Monday, January 8, 2018

10 Movies That Made Me a Horror Fan in 2017

by Lexy Van Dyke
This #ScaryMovieMonth and throughout the last year, I immersed myself into a good amount of horror movies. I had always enjoyed some horror films, but it was generally not a genre that called to me. I had been a scaredy cat most of my life and had a tendency to hide behind pillows at the first sign of something creepy to actually enjoy the effects of any of my horror viewing. So when October rolled around, I went in full force to really determine if I was too much of a wuss for the genre or if I needed to give another chance.

This immersion ended up being one of my favorite things I’ve done all year. It made me see which subgenres I could enjoy and which were generally too much for me (aka body horror is not really my bag). Throughout my navigation in October and the year, I could feel myself exploring themes and seeing concepts that I hadn’t seen before in horror. It has been educational year and has made me a genuine horror fan. I have made a list below of the films that stood out to me, although I’m sure others have recognized their greatness previously. I learned I’m much stronger than I thought I ever believed and I look forward to watching even more films in 2018 that I previously never believed I could watch.

Session 9
A 2001 film by Brad Anderson which leans more towards the psychological thriller. This was a recommendation from Corpse Club’s own Scott Drebit, and he was very correct that I would enjoy it. It follows a group of down on their luck asbestos cleaners who are hired to handle an asbestos removal at a mental institution. It is a haunted house movie where the tension is built more from the actors and the uncertainty with their environment. It has incredible pacing and all the acting is impeccable. Even though this is a dialogue heavy film as it’s centered around a small cast, it’s a lot about showing, not telling. I learned that I respond to the atmospheric horror, and this is a bit of that mixed with a story filled with suspense.

The Blackcoat’s Daughter
I actually saw this film early in 2017 when I heard the buzz about it from many podcasts. It was described as a darker The Others, which is one of my favorite horror films. I was not disappointed. It is a calm, beautiful film that gives you 60% information and then leaves you guessing the other 40% of the time. The three main actresses, Emma Roberts, Kiernan Shipka, and Lucy Boynton give intense and attuned performances with this film's deliberate mood. Also, it has maybe one of the best uses of score to create a sense of dread in the audience that makes you uneasy the entire time you are viewing the film and after. This is a film that makes you feel scared in the best possible way.

I have actually written a previous article on my appreciation of this film for F This Movie!, but this is a film that made me a horror fan this year. I tend to lean towards aesthetically inclined films, so this may not be for everyone. It is a haunted house story that goes down a deep rabbit hole of a possessed mind of the main character. I really responded to the entire style and emotion that this film created. You can read my article here if you end up watching it and see if you come to a similar conclusion as me.

The Red Queen Kills 7 Times
My first giallo film was a doozy and also got me entirely hooked on the genre. Set in the Italian fashion world of the early '70s, it’s about two sisters who believe they are cursed by their ancestor, The Red Queen, who will kill seven times every hundred years. This film is pure '70s fashion eye candy for the sartorially-inclined, such as myself. This also made me fall in love with giallo films. Their willingness to go all out and explore horrific things in an extremely stylized way kept me enthralled during my entire viewing. Unfortunately, I am restricted to mainly streaming and giallo are not always readily available that way. I may have to buy a few of these to have on hand, as I feel I will definitely watch them repeatedly.

Better Watch Out
This was a film I saw in December as I had torn through all my regular holiday viewing. I had heard positive things through the ether, yet knew nothing about it. There is a reason for this. You really should know nothing about it going in. I will say it has been an insane year for babysitter films (also don’t watch The Babysitter, just watch Samara Weaving in something else). There is so much I want to say about this movie but I really can’t because I don’t want to spoil anyone’s experience with it. Just pay attention to the main three actors and how they are playing off the expectations of a slasher film. There is way more to break down, but I think that’s the only thing I can divulge at this point. Just watch it and watch out.

Ever since I wrote about the Before Sunrise trilogy, all of my friends told me to watch Spring. When I got Shudder, it was one the first things I watched. Leaning into a love story/travelogue more than a pure horror film, it tells the story of a young man, Lou Taylor Pucci, going to Italy after his mother dies. He meets a lovely young woman, Nadia Hilker, and they start a relationship. Playing like a twisted fairytale and filmed like a '70s European art film, it is one of the most gorgeous films I’ve ever seen. I truly loved the two lead performances and their chemistry makes the stakes of the film. If you are a romance buff who wants to dip your toes in the water of horror, this is a great jumping off point.

