10. “Better Watch Out”

9. “Happy Death Day”

8. “The Lure”

7. “Personal Shopper”

6. “The Girl With All The Gifts”

"Better Watch Out" is a John Hughes movie if it were directed by Wes Craven. To dive into the plot and how it goes gloriously off the rails would be to strip the movie of its charm. The setup of “Better Watch Out” plays more like a combination of “Home Alone,” “Weird Science,” and “Sixteen Candles” than “Halloween,” “Nightmare on Elm Street” or “Scream.” It does answer the question of what if “Sixteen Candles’” Ted or “Home Alone’”s Kevin McCallister flipped the switch to full-on homicidal

“Happy Death Day” on paper should be a flop of a flick. Boiled down to its core, “Happy Death Day” is “Groundhog Day” with a killer twist.

Yet, the movie rises above its basic premise thanks to a combination of clever writing and a strong performance by Jessica Rothe.

Tree Gelbman, as we first meet her, is a shrew of a sorority sister who is awakening from a night of drunken debauchery in the dorm room of a stranger, Carter Davis.

“Happy Death Day” takes place over the span of Gelbman’s 18th birthday. Day one ends with a baby-masked assailant luring Gelbman into an isolated tunnel to kill her. As Gelbman dies, she immediately wakes in the same bed in the same dorm room with the same Carter Davis.

Gelbman is a caught in a time loop that replays her birthday over and over again until she discovers the identity of her killer. “Happy Death Day” does follow the footprints of “Groundhog Day” very closely to begin with before it pitches a curve ball that sets the movie on a path of its very own. Gelbman becomes wise to the time loop and while she pulls a Phil Connors and indulges her id as she knows she will awake in the same day again. She also learns that in dying over and over again, the injuries are compiling and her seemingly endless supply of lives does, in fact, have a finite number.

While “Get Out” is having the spotlight shone on it for its breaking of the horror-genre African American protagonist, “Happy Death Day” quietly delivered a genre-defying female character in Theresa “Tree” Gelbman. Rothe’s take on Gelbman takes a very stereotypical character and turns it inside out. Gelbman is emotionally smart, mature and strong, a rarity for female characters in horror. It is a breaking of the cookie-cutter format of the female lead in a horror flick. Gelbman is an average teen with average issues that wakes to find herself in extraordinary circumstances. She doesn’t shrink or wilt in the face of her kismet. She doesn’t rely on a male character to get her through. No, Gelbman survives by her own wit. And unlike Jesse in “Get Out,” Gelbman doesn’t grow increasingly naive in the face of danger (a typical pitfall of the horror genre, the same horror genre that “Get Out” is supposed to subvert). She is a rare protagonist, either female or male, that grows, learns and evolves from her previous actions.

“Happy Death Day” is the horror movie of the year that dares to subvert the very confines of its genre.

"The Lure” is a mess of a movie in the best ways possible.


One part musical, one part horror, and one part satirical commentary  on the influx of immigrants to Europe, “The Lure” is a Frankenstein’s  monster of parts pieced together that work to produce something much  greater than the sum of its parts.


One thing that is clear, the Polish-made “The Lure” is the kind of  movie the Hollywood studio system talks of making, yet never finds its  balls to follow through and make.


At its core, “The Lure” is a modern-day retelling of Hans Christian  Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid” that most assuredly sticks closer to  Andersen’s original work than the Disney-ified  version most people  know.


Mermaid sisters are lured to a beach by a group of musicians taking a  break from a residency at a local bar/club. Instead of engaging their  bloodlust for eating the hearts of humans, the two go back to the club  with the band and become backup singers and eventually mermaid  strippers. It sounds hokey like a bad Skinemax flick; it is not. The  sisters take on the names of Golden and Silver as they emerge to  become local celebrities and the hot draw at the club.


Golden can’t ignore her nature and kills a musician to feast on his  heart. Silver, on the other hand, falls for another member in the band  and dreams and plots to leave the waters behind her and become  ‘normal’ human woman. She saves for a surgery that will transplant all  the lower extremities of a human woman to her and to the woman will  get the mermaid’s tail.


