Ghastly Grinning Presents The Ghastlies: "Best of 2017" Part One

One thing you’re never going to see here at Ghastly Grinning is a worst of list. In fact, we wanted to even stay away from any sort of numbering system that would indicate any of these one films is better than the other. We want to celebrate horror, at max capacity, so what we decided to do instead was reach out to our writers and ask them to write about the movies they loved this year, no matter what they may be. So below is the first part of our “best of” list, in no particular order, with a whole bunch of tongue in cheek titles. We truly hope you enjoy The Ghastlies.


Best Friendship Barometer Film: Get Out

Let’s face it. If you didn’t like Get Out, I don’t know if we can be friends. The gobsmacking debut from Jordan Peele brought ideas to the table that have been touched on before, but never in such a way as this with this type of representation on screen. As Polanski’s Repulsion gave us a film that finally showed just how terrifying it is just being a woman, Peele’s Get Out shows out just how terrifying it is to be a lone person of color in a sea of white faces, and most importantly: how we’ve never been given that purview in a major release like this. - Jacob Trussell

I really don’t know what else I could say about Get Out that hasn’t already been said before, and by people who could say it way better than me. What Jordan Peele accomplished with his very first film is simply amazing to me, and he deserves every ounce of praise. Get Out is an incredibly inventive, layered story - so layered that I’ve seen it several times now and there is still stuff that I missed out on. It’s hard not to appreciate a movie that can still surprise you with each viewing. The cast is a wonderful mix of known actors and new faces that all blew me away collectively and individually, as they each had at least one scene where they were really allowed to shine. Get Out is a movie that we are going to be talking about for a long time. - Michele Eggen

There’s no denying that Jordan Peele created such a poignant film with Get Out. It made audiences think and made them feel. Not only that but it threw people for a loop with the twists and turns it took. It kicked off the beginning of a great indie horror season and struck an accord socially that needed to be shown. It was a shocking directorial debut that I will never forget watching in theaters. After knowing Peele more for his comedy, this was a real great turn around. I cannot wait until Peele’s next film and his subsequent career in directing! - Rachael

I’m going to keep this short and sweet, Get Out is one of the most coherently constructed and confidently executed directorial debuts I've ever seen, totally relevant, and absolutely important. Everything clicked so perfectly for me, and upon rewatch I picked up little things that are sprinkled throughout that really weave the final acts reveal. This felt like a feature-length Twilight Zone episode, and I think it’s pretty fitting that Peele would resurrect the series. Count me the fuck in. - Ian West

Jordan Peele’s debut effort is a brilliant and thrilling entry for genre fans. It lifts the best parts of Serling’s storytelling and Romero’s social commentary but with the levity that Peele is known for. What makes it even better is that Peele has a distinct and unique voice that makes the film stand out a head above its counterparts while still hitting the same beats that make horror movies as exhilarating as they are. Full of captivating performances, tightly written dialogue and a killer soundtrack, Get Out is a masterpiece. More importantly, it has struck a chord with the cultural zeitgeist in a way that will make it spoken about for decades to come. - Ryan Larson


Best Repurposing of an 80s Classic Plot Device: Happy Death Day

Happy Death Day was one of the big surprises of the year for me, because I honestly went into this movie not really expecting that much from it. Yet it ended up being a wonderful throwback to all those slashers of yesteryear where you just have so much fun watching it. The movie is such a great combination of comedy, mystery, and suspense as you simultaneously are wondering who the killer is and why, but also not really wanting it to end because you want to see more of the main character’s Groundhog Day antics. I loved that Tree is not a particularly likable person at the start, because that’s not the kind of lead that we are used to seeing in movies like this and it gives her a more interesting arc over the course of the story. Happy Death Day proves that there’s still a craving for good old-fashioned slasher fun, and that you can still mix it up a bit and breathe new life into the subgenre. - Michele Eggen

It seems fitting that juggernaut Blumhouse would be the company to revitalize the slasher genre, a niche that has seen far too little entries as of late, and with their Halloween just around the corner, Happy Death Day is a pitch perfect precursor. With an idea that seems all too simple, mixing slashers with Groundhogs Day, Happy Death Day is a mile a minute rollercoaster that uses its premise to help justify it’s sometimes scoffed at PG-13 rating. Behind it’s comedic sheen is a strong and satisfying character arc that delivers one of the best final girls in years, packed on top of creative kills and a slick production. It’s the first step towards our much needed slasher revival, and it’s a big fun step. - Ryan Larson