The Babadook
This was possibly one of the most actually terrifying movies I watched this year. I am the single parent of a child and what it has to say on the subject is brutal and poignant. I have never experienced the death of a spouse, but I was so affected by the portrayal of stress of single motherhood that it had me crying throughout the entire length of the film. The poignancy in which Jennifer Kent finds truth in losing yourself in your child due to loneliness is acute. Essie Davis, who I was a fan of from Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, creates one of the single best performances I have ever seen. The aura of unease that Kent creates, along with Davis’ raw and charged depiction of grief and motherhood, make it grim fairy tale worth seeing.

This is the exception that breaks the rule when it comes to body horror for me. This was one of the first films I saw in October and was expecting to turn it off half way through. In the end, I was completely on board with the insane premise of hell, Satan worshippers, and sexual repression. This was the film that made me appreciate the beauty in horror effects the most. Through all the twisted plot lines and visuals, I could find the care and artistry the creators took in each level of gore. It felt like Clive Barker putting his entire horror-driven soul on the screen and not holding back based on what societal norms might prohibit. This passion was on full display and welcomed whole-heartedly.

Starry Eyes
This is one of the those films where multiple studio Mind Sync occurred and similar films are released around the same time. This situation arose with Starry Eyes and Neon Demon in portraying a literal dark side of the entertainment industry. Starry Eyes edges out Neon Demon, to me, based on the lead's performance. Alex Essoe’s portrayal of a desperate starlet is way stronger than Elle Fanning’s listless, affected beauty. This film goes to brutal lengths to show the levels of debasement that goal-oriented people will go to in a pressure-driven industry such a show business. With the harassment in Hollywood coming to light in the last few months, this film rings especially true and takes on even more disheartening and unnerving levels. The effects of this film are gut wrenching and not for the faint of heart, but the conclusion is entirely worth the distress.

Late Phases
The sub-genre of gothic monsters I know the least about is werewolves. Late Phases was a recommendation that came up repeatedly when I reached out to my more horror-inclined friends. Werewolves prey on a retirement community and the only person who can sense it is a blind man played by Nick Damici. It is a very simple premise that is thickened by the lead performance and his son, played by Ethan Embry. Their troubled father-son relationship is where the real tension is derived and the werewolves are a catalyst to strengthen their bond. It is also a solid mystery of figuring out who the werewolf is, where it twists without giving you whiplash. Late Phases is a languid, elegant monster movie that leads with its heart.


  1. This is such a good list, and a really great idea! I'm really glad to see Red Queen on here as it's one of the films that made me really fall in love with giallo too. I would love to see other people give lists like this because horror is such an interesting fingerprint of taste for movie lovers.

  2. Welcome to the horror club, Lexy. :-) If you haven't already make sure to watch and then re-watch the F This Movie horror movie commentaries ("Sleepaway Camp," "Blood Rage," "Friday the 13th Part III," "Pieces," "Halloween III," etc... check the archives on the first week of every October since 2010) for some primo horror fun. If you don't like the genre/movie of each individual flick, they're worth watching just for the chance to hear Patrick and the gang crack wise at the expense of the flick in that trademark FTM loving way. ;-)

  3. Seeing through Twitter becoming a horror fan as you talk about different movies has been fun! Having your voice in this genre is going to be great!

  4. Some of my favorites on here and real heavy hitters. Great list.

  5. Thanks for the nice article Lexy!

    I'm a single father too, and The Babadook was absolutely terrifying, in how it close it rang true to the worries and stress one goes through. Although the movie might be more directly referencing grief or mental health issues, I found it to be perfectly applicable to "normal life" which can be hard enough at times.
    I liked that how presenting itself as a horror, it sneaked up on the viewer, whereas a drama dealing with the same issues might have been scoffed at/not watched by viewers (myself).

  6. You have found a deep cinematic rabbit hole to explore, Lexy. You will never lack recommendations for your explorations here.

    I appreciate that your list shows the malleability of the horror genre. Critics tend to overlook the diversity of styles and themes within it.

    Since you enjoyed Red Queen so much, DEATH WALKS AT MIDNIGHT might appeal to you. It is also fun and crazy with lots of style. As for horror with a strong aesthetic sensibility, films like SANTA SANGRE, DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS, and SUSPIRIA come to mind.