13) Creep 2
While some might consider Creep 2 a slower Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon, Patrick Brice’s second Creep is a much deeper, horrifically honest serial killer confessional. Mark Duplass is back again as “Peachfuzz,” who puts out an internet ad searching for a videographer. This catches the eye of Sara (Desiree Akhavan), who in-turn sees the opportunity as her last hope at scoring YouTube fame. She doesn’t believe her new employer could actually be a serial killer, but soon meets the man in the mask – and complications immediately arise.
Where Creep is more a cat-and-mouse game, Creep 2 strips any kind of facade away from Duplass’ fabricated slasher persona. Figuratively and literally. Duplass exposes every nook and cranny in his character’s being, from beaming a martyr’s smile to replaying old murder footage. Akhavan plays a coy subject, but Duplass conveys enough horror in singular performance alone.
Against all odds, Creep 2 is serial killer story that succeeds by *not* killing. How many times have I said that in my film reviewing career?
12) The Babysitter
McG? Directing one of my favorite horror comedies of the year? You bet your bloody dollar. Netflix’s The Babysitter is one of 2017’s most unexpected surprises, thanks in large part to a breakout year for actress Samara Weaving. First bashing skulls in Mayhem, then trying to pull off a streaming occult ritual. It’s the McG you’re used to – aggressive needle drops and all – but with Weaving front and center, it’s a no-lose situation.
There have been complaints against the female characterization of Weaving’s babysitter, but my argument – and praise – comes from a script that’s heavy-handed with its trope skewering. All that corniness is for a reason, the whole “hot blonde girl next door who’s also a nerd” fantasy. She’s playing a chameleon who preys on a certain mentality, and becomes the person she must to lure with a certain bait – which she does. Well. Robbie Amell and the rest of Weaving’s clan are all top-notch genre goons, but The Babysitter is Weaving’s baby – all for the better.
11) A Dark Song
Unlike the blaring satanic riffs of The Devil’s Candy, Liam Gavin’s A Dark Song sings a soft, intrusive occult lullaby. Tension is subtle yet dynamic, as a mother (played by Catherine Walker) and a lunatic dark arts obsessor (played by Steve Oram) join forces despite their own motivations. One a grieving soul, the other a ritualistic explorer. Lies are told and things spiral out of hand, but Gavin’s overseeing guidance ensures a most moody, dramatic horror experience (in a great way).
While A Dark Song may be one of the slower films on this list, it’s not to be undervalued. Oram and Walker hold secrets and berate each other in a way that makes you wonder if the deed at hand is actually working. Oram especially, whose mastery of curse-heavy outbursts could be either preset madness or influenced distractions. It’s all very calculated to a constant simmer through Gavin’s vision, which he handles with far more composure than any debut filmmaker should.
Erlingur Thoroddsen’s Rift is cerebral filmmaking with a geographical head high – Thoroddsen appearing to be Iceland’s answer to stateside mumblecore-on-crack filmmakers Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead. It’s not his first effort, but sophomore title Rift is such a tonal departure from boogeyman debut Child Eater that Thoroddsen feels like a different filmmaker. More evolved, and dangerously confident. How else would you find success in an open-ended LGBT thriller as heavy as it is contemplative?
Lead actors Björn Stefánsson and Sigurður Þór Óskarsson strike a tumultuous chemistry in this chilly rustic vacation-gone-wrong, diving into the “winner vs. loser” aspect of broken relationships. Landscapes become a character in themselves thanks to the film’s postcard-worthy cinematography, as the region’s mythology becomes more haunting by the night. Don’t expect to be spoon fed and maybe take that as a warning – but I love Thoroddsen’s decision to leave the mystery in our hands. My hope is you will, too.