Silver’s dream of a human life is doomed as by mermaid lore, if she  chooses to love a human, she must kill her love in order not turn to  sea foam.


Golden gets found out as a ‘murderer’ as Silver’s dream of love and  life falls to pieces as her love is a decidedly one-sided affair.


“The Lure” is a fevered dream of a flick with show tunes to boot. And  by all the odds stacked against it by bucking conventionality, hot  damn if it doesn’t work on a myriad of levels.


Director Agnieszka Smocyznska and writer Robert Bolesto take the  Andersen tale and turn it into a parable on modern refugee crisis that  hit northern European countries as people fled Syria and other  southern countries. The mermaid sisters are at first welcomed but soon  are ostracized for being different. The sisters themselves are  conflicted with their new world and the tradition of their old.

It  is a haughty idea dressed up in a monster flick that should not work,  yet excels due to the deft direction and a daft script.

5. “Gerald’s Game”

“Gerald’s Game” is easily the best of the three Stephen King book-to-film adaptations that came out in 2017. It is also the only King adaptation to hold a candle close to the trifecta of Frank Darabont's King films (“The Shawshank Redemption,” The Green Mile,” and “The Mist”).

Compared to “The Dark Tower,” which is an eight-book series or “It,” an epic 1,138-page novel, “Gerald’s Game” is a short story clocking in at just over 330 pages.

“Gerald’s Game” is also very limited in scope compared to the other two books/films as it takes place, mainly, in the bedroom of a secluded getaway of Gerald and Jessie Burlingame. If the confines were not constricting enough, add to that plot that Jessie is handcuffed to the headboard of the bed via a game of kink that was to serve as a sexual reboot to the couple’s stale marriage.

To say that a series of unfortunate events lead to Jessie’s plight and the main gist of the movie is an understatement. Over its 103 minutes, “Gerald’s Game” weaves a story that shifts between Jessie’s desperate present and her disparate past without losing its hair-trigger tension as it builds to a gruesome conclusion. Directed by Mike Flanagan on a script by Flanagan and Jeff Howard, “Gerald’s Game” succeeds in producing a taut thriller without its main character ever leaving bed.

4. “Hounds of Love”

1. “A Dark Song”

3. “Prevenge”

2. “Creep 2”

It is rare. It is very rare when a sequel surpasses the original movie. “The Empire Strikes Back,” The Godfather, Pt. II,” or “The Dark Knight” bettered what came before. Add “Creep 2” to that list.

“Creep” was a surprising flick that seemed to come out of nowhere in 2014. Directed by Patrick Brice from a screenplay by Brice and Mark Duplass, “Creep” turned the found-footage genre on its head as a videographer, who answered an ad on Craigslist, slowly realizes that the man who hired him to tape his life is not at all what he seems to be.

“Creep 2” continues to innovate and reinvigorate the genre. Again directed by Brice on a screenplay by Brice and Duplass, “Creep 2” adds a worthy foil to its main antagonist. Aaron (Duplass) again places an ad on Craigslist looking for a videographer. This time the ad is answered by Sara.

Sara is a wannabe YouTube star. She produces a video series called “Encounters,” where she answers oddball requests via Craigslist. Her series is not picking up the views that it needs, Sara vows to produce a ‘finale’ that will get “Encounters” viewers. Looking for that sensational subject, she answers Aaron’s ad. Aaron is now operating under the guise of Josef.

The setup is rather trivial, what happens from the moment that Josef announces to Sara that he is, in fact, a serial killer and he wants her, with the promise to not kill her, to film a day in his life, is anything but trivial or formulaic. While that seems like giving a key plot point away, it is just the first in surprising turns that “Creep 2” takes as both Sara and Josef are not the stereotypical killer-possible victim. Played by Desiree Akhavan, Sara is a genre-breaking female lead. She is as smart, if not smarter than Josef as she is just as keen in the art of manipulation to get what she wants for her web series.

“Creep 2” is as much a commentary on the lengths people will go to for internet celebrity as it is a deft horror flick that subverts obvious potholes and cliches of the genre.

