The Big Movie House.com Presents Favorite Discoveries of 2017



I watched a lot of films this year (400+) and of that 400+, more than half of them were films that I had never seen before. Most of them were films that I wanted to see but never got around to actually sitting down and watching them. There are a handful of films that I had never heard of, but for some reason or another actually sat down with them and thus they made the list.

So while everyone is talking about the best and worst of 2017 (which I will), here are some of the best films, that come from the past, that I watched for the first time this year. These are my 2017 Discoveries.

KILLER WORKOUT (1989)


Here is a film that I watched the first day of 2017 and didn’t really like all that much, but I am glad to have watched it. Killer Workout is the type of slasher film that gets better if you watch it with other people. Watching it by myself, I found the film to be bland and boring. Watching it with others, I found it to be hilarious and thoroughly entertaining. Watch this with a group of friends and I can guarantee that you will have a great time.

SING STREET (2016)


I avoided this film because it looked like it wanted to be an 80’s film with all of the irony in the world. I figured it would be a “Hey, look at us! We are in the 80’s! Isn’t that weird?” type of film. What I found was a great film about a group of people who come together to make music because they love music. There is no grandstanding or anything like that. This is a film about music lovers for music lovers and I bought into it and it was glorious. Sing Street is the type of film that you will fall in love with and then talk about it until people become annoyed with you for talking about the film, and there is nothing wrong with that.

COFFY (1973)


I love Blaxploitation films. I have since they showed up on one of the local UHF channels back in the early 90’s. I watched all types of Blaxploitation films, but the ones that eluded me were the ones starring Pam Grier. I love Pam Grier, but her films were either hard to find or I just wasn’t in the mood to watch them. I finally had gotten around to watching some of her films and I have to say that Coffy is the best of the ones that I watched. There is just so much talent in front of, and behind, the camera that this film oozes with it. This is also the film that Quentin Tarantino took a bunch of songs and references from for his Blaxploitation love letter, Jackie Brown, which also starred Pam Grier. Coffy is a supremely fun film and one that is worth watching.

MY BLOODY VALENTINE (1981)


I have seen the remake to this film, released in 2009, a few times and I own the blu-ray for this film, but it wasn’t until 2017 that I finally sat down and watched it, and you know what? I really liked this film. All of the characters are relatable and we care about them, so when the killer shows up, we don’t want these characters to die. We know that they have to, but we don’t want them to. This film has some of the most clever and well-executed kills of all the slasher films released in the 80’s. The film is beautiful to look at (if you like the small town feel) and the kills are ingenious. Watch the unrated version of the film because that was the film the filmmakers made before the MPAA made them cut the film to shreds. This is another in a long line of fun 80’s slasher films.

BAND OF BROTHERS (2002)


I know that this was a T.V. miniseries, but this is something that needs to be remembered. This was the first of its kind: A huge budgeted WWII film that actually made it feel like you were in the war. I am glad that the filmmakers went the miniseries route because there is no way that this would have made a good film. There are so many characters that we have to get to know and so many stories that need to get told, that a 2-3 hour film would not have done the source material justice. There is one segment of one episode that takes place during winter where the American troops are mortared while hiding in a forest. It is a scene that starts with an explosion that seems to come out of nowhere (the trees just start exploding) and ends when the enemy troops run out of mortars. It is one of the best scenes that I have seen in 2017 and shows that if you choose the right medium to tell the story you want to tell, then your story might hold power for some who are watching. I know that it did for me.

Dracula (1958)


Another staple in the film community that had passed by me was Hammer. Hammer made some of the best gothic horror films of last century and was responsible for making Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, The Mummy, and a whole slew of other monsters scary again. The Universal monsters had become jokes by the time Hammer came around and they injected their films with blood & gore, sex (as much as they could), and gothic settings like castles and creaky old houses. Dracula was the first horror film that Hammer did and it remains their best (that I have seen). The way that Christopher Lee’s Dracula was both charming and monstrous was new to the 50’s crowd and they ate it up. In fact, Lee played Dracula so many times that he ended up hating the role and the character. Peter Cushing plays Van Helsing and does a better job than anyone who has tried the character before or since. The film is moody and drips with atmosphere and even contains a lot of things that went missing for a while.

Dead End Drive-In (1986)


I remember the film that I first discovered the talents of Brian Trenchard-Smith. It was Leprechaun 3 and he made the best film in the series by upping the ante and making the kills extra special. I knew that this was someone I would have to look out for, and while I found some of his films: BMX Bandits, Turkey Shoot, and The Man From Hong Kong, many of his other titles eluded me. Dead End Drive-In was one of these titles. The film is a weird one in which the government of the future decides to trap the youthful delinquents inside of drive-ins for which the delinquents are trapped forever. The delinquents have to make their cars their new homes and quickly for cliques and other groupings. Trenchard-Smith is clearly having fun with this absurd premise and this, in turn, makes the film a lot of fun to watch. The film is fairly vague with what is going on, so I had to watch the film twice to get it all, but it was worth it because this has become my favorite Brian Trenchard-Smith film.

