It has been a hell of a year for genre film. From superhero tentpoles popping up left and right (and most of them being pretty dang good) to the return of Edgar Wright and Jordan Peele managing to make a horror film that generated awards buzz, fans of horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and other niche genres were blessed with an abundance of riches this year.
But for every Wonder Woman and Get Out, there was a movie that managed to fly under the radar due to limited theatrical release, poor box-office performance, or critics scaring people away. In between trips to the theater to rewatch The Last Jedi, it's worth your time to check out one of these more underseen films and get wise to what everybody else is missing.
Dig Two Graves
This one has finally hit Netflix, which means there’s no excuse for you to not check out the year’s best sort-of-a-horror-movie-but-sort-of-a-folk-parable. Dig Two Graves is a surprisingly complex, poignant analysis of grief and the ways the past can stick around longer than you’d expect it to, nipping at your heels the moment you think you've escaped it. It centers on a girl named Jake whose brother passes away in an accident and the bargain she makes with a group of possibly supernatural drifters who tell her they can bring him back from the dead. Haunting and affecting, you'll be thinking about this one for a while after you see it.
The Blackcoat's Daughter
Being the son of one of the greatest horror icons of all time doesn't necessitate that you take your career into genre film, but apparently nobody told Osgood Perkins, son of Psycho star Anthony Perkins, that. And honestly, that's very much a good thing. Perkins released his second foray into the genre this year and it's a doozy. The Blackcoat’s Daughter analyzes loss and isolation through the lens of a nonlinear tale of demonic possession. It's got a hell of an ending and never overplays its hand. It might not have any iconic scares, but it's the movie that'll have you afraid to turn out the hallway light before bed the next time you're home alone.
Not nearly enough people caught what ended up being, against all odds, one of the best superhero movies of the year. A marketing campaign that never quite stuck paired with some admittedly strange production design may have scared viewers away from this update of the long-running television show about teenagers with attitude fighting aliens, and that's a shame. Featuring a talented young cast with better chemistry than that of any X-Men movie, the franchise-ready film could have easily been phoned in by everyone involved, from the actors to director Dean Israelite. Instead, they poured their hearts and souls into an affecting film about a diverse group of well-written teens forced together by the whims of a sorta-dead alien in a spaceship and what they learn about friendship through their journey. Plus there are few cooler movie moments in 2017 than the Rangers riding their Zords into battle with "Power" by Kanye as the soundtrack.
The Bad Batch
Director Ana Lily Amirpour made waves with her debut, the black and white vampire western A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night. Her follow-up, released this year, didn't garner nearly as much attention, and that's a shame. The Bad Batch is a wild, beautiful ride. It's brutal, violent, lovely, and full of heart all at once, a sort of spiritual successor to Mad Max. Throw in some killer appearances by Jason Momoa and Keanu Reeves and you've got a great movie to kick back and enjoy with friends
A Ghost Story
A Ghost Story is the rare film that thrives in the supernatural without ever resembling anything close to a cut-and-dry horror movie. Rather, writer/director David Lowery uses the archetype of a ghost haunting the house he shared with the woman he loved to explore the human condition. Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara give somber, soulful performances and anchor a film with high ambitions. The addition of the film’s lingering spirit being portrayed as a classic sheet-ghost is a tremendous stylistic touch with no right to work as well as it does. It might not contain the frights you'd expect from a movie about a haunted house, but make no mistake: A Ghost Story will haunt you.
I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore
Macon Blair, an actor best known for his appearances in films like Green Room and Blue Ruin, made his directorial debut this year with the Netflix original I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore, a pitch-black comedy/thriller about a woman and her weird neighbor whose initial dabble in vigilantism quickly finds them in over their heads. Melanie Lynskey is stellar as Ruth, a woman whose home being burglarized is the last straw that breaks her barely-there sanity, though the film's standout performance is Elijah Wood as Tony (seriously, this is maybe the best Elijah Wood has ever been). Tony is a bizarre nunchuck-toting metalhead who's clearly unstable; exactly the kind of guy you'd suspect figures himself a badass street vigilante despite the clear reality that he's a huge dweeb. It's a wild romp and very much worth being moved to the top of your Netflix queue.
It Comes At Night
Anchored by a stunning performance by Joel Edgerton, It Comes At Night garnered controversy this year from viewers who believed its marketing as a horror film to have been deceptive. It's true that there are no ghosts, monsters, or borderline-superpowered serial killers in the film. But it's absolutely a horror film, and a damn good one at that. Director Trey Edward Shults is a talented-enough storyteller to recognize that while cheap scares could come from the film's plot about a mysterious disease that has forced a family into isolation in the woods, the lasting horror lies in what that isolation and resulting paranoia does to the people living in those woods. Forget vampires and forget werewolves: Shults knows that there's nothing more cerebrally horrifying than a man who will do anything, absolutely anything, to protect his family.
Kristen Stewart turns in what may be the performance of her career in Personal Shopper, a quiet ghost story about human connection and communication. Stewart's Maureen is haunted by the death of her twin brother Lewis, whose lingering presence in this world leads Maureen to questions about the afterlife and her place in the real world. Rarely is a ghost story selected to compete for the Palm d’Or at Cannes, but Personal Shopper is no ordinary ghost story.
Don't let this one's dismal box office performance fool you. Writer/director Ben Wheatley, he of Kill List fame, is in as fine form as ever in this killer period-noir-action-comedy about an arms deal gone wrong that leaves everyone involved trapped in a warehouse. First of all, to answer the inevitable question, yeah, pretty much the whole movie takes place in that warehouse. It's a tight, claustrophobic setting that brings out the absolute worst in the characters played by its killer ensemble cast. Armie Hammer, Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, and Sharlto Copley appear, among others, as various lowlifes involved in the deal and soon find themselves slinging bullets left and right trying to find a way out. Free Fire barely made a buck at the box office, but we aren't too worried: it's a cult classic in the making for sure.
Stop us if you've heard this one before: a girl walks into a bar, gets drunk, stumbles onto a playground, and then realizes a giant monster terrorizing the city of Seoul is being controlled by her movements. Sound familiar? Probably not. Colossal is a pretty singularly unique movie. On one hand, it's a quirky, weird flick about a woman who realizes she's controlling a kaiju. On the other, it's a bittersweet character study of an alcoholic writer who can't seem to stop screwing her life up irreparably. Said writer is played by Anne Hathaway, who seems to have set out to remind anyone who sees this movie that she's quietly excellent at comedy. With Jason Sudeikis and Tim Blake Nelson around to play off of, she's in great form. Colossal is well worth checking out for anybody looking to see something with a lot of heart and also watch a giant monster and a giant robot fight in a downtown metro area.
The squeamish should say as far away as possible from Raw. It's not a pleasant movie for that sort. But for anybody unafraid of a little blood, guts, and casual cannibalism, Raw is a treat. When a hazing ritual at veterinarian school forces young Justine, a longtime vegetarian, to eat meat, she soon finds herself craving it constantly - only she's not in the market for chicken or burgers.
The film's lynchpin comes in the relationship between Justine and her sister. It's a complex, contemplative one performed beautifully by the actresses behind the characters. And even setting aside the film's artistry (which is, again, stunning), it's a fun, brutal horror film that never flinches from the gruesome or the gory. Shot beautifully by Ruben Ipens under the confident, focused direction of Julia Ducournau, Raw is a tour de force, the kind of movie that can't be missed by anyone who fancies themselves a scholar of the horror genre.