After multiple viewings, “A Dark Song” is a film designated as horror out of a sheer feckless need to categorize any and everything.

“A Dark Song” is much more than a horror flick. It transcends genre and in doing so becomes one of the most powerful films of 2017.

The baseline plot of the movie is that of Sophia (Catherine Wheeler), a mother in the midst of grieving her seven-year-old son who was abducted and killed by a group of teens for a cult ritual.

Sophia wants vengeance. She rents a secluded mansion and hires Joseph (Steve Oram) to perform the Abramelin, a month-long Kabbalistic grimoire that is supposed to summon one’s guardian angel. Sophia intends to use her angel to speak to her son and to ask for revenge against his killers.

Yes, “A Dark Song,” deals in the supernatural, but the horror of the film comes from the living and not the dead or the occult. The acts that two desperate people are willing to engage in for the need to sate their needs is the real horror. An already-tense relationship between Sophia and Joseph grows more and more grim and dire as they turn their inner turmoil onto each other. Tension grows until it breaks at a fateful moment that ultimately sets both characters on the road to some sort of peace, if not redemption.

The movie is more a character study in how grief affects people. It is a character study with a backdrop of the fantastical. The breaking point is just the start of a third act that is both surreal and surprising in the utter beauty of its hard-earned ending.

The film the directorial debut of Liam Gavin of a screenplay that he also wrote. It is a tremendous debut. There is a discerning exquisiteness in the direction. Gavin and cinematographer Cathal Watters deliver a gorgeously shot movie with lush images that will stick with the viewer long after the movie is over. The grandeur of the imagery balances out the sometimes savage acts of the characters.

“A Dark Song” is a must-see film that may not be seen by as many because it has to be labeled to be marketed. It defies categorizing. Those looking for one of the most rewarding movie experiences of 2017 need to ignore labels and experience “A Dark Song.”

What makes “Personal Shopper” so engrossing is the exact thing that  will turn it off to some viewers.


The Olivier Assayas penned and directed film asks its audience to do a  most daring thing: think.


Maureen (Kristen Stewart) is the title character. She is a personal  shopper for a snotty celebrity. Maureen picked up the job as a means  of staying in Paris, where her brother Lewis died.


Lewis and Maureen share a congenital heart defect. They also share the  shine or a clairvoyant-like ability to perceive the supernatural.  Before dying, Lewis promise Maureen that when he crosses over, he will  give her a sign proving the existence of an afterlife. Maureen feels  the need to remain in Paris to remain close to the place where Lewis  died, so that she can receive his message unfettered.


Life happens to Maureen as she waits, as she becomes more intertwined  into the life of her celebrity boss. As Maureen’s world become meshed,  she starts receiving text messages from an unknown source. At first,  she thinks they are Lewis, but as the message grow decidedly darker in  tone, is it Lewis or something more menacing?


And that is where this summary of “Personal Shopper” will end as to go  into the second half of the film in any detail will infect the  reader/viewer with prejudice that will unduly influence how the movie  plays out. There is a duality to “Personal Shopper” that depending on  the beliefs of the individual going into the film influences what they  will take away from it in the end. The movie presents two concrete  ideas and then does just enough to let the view connect the dots in  their own way.


Kristen Stewart is perfect in the role as much as Keanu Reeves is  perfect in the roles of Neo and John Wick, her disaffected demeanor,  vacant stares and fidgety mannerisms work to give Maureen that  deer-stuck-in-the-headlights look and yet hint that she is also  someone with some supernatural sense that puts her slightly ahead of  the curve of the film’s other characters.


“Personal Shopper” is not for everyone. In a culture where grocery  stores currently have to lock up Tide and other detergents so people  will not eat them, the film dares its audience to think and engage.

Read our take of “The Girl With All The Gifts” in our Best Horror Movies of 2017 So Far here

Read our take of “Hounds of Love” in our Best Horror Movies of 2017 So Far here

Read our take of “Prevenge” in our Best Horror Movies of 2017 So Far here