With 2017 just passed and our feet now firmly into 2018 I think it is time to look back over the last year so that we can have an idea about what might be coming in the New Year. 2017 was quite a good year for film. Diversity came to the forefront with Moonlight winning best picture, great modern directors like Christopher Nolan and Edgar Wright produced new classics in the form of Dunkirk and Baby Driver and despite many critic’s objections to the proliferation of superhero movies, Wonder Woman and Logan both managed to do very interesting things within the genre. But I would argue that 2017’s best moments belonged to the horror genre.
For some that may sound absurd but coming off 2016, which many people considered the most horrifying year in recent memory and the continuing growth of turmoil in almost every facet of pop culture, it’s no surprise that a great many filmmakers turned to the horror genre as a way to vent their frustrations at the state of the modern world. And many managed to use that anger to produce thought-provoking, entertaining and ground-breaking art. Because of this, it was probably where the most interesting stuff happened last year.
Yes, of course, there were the usual misfires expected of the genre. Alien: Covenant, despite a great central performance from Michael Fassbender and being very entertaining was not embraced by critics and bitterly divided audiences. Universals attempt to launch a dark cinematic universe based on their old horror properties failed spectacularly with The Mummy. And the attempt at translating a sprawling horror-inflected book series into one movie spelt disaster for both Netflix’s Death Note and the long-awaited adaptation of Stephen King’s the Dark Tower.
However, the year also produced a number of films that cut right at the heart of problems in today’s society and managed to present them in a truly unique and scary way. Get Out explored modern race relations and how despite the fact that relations have improved the co-option of other race identities can prove to be just as harmful as outright bigotry. It was released to unanimous critical acclaim and managed to be both skin-crawlingly creepy and quite funny at the same time courtesy of the comedic credentials of writer/director Jordan Peele.
The remake of Stephen Kings IT pointed the finger at how our own nostalgia for past times keeps us from acknowledging the truly harmful and terrifying things that are part of those memories, making it the more angry and nasty cousin to Stranger Things. Despite the film’s deep themes it also managed to be a fun monster movie, a fantastic showcase for the young actors involved, it introduced a terrifying new addition to Halloween parties in the form of Bill Skarsgard Pennywise and managed to beat the sixth sense as the highest grossing horror movie of all time.
There were also films that divided audiences but still provided for great watercooler discussions. Mother! looked at everything from the creative process, to the environment, how women are treated in the modern world, the use of religion as a justification for atrocities and provided a unique insight into the mind of writer/director Darren Aronofsky. The thickly layered grime and dirt as well as the slow pace and reliance on visuals proved too much for some audiences but was also embraced by lovers of the weird.
The Killing of a Sacred from Yorgos Lanthimos provided an odd and frightening look at the story of a charismatic surgeon played by Colin Farrell and how despite his stature and power he is not immune from the powers of vengeance. In this case inflicted by an incredibly creepy Barry Keoghan who, despite his age, is always one step ahead of Farrell and is not afraid to play mind games with his prey. Despite its odd presentation the film overall manages to draw the viewer in thanks to an intriguing story that is at once a mystery story and almost mythical in tone and includes fantastic performances from the entire cast. Leaving on a devastating moment that implies a great number of things but none more prominent than that despite the persistence of the older generation, the youngsters will write the future for all of us.
The UK received a wide release of Raw, a grotesque body horror exploration of the dangerous and degrading practice of fraternity hazing and how it affects familial relationships and womanhood as a whole. But even ignoring the metaphors at play Raw also managed to be a very entertaining movie for gore lovers and really pushed a lot of taboos, while always keeping the audience onside thanks to some very human performances and magnificent effects.
Other horror movies that helped to make this year a truly great and diverse for fans include M Night Shyamalan’s Split which was given a wide release here in the UK. Some have called the film Shyamalan’s best film in years and it gave us an incredible multi-levelled performance from James McAvoy. Gerald’s Game became another critical success for Stephen King properties and provided an effective story of a deeply disturbed woman overcoming oppression from the men around her while also managing to be an effective claustrophobic, suspenseful film, even if the ending can be considered divisive. And we even had monster movie success with Kong: Skull island which took the cinematic icon and beefs him up to cause destruction on a mass scale in a very entertaining popcorn film which ensured that everyone is looking forward to the eventual King Kong, Godzilla team up.
So over the past year horror has skewered race relations, our rose-tinted glasses for past times, the power play between men and women, ingrained cultural sexism, the power of the older generation and has effectively explored what horror can do to audiences, what do we have to look forward too next? Well, thanks to the success of these films we have IT chapter 2 to look forward to in 2019, the aforementioned King Kong/ Godzilla movie is also looking promising and with renewed interest in the genre, many studios are beginning to take notice. New Mutants from fox and the Upcoming Venom movie are looking to infuse super-heroics with horror elements and the successful infusion of comedy and horror in Get Out could spell success for the upcoming Predator film which has Shane Black attached as director, a man known for his witty character interplay. Will these films live up to the standard of quality set by this past year? Who knows, but thanks to this past year it truly is an exciting time to be a horror fan.