Ghastly Grinning Presents The Ghastlies: "Best of 2017" Part Two
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 second 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 Film That Put My Childhood On Screen: It
And not in the way you think. IT’s nostalgic success for me wasn’t rooted in the 80’s culture that is highlighted throughout the movie (I may have been born in the 80’s, but I am a 90’s kid through and through), but rather that feeling of my first time discovering Stephen King in those hallowed aisles of Barnes and Nobles (90s kids know!) It felt so exciting to finally get a King film that feels like reading a King novel, full of blue-collar language against the backdrop of utter terror. He may have written hundreds of books and has seen his name in lights countless times, but the man who has been called a hack his entire life really deserves this type of recognition in the cinema. And I can’t wait for what comes next. - Jacob Trussell
One of my favorite things from this year was that IT became such an event movie. Everyone was talking about it, and (mostly) everyone was loving it. And what’s not to love? IT was an absolutely thrilling ride that brought on just as much laughter as it did scares. And actually, the brilliant casting of the kids and their onscreen chemistry was so goddamn enjoyable that I wouldn’t have cared if Pennywise never showed up in the story again. I mean, Bill Skarsgård absolutely killed it as the dancing clown, but I know I wasn’t the only one who absolutely fell in love with these kids. I was honestly amazed at how perfect the actors were together and how easily they played both sides of the coin emotionally to give audiences a viewing experience that really is like a roller coaster ride. IT is nothing short of wonderful and I can’t wait for part 2! - Michele Eggen
For the longest time, I was extremely hesitant on this remake. Originally it was going to be Cary Fukunaga to direct, which I was excited about. Then it hit troubling roads ahead and production was all a mess. My excitement dwindled quickly. Finally the trailer was released and I was getting excited again. I saw this on a Tuesday after work at around 4pm with myself in the theater. It was uncomfortable and wild. Cringeworthy scenes sent chills down my back, along with a tremendous performance by Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise. I was happy. - Rachael Marie
When children begin to disappear in the town of Derry, Maine, a group of young kids is faced with their biggest fears when they square off against an evil clown named Pennywise, whose history of murder and violence dates back for centuries. A psychopathic clown demon, lepers, evil library monsters, creepy painting demons coming to life, and a group of Losers turned Lovers, 2017’s It was THE event horror film of the year, shattering box office records and exceeding expectations of many, myself included. Stephen King's It and I have had wonderful experiences over the years, both the book and 1990 mini-series was big things in my house, and here we are, it's 27 years later, I'm 27 years older, and It has returned, definitely made by people like me - who loved Stephen King and loved Nightmare on Elm Street movies. In fact, 2017s IT (in my eyes) is the best Elm Street movie since Dream Warriors. Loaded with creepy world building, heartwarming friendship, 80’s nostalgia, and nightmare imagery, It was a horror rollercoaster that I’d gladly go on again, and plan to many more times! - Ian West
It’s been a standout year for Stephen King and on top of the many page to screen successes, IT reigns supreme. Succeeding in a way that few other genre flicks have, IT finds itself in the upper echelon of the horror box office with heavyweights such as Jaws and The Silence of the Lambs. It’s triumphs don’t end there. Andy Muschietti and the cast are able to perfectly encapsulate what growing up was like, and against all odds, makes it so that instead of facing down puberty alone that they’re also on a quest to overcome their fears and an eons old physical manifestation of fear dressing itself like a horrifying clown. AND IT SEEMS PLAUSIBLE. It’s a miraculous movie that captured moviegoers attention by properly adapting the tone of the Stephen King tome. - Ryan Larson
Best Film That Everyone Hated: mother!
