Tuesday, December 26, 2017
The Horror That Made Me Happy in 2017
Wow, I've really let this place go, haven't I? I've been putting together some high-quality excuses but frankly the year just got away from me while I've also been trying to figure out the best way to move forward with this site. The good news is that I think I've got an idea for 2018 (more on that later). But first, I just couldn't let the year end without at least sticking to the one annual tradition I've got on here.
With that, I bring you the 2017 edition of the Horror That Made Me Happy. As always, this won't necessarily be stuff that was released this year. It's just the stuff that I discovered this year, because I'm narcissistic and if I don't see it then it doesn't matter. With that, to the list!
Horror in Film
I can't tell you how much I'm in love with this movie. Following the adventures of burgeoning serial killers (Alexandra Shipp) and Sadie (Brianna Hildebrand), this is a rare horror comedy that finds the rare balance of being equal parts heartwarming and deeply disturbing. Most people appreciate the commentary on the social media culture, but for me it's all about the relationship between McKayla and Sadie.
I'm back and forth with French horror. I love High Tension and Frontier(s), but Martyrs made me sad and Trouble Every Day just made me sleepy. So I knew I was rolling the dice with Raw, a coming-of-age cannibal flick about a girl in her first year at veterinary school whose vegetarianism is tested by some rather drastic cravings. I think relationships are the theme for movies I loved this year, as I may have come for the flesh eating, but I stayed for the complex sibling bond between Justine (Garance Marillier) and Alexa (Ella Rumpf).
The Devil's Candy
My biggest fear with The Devil's Candy was that I would go in with my expectations too high. But this tale of a heavy metal-loving family hounded by a possessed house and its previous tenant lived up to every hope I had for it. Ethan Embry gives an award-worthy performance, the soundtrack is perfection, and the ending had me pumping my fist in the air.
I was behind the curve in checking this one out, mainly because everyone was talking about how great it was and I'm a contrary asshole. Thankfully I made an impulsive trip to my local second-run movie theater because this was a hell of a ride. This movie had a great ensemble performance, Bill Skarsgard in a performance different enough to escape Tim Curry's shadow, and an overall feel that this was pure, distilled, popcorn horror.
I can count on one hand the number of times I've seen a movie more than once in theaters. But if you're going to watch any movie more than once from 2017 I would recommend this creepy mind-fuck from Jordan Peele. I promise you'll get two very different and satisfying experiences. Hitchcock hasn't got a thing on Peele.
Horror in Print:
A quick note: neither of the following books are strictly speaking horror, but they've got enough macabre elements for your consideration.
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
Caitlin Doughty, who you may know as the founder of the Order of the Good Death, tells the story about how she got her start at a crematorium while weaving in her developing philosophy about how we treat death ,or more to the point in how we try to ignore it. It's funny and charming without being afraid to look at a topic that a lot of us (including horror fans) may not want to acknowledge. We're all going to die, so why not get ready for it?
Mur Lafferty may not be the first author to set a murder mystery in outer space. But I think you'd be hard pressed to find a mystery where the characters are investigating their own deaths. In a world (did I just say that?) where cloning is commonplace, a crew of clones on a mission to colonize a new planet wake up to find their previous incarnations have all been killed. With no memories past the day they left for the mission, they've got to figure out who among them is the killer. I had a blast with this one thanks to a smart plot, deeply flawed yet likeable characters, and a satisfying ending that could have been a convoluted mess in the wrong hands. Maybe not straightforward horror, but definitely worth a read.
Horror in My Future
I've been thinking about how I want to move forward with this site in 2018 so as to avoid another six month hiatus, and I think I've got an idea. I'm going to shift my primary focus here to horror in print. It could be fiction, film analysis, or anything where some has put pen to paper (perhaps figuratively in the digital world) with horror in mind. And since I know it will take me a while to get through whole works, I'll keep up with content by giving a chapter by chapter review of whatever I'm reading.
I've even got my first book all lined up: Films of the New French Exremity: Visceral Horror and National Identity by Alexandra West. Now before you say anything, yes I know I just said that French horror is hit or miss for me. But West's writing isn't, so I'm excited to dig in and I hope you'll join me. Keep an eye out for things to kick off in January, and until then have a happy new year.