 Best Surprise Cameo Appearance by a Skeleton: Brawl In Cell Block 99

Like a white-knuckled fighting game, Brawl squares off against each boss battle, reaching its head splitting climax that has a final shot that is one for the ages. Zahler takes his literary microscope and holds it to his characters like a child with an ant farm, the rays of the sun slowly heating them up as the action gets more intense and manic. Even when we regularly got grindhouse films that would tackle this type of burly subject matter, we still never got a film like this that takes a nuanced look into an atypical character: the gruff quiet tough man. The type of man that hasn’t been exemplified and glamorized by Eastwood, Wayne, Bronson and beyond. The man you see at the mechanics, the feed store, the small town cosmos that you never truly want to be. As we go into 2018 and we continue to deconstruct the culture of toxic masculinity that has perpetuated for centuries, Zahler’s film will be looked back as a first attempt to consciously subvert a genre rife with subconscious misogyny. - Jacob Trussell

Having been a huge fan of S. Craig Zahler’s 2015 film Bone Tomahawk, I was very excited to see what this director would do next. Brawl in Cell Block 99 is a similar kind of movie, with that slow, agonizing level of intensity that you know is going to eventually break in the most wonderful and brutal of ways. I didn’t think Zahler could top his famous “Oh shit!” moment from Bone Tomahawk, but holy crap does he ever, and he even did it more than once in Brawl. Vince Vaughn gives a career-defining performance, as we are seeing him like we never have before and it got me so much more excited for him as an actor again. All the other players like Don Johnson, Jennifer Carpenter, and Udo Kier also bring amazing performances to the table, making Brawl in Cell Block 99 (fantastic title, by the way) an immensely brutal, compelling tale that way more people need to see and experience for themselves. - Michele Eggen



Most Realistic Depiction of an Office: Mayhem

As a gorehound of the highest order, I think I knew I would love Mayhem before I even hit play. The movies I had been watching up until that point weren’t all that bloody, and I was really jonesing for the red stuff. Joe Lynch gave me that in spades with Mayhem, a super fun romp of a movie with all the carnage and chaos you could want. Samara Weaving and Steven Yeun are so enjoyable in their roles, where you can tell that they had fun making the movie and they really went for it with their performances. What could not be fun about a bunch of boring office workers all losing their shit at the same time and attacking each other? There’s also so much background action that I can’t wait to watch the movie again and enjoy all the little bits that I missed out on the first time. - Michele Eggen



Best Usage of the Term ‘De-Gloving’: Gerald’s Game

It’s always a special thing when a movie can go beyond just being entertainment and speak to a viewer on the most personal level. I had been waiting years to see an adaptation of this unique Stephen King tale, and when it finally happened, it couldn’t have come at a more poignant time in my life. I love Mike Flanagan’s brilliant approach to the storytelling, and the beautiful acting by the two leads. I love that they really went for it with THAT SCENE and gave viewers a movie moment they won’t forget for years to come. But what I really loved the most about Gerald’s Game was the way Jessie’s character spoke to me. The issues from her past that plague her waking nightmares were very similar to something that I was in the midst of dealing with myself. I not only identified with Jessie, but also drew inspiration from her arc for my own life. This is the rare and beautiful power of movies, and I will be forever grateful for it. I wish more viewers had a greater sympathy for and understanding of Jessie’s internal struggle so that they could appreciate the true significance of the oft-maligned final act. - Michele Eggen

As far as Stephen King adaptations go, this might be one of the most faithful. That’s a blessing and a curse, mainly because this notorious story has always left me feeling empty and cold. Carla Gugino delivers a riveting performance in this very well executed and meticulously crafted effort from Mike Flanagan about a woman whose husband dies of a heart attack while she's handcuffed to a bed, and, following the subsequent realization that she is trapped with little hope of rescue, begins to let the voices inside her head take over. Gerald’s Game is pretty great and pretty dark. Heavy stuff, real heavy. - Ian West


Best Film of 2015: The Blackcoat’s Daughter

This took me by complete surprise. I had been hearing great things from the Shock Waves podcast about this and it was on my radar, but I was hesitant. Mainly because Oz Perkins last film really didn’t do it for me at all. However, this cast and what everyone was saying about it made me more inclined to see it. Kiernan Shipka is fantastic in the first thing I’ve seen her in since binging Mad Men, and Emma Roberts makes a great companion to the movie as well with both dealing with evil within. The twists and turns were gasp-worthy and I’m really excited to see what Perkins does next! - Rachael Marie