Most conversations I have about this film I preface with this statement: I’m completely aware that I liked this movie more than most people. I actually loved this movie. This movie, despite much chagrin from my peers, is my number one movie of the year. It’s that important. What Aronofsky has done is take a film that you would have only seen in the cinema on 42nd St between 7th and 8th in Manhattan, and put it all across the country. Viewing it is like walking on eggshells, a sense of danger around every corner until the danger looms too great to not face. Some say the metaphors were too obvious, too on the nose, but that’s part of the charm of the film. It is not trying to pull one over you, so you can sit back in your seat and say “Oh, I get what he’s trying to do now.” That’s cinematic complacency. mother!, like Antonin Artaud’s work before him, viscerally makes you a part of the film whether you like it or not, feeling every venom-tongued barb or the theft of personal space. When you watch the film, think on David Lynch’s oft-quoted sentiment, “The film is the thing.” For mother!, what you carry away from the movie is what it is, and no amount of conversation from outside yourself can tell you any different. And that is a special, rare film. - Jacob Trussell
Oh boy. I only just watched mother! for the first time yesterday morning (the perfect time of day for intense AF movies) so I’m still kind of processing what I saw. I can see now why this is such a polarizing movie, but I’m definitely on the side that absolutely loved it, even if I don’t fully understand why just yet. I love the idea of the religious allegory being played out in this setting with these characters, but I also love that that’s not the only thing you can take away from this movie. I found myself connecting more with the less intellectual interpretation of the film, as a story about a woman striving for perfection and giving everything she had for someone who never seems to fully appreciate all that she does and can offer. That interpretation may not fit in with all the crazy events that occur in mother! but again, it’s a movie that has a clear metaphor, and yet also allows the viewer to find their own personal meaning within it. It’s a beautiful, wonderfully confusing and captivating movie that you won’t be able to stop thinking about. - Michele Eggen
A couple’s relationship is put to the test when uninvited guests arrive at their home, disrupting the tranquil existence they’ve worked so hard to build. mother! is a cacophony of absurd insanity that shifts into full-blown chaotic Armageddon. I managed to avoid all details other than how polarizing this film was for people, and holy shit I can see merits in both loving and despising mother!. I felt so uncomfortable almost immediately after it started, and as it just becomes less and less subtle I didn’t know how far it would go, but it goes all the way. After it ended and I almost completely forgot about the first 35 minutes of mysterious elevated tension that initially sucked me in. All the performances were great, and the horror, the dark comedy, toxic masculinity, the biblical elements, environmental allegories, the absurdity, the cautionary fable — they're all there, but they're elements in the total experience, a total experience of horrific absurdist bullshit. Most certainly my kind of bullshit. - Ian West
Best Film Masquerading As A Television Show: Twin Peaks: The Return
Whether you demand that it be labelled a TV show, or you claim it to be a film with 18 chapters, I would be remiss to not include the greatest piece of visual art of 2017 on this list. What David Lynch and Mark Frost were able to accomplish within the confines of those 18 hours is nothing less of remarkable considering the ballooning expectations and fears The Return instilled in us. What would it be like? What happened to Coop? Who will the new characters be? I think what we were most naive about is thinking it would be a linear story. Each new week we were greeted to the taste du jour of Lynch, and not in an escalating assault of the directors signature “-isms”, but rather a slow methodical crawl into the lives of this new Twin Peaks. Many times characters we would never see again leaving us wondering where they fit into the puzzle. It was comforting to slip into this alternate reality each week, and like many, I miss it. It was polarizing among fans and baffling to audiences more comfortable with Khaleesi’s weekly hi-jinx, but Twin Peaks: The Return is a triumphant of not just story, conception, and execution but sheer artistic vision. And we will never see anything like it ever again. - Jacob Trussell
Best Cannon Entertainment Group Film of 2017: The Dark Tower
Like Roland’s Ka-Tet, we are small but mighty few who really enjoyed this piecemeal version of Stephen King’s career-spanning work of epic scope, The Dark Tower. As a fan of the original source material, the film is a kaleidoscope of King’s ideas that have been retooled into a dark adventure film for the whole family which alienated the majority portion of fans. But for those of us that can disconnect these two versions of the story, we are treated to an insanely fun psycho-western that feels too bonkers for modern times and would have been well at home in the archives of the Cannon Group. Give it a decade and we’re sure to see this splashy big-screen adaptation going head to head with that other left field film: Masters of the Universe. - Jacob Trussell
Best “TOTALLY NOT A UNIVERSAL MONSTER MOVIE” Movie: The Shape of Water.
We need to keep our chin up as we head into 2018, and Guillermo Del Toro’s quiet film about love and loss is the perfect antidote for a year of darkness. Tackling current social issues with tact and grace Del Toro shows us a past not too far from our present, that was filled with shadows slowly pushing back the light, and a glimmer of hope in the simple power of love. - Jacob Trussell
Best Rehab By Way Of Kaiju Film: Colossal
Anchored by a powerful performance from Anne Hathaway who is struggling with an alcohol addiction and rebuilding her life in a town full of enablers. Nacho Vigalondo’s powerful drama is enhanced to greater heights when Hathaway realizes that she can psychically control a gigantic monster that has emerged in Seoul. While the kaiju brings some needed levity to the film, it doesn’t shy away from showing the deep harm that alcohol can do and the masks that it can create. Behind the rubber monster mask, something even more dangerous can lie. - Jacob Trussell
It's not easy to take a movie where giant kaiju exist, destroy buildings, and battle and turn it into a redemption story that addresses a much more vile monster close to home: alcoholism. Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis prove that they can bring a whole lot of gravity to their performances with roles that are instantly charismatic and reprehensible. The movie carries a lot of laughs but much more than that, it keeps a grounded reality in a movie where Godzilla-esque creatures wreak havoc in stumble home drunk fashion.