BRAIN DAMAGE (1988)


Frank Henenlotter is a one of a kind person. He loves the sleaze and deplorableness of New York in the 80’s and 90’s and he makes sure to set all of his films within this sleaze. What you get are truly original films that are not for the faint of heart, but surprisingly contain a lot of heart.  The first film of Henelotter’s that I saw was Basket Case. I saw it in the horror section one day and decided that this was going to be my weekend movie. It did not disappoint. Since then I have been on the lookout for Henelotter’s other films and was finally able to secure a copy of Brain Damage, a film about an alien who attaches itself to a host and gives them what they want in return for brains. This is one of the only Henelotter films that I was taken aback by. There is a scene where a prostitute thinks that she is going to be giving the lead character head when in reality she is going to have her brains sucked out of head by the alien parasite. It is a scene that I have never seen in a film before and it caught me off-guard. In fact, the whole film caught me off guard, but that is a good thing. I would be happy enough if Henelotter kept making the same film again and again, but he does something very different with each one of his films and you have to respect that. Brain Damage is not a film for everyone, but the ones who see it will never forget it.

THE PHANTASM SERIES (1979-2015)


As big a horror fan as I am, how is it that the Phantasm series eluded me for so long. Well, it did and it didn’t. I had seen the first Phantasm film when I was in high school, same with Phantasm IV. I didn’t really like Phantasm and I only rented part 4 because me and my friends were looking for something new to watch and it was at the video store when we chose. Of course, part 4 wasn’t making any sense, because we hadn’t seen the other films, so we turned it off. When the complete series was released, on blu-ray, this year I knew that I needed to watch the films or waste $60 in the process. I LOVED the film. The film was creepy in the all the right parts and the ending got me. The rest of the series had its ups and downs, and while I didn’t like all of the films, I like the series as a whole. This is definitely an “acquired taste” series, but I guess I have the taste (or at least a bit of it)

DOLEMITE (1975)


2017 seemed to be a catching up year for me. While others talked about different films and series’ online, I would sit back and wonder what all the fuss was about. It happened with the aforementioned Phantasm series and it happened with Dolemite. Dolemite is a film that is beloved by many as one of the weirdest Blaxploitation films out there and they are not wrong. The film is immensely entertaining and worth the time for anyone who gives the film a chance. But then there are the problems. This is a horribly shot film. There are very few scenes that go by without a crew member showing up on camera or the boom mic making numerous guest appearances. For some reason this is fine. I had no problem with all of these problems. Why? Why would I have no problem with all of these problems when I hate them in other films? It comes down to something I talked about a lot in 2017, heart. I can overlook a film’s downfalls if the filmmakers are really trying their best and putting all they have into a film. Fred Olen Ray, David DeCoteau, and many others have made shit films, but they put their all into these films and it shows. They aren’t making these films strictly for money. They are making them because they love film and want to make films. Dolemite is like that. There is a lot of heart in the film and it shows on the screen. Dolemite might be a bad motherfucker, but he does so with heart.

Blood, Boobs, and Beast (2007)


Late last year (2016) I watched a film called The Alien Factor. The blu-ray was released by Retromedia and I have been trying to collect all of the blu-rays that they have been releasing. The Alien Factor isn’t a good film by any stretch of the word, but the film is still very entertaining to watch. Blood, Boobs, and Beast is a documentary about the man behind The Alien Factor, Don Dohler. Dohler was a guy who loved film so much that he would do anything to make a film and he does. This doc meets up with Dohler as he oversees the making of a film. We are also treated to many, many stories about each of the films that Dohler has made. I really liked this doc as it is a personal, intimate look at a man who just loved making films.

The Fly II (1989)


Up until 2017, I had seen two of the five Fly films. The first one that I saw was the David Cronenberg remake, which I really liked, although it is not without its problems. The second Fly film that I had seen was the original The Fly film, a film that is still entertaining even if it hasn’t aged very well. The Fly II was a film that surprised me. I thought that the film would just be a rehash of the remake, but with different characters. Boy, was I wrong. The Fly II is a film that takes place after the first film and focuses on the offspring of Seth Brundle and whatever Geena Davis’ character’s name was. The film plays it pretty straight until the last third of the film. That is when the film completely turns into a monster movie. The film is well acted, well shot, and the creature effects are all on point. There is a scene that comes out of nowhere and turns your heart into mush, but I won’t spoil it here.