An atmospheric, slow burn take on loneliness that drips with dread, The Blackcoat’s Daughter aka February avoids usual cliched tropes and put me smack dab in a world I’d never want to visit. I knew nothing of the plot going in, but was told by friends that “this shit would be my jam”, well, this shit was Indeed my jam. I’d gladly pair this with The Witch, for a dread induced double bill overflowing with shady vibed atmosphere. Osgood Perkins has a bright future. This just missed making my top five but I could totally see it riding up this list after another rewatch. - Ian West

Oz Perkins might be a genius. Listen, I don’t want to give anything away or hype it up TOO much. The premise and idea behind the film is nothing new but Perkins presents it in a way, through performances, dialogue, and narrative, that crafts something hauntingly and dreadfully unique. I’ll leave you with this: if I had to put all chips in on one single director who’s doing things in horror right now, it’d be Perkins. And this movie is why. - Ryan Larson


Best Non-Disney Mermaid Musical: The Lure

You know something is good when Criterion picks it up and releases it almost immediately. When I finally got to see this, I was NOT disappointed. Singing duet of mermaids are picked up by a cabaret group. One mermaid tries to understand love and relationships, and the other likes to feast on townsfolk. Can it get any wilder than that? The music is eccentric, the colors are extraordinary, and its twisted Little Mermaid tale is one for the books! Couldn’t be more thrilled with this movie and what Agnieszka Smoczynska put together. Another great directorial debut by a woman seen this year! - Rachael Marie


Most Anticipated Slasher That's Technically Already Out: Tragedy Girls

One of my favorite things in horror movies is when females take the lead in a movie. Tragedy Girls has two and their dynamic works so well and they feed off of each other. Social media is in abundance in the world, and being popular online seems to be the biggest thing in teens. This movie cumulates a murder spree. The color palette and music are electrifying and it ties together this movie. I has so much fun with this and I hope more people see it. - Rachael Marie


The Duplass Dong Award of 2017: Creep 2

The follow up to Creep far surpassed my expectations and then some. To put it in a non-joking term...this was creepier. I loved the first one, but this one puts the icing on the cake. Mark Duplass makes you feel awkward just watching him, and Desiree Akhavan is the perfect companion to this. She’s doesn’t deal with Duplass’s shit in the movie and I loved every second of it. This movie is uncomfortable in every way possible. I hope Patrick Brice and Mark Duplass continue to work together because what they create is fascinating. - Rachael Marie

Creep was a movie that blindsided me upon initial release, truly marrying the mumblecore movement with horror, and with found footage. I was floored by the gravity that Duplass carried so I was hesitant to see what a sequel could bring to the table for a movie that I thought worked perfectly well on its own. Well Patrick Brice and Mark Duplass decided to prove me incredibly wrong with Creep 2, a movie that is as uncomfortable as it is hypnotizing. By introducing an incredible lead with Desiree Akhavans Sara, someone who is more than a match for the off putting sinister genius of Josef/Aaron, Creep 2 takes the central motif of the first film but spins it on its head and presents us with a completely different movie with an incredible female protagonist leading the charge. Plus, showcasing some full frontal nudity takes some (pardon the pun) balls. - Ryan Larson


Best Film To Turn You Into A Hermit, Basically: Berlin Syndrome

Being a traveler myself and fan of Teresa Palmer, I felt like I needed to see this. I’m glad I did. Palmer puts on a tremendous performance of a woman on vacation who is held captive after a one night stand. What unravels after that is simply terrifying to anyone who goes on a solo traveling excursion. It’s uneasy and jaw-dropping. I saw it back in January and it hasn’t left my mind since. I can’t commend Cate Shortland enough and want more from her! - Rachael Marie



Best “Is This A Comedy?” Movie of 2017: The Killing of a Sacred Deer

For the complete runtime I was stiff as a board. I’m not sure I have ever been so tense watching something this year. Colin Farrell blew it out of the park with his performance, as did the rest of the cast. We had the pleasure of a Farrell/Kidman team up again in 2017, and I hope they work together again in the future. I love their chemistry with each other. There are scenes that probably will not leave my mind for quite some time now. This film is sinister and a dark comedy at times and completely wild. Yorgos Lanthimos knows how to get your emotions rolling and I can’t wait for what’s next. - Rachael Marie