Most Heart-Warming Horror Film: Little Evil
Quietly released on Netflix, Eli Craig’s follow up to the classic Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil, takes the Son Of Satan story and spins it in absolutely magical ways. Adam Scott plays a soon to be step dad to Evangeline Lily’s six-year-old son, Lucas, who may or may not be the Antichrist. Like Tucker and Dale, the film is just, for lack of any better phrase, absolutely heartwarming to watch as young Antichrist Lucas begins to warm up to his new father figure. And credit where it is deserved, Owen Atlas as Lucas does a superb job delivering a very convincing Antichrist just to turn out to be a really freaking adorable kid. Craig is a master at walking the line between no holds barred horror and genuine comedy, and with every new film he releases I become more and more excited about what is next. Talk about a director who would make a great Ghostbusters, huh? - Jacob Trussell
Best Mini Horror Musical: Kuso
Saying Flying Lotus’ film is not for everyone is an understatement. Most have dubbed it “The sickest movie of 2017” or some other moniker needling in on the excessive amounts of bodily functions that happen in this film. But like The Greasy Strangler before it, if you can wipe away all the sticky excess you will find heartbreakingly beautiful moments that are as unexpected as they are hypnotic. The opening 15m of a frenetic patter song about Hollywood, crashing into the bedroom of consensual fetishists in a bubbling and boiling alt-LA. The sex may not be your kink, but the mutual respect and love the two share is universal, and this all culminates in a quiet area that left me stunned. But make no bones about it, this is still a movie for an iron stomach. - Jacob Trussell
Best “Alien” Sequel: Life.
Life passed me by is not only a phrase, but what happened to this movie. There are many reasons why I don’t remember it coming out theatrically, but I swear I would have seen some subway posters at least! Marketing issues aside, in a post-Alien: Covenant world, Life took me by surprise. Again, a phrase and also what happened to me with this movie. With an all-star cast featuring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, and Hiroyuki Sanada, this film creates more horrific tension through a porthole window than Covenant did in its entire runtime. While there may not be much “new” in Life, it’s the substance of what’s there that counts. And based on the last twenty years, Life feels more like the natural progression of what Dan O’Bannon created in 1979. - Jacob Trussell
Best “Well I’ll Never See That Again” Film: Hounds of Love.
Man, I really wish I could sit through the film again because it is a masterpiece of a very specific subgenre of horror. It’s a very tricky path to take a microscope to the people that commit the type of acts that happen in this film, but with a very careful hand from director Ben Young, the film’s exploitative qualities fall away and you are left feeling like a husk not sure how to react. And the feeling too that life isn’t always black and white like the movies is almost suffocating. You know what you are getting yourself in to with this movie, so let the wave hit you. But if you have to watch one film about sadistic kidnappers: this is the best example. - Jacob Trussell
Best Film That Understands its Target Audience: Wish Upon
Again, not much love for Wish Upon, which I get! The movie is rather hokey, the dialogue is stilted, and the premise is a little silly but goddamnit if it didn’t immediately catapult me back to being 17 and sitting in a cold theatre on a hot day watching Final Destination 3 as my hands got sweatier because, you see, I was sitting next to my crush. Wish Upon isn’t made for the horror film fanatic who has tattoos of Fulci films, but rather the casual horror fan that has the antiquated idea that a horror movie will scare your date into your arms, or the group of high school friends who don’t really care about horror but want to have a blast watching disposable teens get offed one by one. And when you look at it with those glasses on, the film is perfect. - Jacob Trussell
Best Film To Watch While Eating Sushi: Raw
Yes, we know people fainted and vomited during Raw but after viewing the film it all feels like beautiful, beautiful marketing techniques. While the film may not have the level of gut-churning carnage that the pre-hype machine gave it, what is there is far more potent and lovely than any number of passed out audience members, pearls clutched tightly in hand could have imagined. This unique journey to coming of age has at its essence a core emotional universality of wanting to be accepted for who you are, as you slowly lose the grip on your own self-identity. As Blink 182 said, “Well I guess this is growing up!” Just for Justine, it’s a little more carnal and deeply familial, to the extent that if a sequel were to be produced it’s not out of the realm of possibility to go far back as colonial times. Imagine THAT! - Jacob Trussell
When a young vegetarian undergoes a carnivorous hazing ritual at veterinarian school, an unbidden taste for meat begins to grow in her, setting off a chain of disturbing and beautifully filmed events that seductively drew me right in. I can see why this was tearing up the festival circuit. The fantastic cinematography and atmospheric — mood inducing score are bookends to a wonderful performance and symbolically shocking events that definitely left a mark. I didn’t know much about this going in, and cannibal films aren’t at the top of my sub-genre must-see list (especially post-Ravenous cannibal films), but this one got me.
