Another year has blown by and it's now time for the inevitable "Best of 2017" lists. However, I don't call my list that because it's not a "Best of" but rather a what I enjoyed most from horror this year. For example, some may say Citizen Kane is the best movie of all time. Well, perhaps in a technical sense it very well may be, but if it came out the same year, Dawn of the Dead (and 50 other things) would make my list far, far, far before Citizen Kane. In the great words of J-Roc, "Know what I'm sayin'?"
It's never easy doing one of these, especially when you aren't just doing movies, but books as well. There's just a lot of greatness out there to choose from.
So let's get started, shall we? As always, this is in no order at all. Just a bunch of stuff I enjoyed.
After making a series of missteps after Signs, M. Night Shyamalan returned to form with the fantastic The Visit and continued that return with Split, a film that follows a man with multiple personalities (James McAvoy, who completely owns this role) and three young women who he has kidnapped. There's no twist here, so don't go looking for one, but something very sweet is setup if you stick around during the end credits (which I won't spoil, because spoiling is for jerks).
Comedian Jordan Peele's debut film is both terrifying and thought provoking, and even a little bit polarizing. Even with all the hype surrounding it, this one still blew me away by the time I saw it when it came out on Blu-ray. One of the complaints I've seen many times surrounding Get Out is how it addresses racism and (shockingly) how a horror film should be free from social statements (!!). I guess these folks have never seen a George A. Romero film. Get Out is hands down one of the best horror films this year.
The first book of Ronald Malfi's (and the second year in a row he's been on my "Favorites of" list) on this, Bone White takes the beauty of winter and turns it into terror as Paul investigates the disappearance of his brother in the town of Dread's Hand, Alaska. Malfi is a wordsmith and his skills are on full display here. He takes you on a journey of fear, desolation, distrust, and pain, and you enjoy every minute of it.
I've made it clear in prior lists that I listen to a lot of podcasts, and two of my favorites are on Project Entertainment Network (PEN): The Horror Show with Brian Keene and Kelli Owen's Buttercup of Doom. The former is a must listen for both readers and authors, as Keene and his co-hosts Dave Thomas, author Mary SanGiovanni, Phoebe, director Mike Lombardo, author Geoff Cooper, and Dungeon Master 77.1 talk about the goings-on in the publishing industry as well as interview authors within the genre.
For those that like snark, author Kelli Owen's Buttercup of Doom will be right up their alley. Each week Kelli picks a topic and expresses her blunt honest and sometimes brutal opinion on it, as well as giving tips to writers.
PEN has a number of other of shows for the geek in all of us as well, including It Cooks!, hosted by author Amber Fallon; InkStains with John Urbancik; Three Guys with Beards with authors Christopher Golden, Jonathan Maberry and James A. Moore; and multiple other podcasts deserving of your listening ears.
Speaking of podcasts, hosts Scott Philbrook and Forrest Burgess dive deep into the mysterious and unexplained in the Astonishing Legends podcast. Whatever the topic, be it Yeti, the Bell Witch, Black Eyed Kids, The Jersey Devil, and more, you know you're going to get a thorough examination of the subject. Remember back in the day on Unsolved Mysteries, you always wanted more than the 10 minutes they devoted to a favorite topic of yours? You get hours here.
We Should Have Left Well Enough Alone by Ronald Malfi
Author Ronald Malfi's debut short story collection is the second of the two books of his on this list. If you aren't familiar with Malfi's work, this is a great place to start, as it shows what great range he has. From the heartbreaking "The House on Cottage Lane" to the unsettling "Knocking", Malfi manipulates your emotions with ease.
This one would have slipped under my radar completely if it weren't for Angry Scholar's 4.5 star review of it. Admittedly, I forgot about it for a minute, but then ZigZag did a review of the Blu-ray, and it piqued my interest again. Starring an almost-unrecognizable Ethan Embry as an artist who starts painting some really dark things after moving into a new home (where some really dark things happened), things, as they do, just go from bad to worse. Especially when Ray, one of the house's former residents, shows up looking to move back in.
The Devil's Candy takes its sweet time getting to the finale, but once it gets there, you get clobbered with a sledgehammer and it keeps getting worse. I'm not going to lie, the film is solid all around, but it's Pruitt Taylor Vince as Ray that pushes it to excellence. This guy should be in every damn movie, as he always brings something to the table.
Better Watch Out
I have to admit, this little film took me completely by surprise when I saw it. The only thing I had seen prior to watching it was the poster, and thank god for that because the trailer is absolutely riddled with spoilers. Well, maybe not spoilers, but it does completely ruin a major part in the film that should take you by surprise. Better Watch Out is the horror version of Home Alone, as it centers on a babysitter and her charge as they attempt to avoid home invaders. It is a tremendous amount of fun that has already made my "Favorite Christmas Horror Films of Christmas". If you are a subscriber to Shudder, it's currently streaming there. I'm not going to put a trailer for this one for your own good; you're going to want to go into this completely blind.
This was yet another film that took me completely by surprise for the same reason: I didn't watch the trailer. All I knew about it is that it was suddenly on Netflix and a friend said it was good. It's great. Like Better Watch Out, the less you know, the better. All you need to know is that it's about a boy who has a crush on his babysitter and what happens when he's supposed to be asleep. Avoid everythiing you can before you watch it, you'll thank me for that later.
Stranger Things: Season 2
Even though the second season came with the inevitable hate from folks with the not-surprising complaints of "it's trying too hard" and "it's the same as last year", they are wrong, this show is still great. Granted, I'll concede that the character of Billy is borderline pointless, and the episode that strictly focuses on Eleven and her sister is forced, but those niggles are easily evened out with Steve and Dustin's budding friendship, Paul Riser showing up as Dr. Sam Owens, and Hopper and Eleven's father/daughter arguing. Did I mention Pruitt Taylor Vince is in this for a minute? This show rocks and I'm looking forward to season 3 just like the whiners and complainers criticizing it because they can't turn it off either.
Honorable Mention: Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones
Normally I throw in a few honorable mentions, and while there are plenty, I want to keep it clean with this. Yes, Mongrels came out in 2016, but I didn't read it until this year, so I'm counting it. I don't care. You don't like it, make your own list. The reason why I'm bringing it up is it is the best book I've read this year, is worth all of the accolades and everyone should read it.
It's been a weird year for me. I didn't watch or read nearly as much horror as I wanted to because of reasons. There's a ton I've missed, sitting on my counter just waiting for me to take a look at (IT, Life, Creep 2, Raw, A Dark Song, and many more movies, as well as books like Josh Malerman's Black Mad Wheel; J-F Dubeau's A God in the Shed; Kill Creek by Scott Thomas; New Fears, edited by Mark Morris; Paperbacks from Hell by Grady Hendrix, and many, many more). This year is going to be a busy one.
What about you? What were some of your favorites this year? Let me know in the comments below!
He's the puppet master. You don't see him, but he pulls the strings that gets things done. He's the silent partner. He's black ops. If you notice his presence, it's the last thing you'll notice — because now you're dead. He's the shadow you thought you saw in that dark alleyway. You can have a conversation with him, and when you turn around to offer him a cup of coffee, he's already gone.