Oh boy, get ready for this head trip. In a world that is our own but so distinctly not, The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a slow burn tension fueled horror fringed dark comedy that will make you unsure whether to turn it off or laugh at it. Farrell stars as a heart surgeon who has taken a young boy Martin, played by breakout Barry Keoghan, under his wing. In a world that's sterile and incredibly clinical, the ends start to fray as Martin plays with the sanity and livelihood of Farrell's family. The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a once a year type of movie and filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos has crafted an arthouse masterpiece. - Ryan Larson


The Years Most Accurate Title: Super Dark Times

I went into this completely blind and came out with a complete sense of shock and dread. Each second became more terrifying as it went along. I was surprised by my liking of this movie as I normally despise teens and kids in horror/thriller movies. Well, I still don’t like them, but this one was a win in my book. All the characters were great and their testing of friendship was nerve-racking. It felt like a really great darker version of Stand By Me and I want more from the directors asap! - Rachael Marie

It’s a dark movie, and bleak, but it’s just a little bit magical. A movie that truly captures the feeling of pre-high speed internet small town America, Super Dark Times is a story that will resonate with everyone because it’s the most realistic dialogue and portrayal of teenage youth perhaps ever committed to screen. Screenwriters Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski hook viewers in with an endearing and engaging view at strained friendships that are a part of growing up but halfway through the movie throw a curveball that flips their world on it’s side, a Jenga tower that’s being threatened to fall with every moving piece. It’s somehow completely relatable and fantastically outlandish at the same time, and director Kevin Phillips has crafted one of the most subdued yet brilliant horror movies in years. - Ryan Larson


Best “Dr. Phibes” Sequel: A Cure for Wellness

An ambitious young executive is sent to the Swiss Alps to retrieve his company's CEO from a gorgeously located but mysterious wellness center. Once he arrives, he soon suspects that the spa's treatments are not what they seem, as he begins to unravel its terrifying secrets, his sanity is tested, as he finds himself diagnosed with the same curious illness that keeps all the guests here longing for the cure. I think Gore Verbinski made this specifically for me. Beautiful cinematography, plodding storyline, an outstanding score, heaps of Gothic Euro-horror mixed with ample servings of Roger Corman’s Poe cycle, and a slithery slab of Lovecraft. I can see why some folks didn’t care for it, especially with today’s 90 minutes in and out preference, but everything in this was right up my alley and the time flew by for me! It’s two and a half hours of every check mark in my book being crossed off, and I absolutely adored it. A Cure for Wellness is hands down my favorite Verbinski film. Whoever ok’d this style of film getting made with such a huge budget in 2017 probably doesn’t have a job anymore… but I’d like to shake that person's hand because I’ll have this strange and wondrous film until my dying days. - Ian West


Most Metal Horror Movie: The Devil’s Candy

A struggling metalhead painter is possessed by satanic forces and one sick puppy of a crazy person after he and his young family move into their dream home in rural Texas. I knew this existed, that Ethan Embry was in it, and the director of The Loved Ones made it. I watched zero trailers, read zero plot summaries, and went in completely blind. The family dynamic charmed me, and Pruitt Taylor Vince was terrifying in a role he was born to play. Great soundtrack, and that final image with Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” sealed the deal on my love affair with The Devil’s Candy. - Ian West


Most Accurate Depiction of New York City: The Transfiguration

When vampire lore obsessed troubled teen Milo meets the equally alienated Sophie, they form a bond that begins to challenge Milo's dark obsession, blurring his fantasy into reality. I love Arthouse Vampire films. Especially when they take place in New York City. They suck me in, make me fall in love with them, and then break my heart. Strong Martin by way of Let the Right One In vibes, and the poster for this is aces *chef’s kiss* - Ian West


Most Maligned Movie Not Called “mother!”: It Comes at Night

After a mysterious apocalypse leaves the world with few survivors, two families are forced to share a home in an uneasy alliance to keep the unseeable outside evil at bay -- only to learn that the true horror may actually come from within as psychological horror and dread are substitutes for blood and guts. Krisha Director Trey Edward Shults’ follows up that film with a first act so incredibly intense and dread filled that I was 100% on board... then it just gets bleaker, and bleaker, and then really fucking bleak. - Ian West