“This isn’t your grandad’s cannibal film”
Julia Ducournau is an exciting new voice who totally sucked me in with her stunning debut. I hope she makes more films, especially in the horror genre. So much new talent out there making pictures that hit my sweet spot. Long live the new flesh indeed!” - Ian West
I remember the hype around this. All I heard was that people were passing out and getting physically ill after it was shown at Toronto International Film Festival. Naturally, hearing that I had to see this as soon as I possibly could. Julia Ducournau seriously delivered with this French cannibalistic directorial debut. I personally don’t think it’s as squeamish as other say it is, but I may just be immune to that. Who knows? However, I do know that this was great. It was uneasy, grotesque, and an odd twist on a coming of age tale. - Rachael Marie
Sometimes the over the top brutality of a film can shock you but every so often a film like Raw rolls around and creates the best kind of nausea because of a more subdued and grounded approach to horror. Julia Ducournau’s quiet body horror affair is best when using janusian thinking, realizing and recognizing that the movie is as much a coming-of-age story as it is, realistically, a movie about cannibals. The crossroads of the absurdity of the person chomping and hyper-realistic portrayal of transitioning from child to adult meet together to form one of the most captivating and stomach churning films of the year. - Ryan Larson
Best Film That Nobody Saw: Our Evil
Our Evil hasn’t come out in the United States yet, but I am writing this from the UK so I guess it counts as it was released here. We’re a real country with a population of around 60 million people who could buy this from Amazon and make it seen. But no… they just vote for Brexit and drink tea and watch cricket. Anyway, Our Evil is a gritty horror film from Brazil which combines the hitman thriller with the possession film and it’s just sublime.If you’re burnt out on supernatural horror I still recommend it as it puts a fresh, grim spin on the traditional demon yarn. Imagine Night of the Demon only with graphic violence and sexier accents and you have a brief idea. - Kieran Fisher
Best Film That Upset Trolls By Simply Existing: Death Note
The fact that director Adam Wingard was driven off Twitter by some very sad and immature people shouldn’t be celebrated. It was a reminder of how toxic and disgusting loud minorities of fan culture can be at times and I hope 2018 brings those people the peace they need, as well as the ability to better themselves. In reality, though, Wingard’s Westernized live-action take on the beloved Japanese franchise was thoroughly enjoyable. When it comes to reboots, I don’t want to see the same old, same old, ya dig? Wingard respected the source material and managed his to put his own creative spin on it. While the film does have its flaws, I found it to be one of this year’s most rewatchable genre movies and the moments of sheer genius far exceed the faults. It’s a wonderful teen social satire with some thought-provoking commentary about the motivations of high school shooters. The INXS songs and Lakeith Stanfield were also a bonus. - Kieran Fisher
I'm a fan of the anime. I'm a fan of the original live action movies. And I absolutely loved Adam Wingard's westernization of Death Note. Nat Wolff and Lakeith Stanfield bring so much fun to their respective roles, Stanfield in particular standing out as a joyous genius, but the real delight here is real life monster lookalike Willem Defore voicing the shinigami Ryuk. While the story moves at a blur, the neon lighting and gorehound Final Destination-esque kills mixed with the creative supernatural story made for one of my favorite Netflix views of the year. - Ryan Larson
Best Film That Destroyed Its Own Franchise: The Mummy
I’m a big defender of The Mummy. I loved it and I’m sad the Dark Universe is probably dead because of it. I’m a sucker for big swashbuckling supernatural adventures and this hit my sweet spot better than a delicious chocolate gateau. But some positive lessons can be taken from this; 2017 has proven once again that mainstream audiences do appreciate horror and perhaps the decision to make the Universal Monsters superhero-lite isn’t the best way to go about it. Maybe -- just maybe -- Universal could make some good, old-fashioned monster movies again? It would be a great and refreshing alternative to the other shared superhero universes currently dominating the box office. As the monsters have shown time and time again, they don’t stay dead THAT long. Hopefully their next incarnation sees them return to their spooky roots. - Kieran Fisher
Best Film That Saved Its Own Franchise: Beyond Skyline
No one asked for a sequel to the sci-fi horror Skyline, but the world just didn’t realize that there was potential go beyond what came before. Is Beyond Skyline a great movie? Nope. However, it is a very solid and entertaining alien invasion caper that delivers all the thrills we want from such films. If you told me at the start of the year that 2017 would end with me excited about the future of the Skyline franchise, I’d have typed ‘lol’ in response to your statement. How wrong was I? This is proof that every franchise deserves a second chance. - Kieran Fisher