By Cynthia Dominguez, Clarion Staff
Despite reality having enough actual horror in real life this past year, the movie industry decided that we also needed a flood of fictional horror. Throughout summer and fall months, countless horror movies rushed into theaters, preparing moviegoers for the ultimate celebration of horror, Halloween.
Undeniably one of the most anticipated movies of the year, It stole the attention of movie watching audiences all over the country. Opening at a record breaking 4,103 theaters, the highest number of venues for a horror movie to date, the movie went through several directors before falling into the hands Andy Muschietti. Starring Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise, the dancing clown, and an outstanding young cast, the film is an adaptation of the popular book which goes by the same title, written by notorious horror author, Stephen King.
The story revolves around a group of friends who proudly proclaim themselves as the “Losers Club” who live in the small town of Derry, Maine. From abusive parents to startlingly intense bullies, these middle schoolers already struggle through life. These struggles intensify when an immortal child-eating being infests the children’s lives. Taking the form of the children’s worst fears, Pennywise’s past within Derry is soon uncovered and the Losers Club take matters into their own hands.
The original novel, It by Stephen King was written in 1986 and had one adaptation (1990 television mini series) before the film released in summer 2017. The movie undeniably had large shoes to fill (pun totally intended), with not only the critically acclaimed book, but the well-loved mini series. With Rodeo FX taking over visual effects, the same company that handled the effects on movies such as The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the movie provides viewers with outstanding horror scenes. The fantastic casting shows through the effective comedic timing, making the movie a well-rounded homage to its former adaptations, and a memorable horror movie in 2017.
One of the most traditional horror movies of this year was Annabelle: Creation. The movie makes up the fourth movie in The Conjuring series. Since the emergence of the Conjuring, the series has brought in a consistent audiences with the familiar style of horror movie. Opening on August 11, 2017, the movie earned a total of $301 million, making The Conjuring series the third horror series to ever earn over $1 billion. The film withstood the pressure of being a sequel and received positive reviews from many.
The movie takes place in the 1950’s and follows a couple’s grief regarding the death of their daughter which leads them into dangerous interaction with a spirit whom they allow to posses a doll. The couple decides to lock the doll in the former room of their daughter, containing the spirit, allowing them to live peacefully. They later decide to take in six orphan girls who unlock the horrors of the possessed doll and catalyze a series of violent events, eventually leading to the story of the second movie in The Conjuring series.
The film provides a familiar feeling among viewers yet keeps the proper amounts of suspense and jump scares. Annabelle: Creation keeps many familiar aspects of usual supernatural horror while maintaining the cliche scenes to a minimum. Far removed from social commentary like previously mentioned films, Annabelle: Creation allows for an entertaining and all-around fun movie going experience.
One of the latest horror films of the year was Happy Death Day which opened October 13, 2017 to a box office total of $53 million. Leading up to the opening, the movie released huge amounts of press, specifically trailers, which drew huge attention from general population. The trailers demonstrated two sides of the film, one emphasizing comedic aspects of the film and another side emphasizing the gore. The film was well received by both critics and audiences due to the two sides of the film, and the acting of main actress, Jessica Rothe.
The film focuses on Theresa Gelbman, a college girl who finds herself in a time loop continuously being murdered. She soon realizes the need to uncover the mystery behind her constant murders in order to release herself from the cycle. With the help of classmate, Carter Davis, Theresa begins to slowly learn from all her experiences, not only in avoiding murder and getting herself out of her time loop, but in realizing certain aspects of her life.
The film was one of the most enjoyable horror films due to the play on cliches. Taking common aspects of slasher films and increasing the comedic factor and bringing the script and gore to life with impressive acting and camera work. Although not all cliches could be avoided and not all the scenes flowed cleanly, the movie brought the horror movie season near its end.
Director M. Night Shyamalan returned January 20, 2017 with Split, the sequel to the 2000 film Unbreakable. The psychological-horror movie grossed a total of $278 million worldwide and finished as number one in the box office for three consecutive weeks. Despite having some controversy regarding the portrayal of mental health, the film received positive reviews and general public reactions.
The film centers around Kevin Wendell Crumb, played by James McAvoy, a man suffering with dissociative identity disorder who, under the control of one of 23 personalities, kidnaps three teenage girls with the intention of sacrificing them to “the Beast”. One of the girls, Casey Cooke, played by Anya Taylor-Joy, identified as an outsider and soon becomes the fixation of Dennis, one of the many personalities of Kevin. Through countless thrilling scenes, Casey’s countless attempts to escape and the imminent arrival of the Beast bring the plot to an outstanding peak of psychological horror.
Shyamalan takes the topic of mental health in a way to amplify a character rather than allowing his horror film to become a film about mental health. Creating a character that delivers the “politically correct” view of mental health and having a main character who demonstrates the unpleasant and unfortunate sides of mental health allows Shyamalan to create a film that draws attention to mental health without stigmatizing it or the victims. Overall the film kept viewers on their feet with both traditional horror and new application of psychological horror.
Jordan Peele, most commonly known for being half of the comedy duo “Key and Peele”, makes his directorial debut with Get Out. The movie originally premiered on January 24, 2017 during the Sundance Film Festival before being released in theaters on February 24, 2017. Starring Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams, the film tackles the issue of modern racism in the United States with a satirical twist. The subject matter did not steer viewers away, with Peele becoming the first African American writer-director to gross $100 million domestically. Several other record setting achievements led to the film becoming something of a cultural phenomenon.
The film centers around a interracial couple, Chris Washington and Rose Armitage, who make the trip to see Rose’s family. Chris shows obvious hesitance to meet Rose’s family for fear of being unwelcome. Despite the reassurance of Rose and her family, Chris continues to feel uncomfortable, this feeling only intensifying with the unstable maid and gardener. Chris continues to feel judgement and unease which later intensifies into something other than just internalized racism.
The film handles the topic of racism with the comedic ease of an experienced comedy writer, emphasizing common instances of daily racism in a comedic yet realistic way. The balance between comedy and horror, exaggeration and reality, build a pace unique in the horror genre. The social climate surrounding the time of release facilitated the need for something to open racial conversations and allow the main stream media to address racism in a form that avoids mindless discourse. Get Out formed a piece of art extremely in touch with popular culture, yet remaining accessible and enjoyable to the general population.