Graveyard Shift (1990)


In the weeks leading up to the release of the monumentally huge opening of Stephen King’s It, many YouTube channels and websites featured reviews of films that had been adapted from King’s books and short stories. The consensus was that not many of King’s works had been successfully adapted to the big and small screen and one of the films that was in the lead was Graveyard Shift from 1990. This film was one of the few Stephen King films that I had not seen so I bit the bullet and checked it out. I found the film to be very entertaining and worth anyone’ time. Now I know that the beginning is a bit slow and there really aren’t any memorable characters, but the film itself works. The underground setting is unnerving for a person who is claustrophobic and the rats don’t help that either. There was a surprise to be found in the film that I was not expecting and, thus, made the film a lot more than creepy tunnels. I would rank this in the top 50% of King films and would recommend that those who did not like it the first time they saw it give the film a second chance. It isn’t high art, but it is a fun monster movie.

Dead Next Door, The (1989)


I had heard of this film, but only the title and because the dvd for the film was in one of the video stores that I used to work at. A few years ago, the film’s director, J.R. Bookwalter opened an Indiegogo campaign to raise money to do a proper restoration of the film and then release it on blu-ray. I did not participate in this, but I watched it unfold because I had never seen one of these crowdfunding things done for a blu-ray before. After the blu-ray came out, there was no more to talk about and the blu-ray, and the film was filed somewhere in my subconscious. About the midway point of 2017, I was shopping for a blu-ray on Diabolik DVD’s website and found that they only had three of the Ultimate Editions of The Dead Next Door in stock. It was a bit pricey, but I bought it anyway. The blu-ray is great, but the film is not. It is a good film, but I think that the film’s background kind of plays into the goodness of the film. The film is well made, but very low budget and it shows. Still, there is enough to like about the film and I am glad that I watched it.

THE YEAR OF ARGENTO

2017 was the Year of Argento in terms of blu-ray releases and also in terms of my discovery of Argento. We saw three major Argento blu-ray releases this year: Phenomena from Arrow, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, also from Arrow, and Suspiria from Synapse Films. All of these releases were important for many reasons, but for me they were important because this was the first time that I had seen these films (I had seen Suspiria before, but don’t remember anything from it, so I consider the first time that I watched the Synapse Films release my “Second, First time)

Phenomena (1985)


This was the first film that Argento shot in English and the first time that he worked with
animals (even though his first few films had animals in the title). I was enthralled by this film from start to finish and even the big jump scare got me. The film is gorgeous to look at and the score from  Goblin is off-putting but wholly original. Argento considers this his favorite of the films he directed and I agreed to this until I saw Suspiria, but this is still a great film.

The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970)


This was Argento’s directorial debut, but you wouldn’t know that by the way the man directs. The story moves smoothly and the characters are well defined. The opening kill is very memorable and the reveal of the killer was surprising even though I knew it was that person. I love the way that Argento plays with the audience. It reminds me of the way that Hitchcock plays with his audience.

Suspiria (1977)


All I have to say about Suspiria is “WOW!”. This is such an incredible film. Suspiria is a film that can not be simply described (trust me, I TRIED), but has to be experienced. Everything that can be in a film (picture, sound, etc) is combined into one of the closest things to a “perfect” film that I have seen. The film had a hold on me that few films have ever gotten and that hold has just begun to weaken. The film is from 1977 and it was scaring me for the first time in 2017. Not many older films can do that. I can not recommend this film enough and feel that it is a film that anyone can watch and enjoy.

Deep Red (1975)


This was the first Argento that I saw and I wasn’t blown away by it. I felt that the film was way too long for the story that it was trying to tell and took too much time in explaining things. I loved the look of the film, but when has Argento ever done an ugly film? I thought that the pacing of the film was off and I didn’t really care about what was happening on screen. There is a jump scare about halfway through the film that got me, but that was about it. Everyone was telling me that this is Argento’s best film, but I couldn’t disagree more. I think that honor goes to Suspiria. Deep Red was an ok film that gets too much praise for what it is.

Demons (1985)


Argento did not direct this film (Lamberto Bava, son of Mario Bava, did), but he wrote and produced the film. Out of all of the films that I saw in 2017, I have to say that Demons was one of the most fun experiences I had. People are invited to a screening of a film, but end up getting trapped inside the theater by demons and are slowly killed off one by one to some of the best heavy metal songs. This is one of those films that, when you watch the film you ask yourself “How come I hadn’t heard of this film earlier?” Demons is one of the craziest films that I have ever seen and shouldn’t be missed.

So there you have it. My favorite discoveries of the year. There were plenty of other films that I saw for the first time in 2017, but these are the ones that stood out for me. These are the ones that I had a great reaction to and ones that I remember for years to come. I am hoping that 2018 brings even more films that I haven't seen my way.