring human flesh. This is actually a very subdued film despite the cannibalism and would work as an excellent coming of age/family drama without the cannibalism. It’s a well-crafted film that should be sought out by fans of cannibal films looking for a refreshing take on the subgenre.
5. The Devil’s Candy
This is one of those films where I have to remind everyone that I base this list on when the film got its theatrical release in the US. With films, especially those of the horror variety, their releases tend to bounce around between festival premieres, international releases, and domestic releases. In the case of “The Devil’s Candy” this movie originally premiered at TIFF in 2015, but didn’t get a US release till this year. That being said “Devil’s Candy” is Amityville Horror with a metal soundtrack. If that doesn’t grab your interest, then I don’t know what else to say. Director Sean Byrne has crafted an amazing family horror film that has a darker and grittier edge thanks to its metal soundtrack and aesthetics. The film also features a fantastic performance from star Ethan Embry. Seek this one out.
“Split” was easily the biggest surprise of the year in terms of how much I enjoyed it and how it connected to another film in a pretty shocking way. Of all the things I liked about split, including how great actress Anya Taylor-Joy is, my favorite was the performance of James McAvoy. In the film he plays an individual with multiple personalities ranging from a young child, to an old woman, to a flamboyant fashion designer. It’s an amazing performance and shows that McAvoy is truly one of the best actors out there.
3. Get Out
Possibly one of the most important films of the year and one that quickly became a cultural touchstone, “Get Out” is a fantastic examination of race relations and societal issues. Not only that, but it’s just a damn entertaining movie. Director Jordan Peele has made a fantastic debut with comedic horror film. I never want to call something an instant classic, but “Get Out” is the type of film that feels like it will stand the test of time and be relevant and discussed for years to come.
2. The Shape of Water
If director Guillermo Del Toro never made another film again . . . I’d be deeply sad. However, “The Shape of Water” would be the perfect cap to his career as it feels like the ultimate culmination of everything he loves. This is a love letter to the monster genre and a beautiful representation of the Creature monster from “The Creature from the Black Lagoon.” The visuals are a stunning, the characters are heartbreaking, and the story is a deep emotional cut. This is the most moving and touching movie I saw this year and it’s easily the best work Guillermo Del Toro has ever done and, as someone who is a fan of his movies, that’s saying a lot.
“Get Out” might have been the most important movie of the year and “Shape of Water” was the most beautiful, but the movie that affected me the most was “IT.” As a fan of the original film I was beyond thrilled with this adaptation of Stephen King’s most iconic work. I found Bill Skarsgard’s performance as Pennywise to be perfectly maniacal and terrifying and was able to overcome the long shadow that Tim Curry’s original performance cast. All the kids in the film were also perfectly cast and felt like the most real kids I’ve seen on screen, coming only second to the kids in “Stranger Things.” And yes, I realize Finn Wolfhard is in both. “IT” just hit me in a way that instantly endeared the film to me and left me desperately wanting chapter two.