Ah, the Academy Awards.
The time every year when Hollywood rolls out its royalty for a glitzy hob-nob filled with participation bags and a few golden statues.
But, let’s face it, unless you are a diehard film purist, odds are that you’ve likely never seen 50 percent or more of the nominated films either because they don’t interest you, or you live in a small town or city with a struggling multiplex that just doesn’t screen the awards-consideration rollout of A-list features that usually starts in September.
With that in mind, BVB: Blood Violence and Babes wanted to take time to consider the best genre films of 2017 — movies that either released on home media or streaming Video-on-Demand — which we believe are just as deserving of recognition and awards. If you haven’t seen some or any of the movies listed below, they are all now available on Blu-Ray and DVD or to rent on most streaming platforms.
Typically, the nominees for Best Picture are movies that elicited genuine emotion from audiences, that captivated the imagination and sparked debate. That sounds damn close to our top genre picks. Get Out kicked off 2017 with a viciously sharp skewering of racism in America. It Stains the Sands Red unveiled a zombie epic that included a woman distracting a zombie with a bloody tampon. mother! basically showed the destruction of our planet through the lens of marriage and childbirth. And The Monster delivered a blistering parental nightmare, pitting a dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship against an unstoppable creature. But the clear winner is Brawl in Cell Block 99, which focused on a man who uses his fists to battle through a scrolling-screen, revolving door of bad guys, just to save his wife and unborn child. It’s a complete, fully-formed story with a depth of character development not usually seen in low-budget, exploitation thrillers.
Brawl in Cell Block 99
It Stains the Sands Red
A rape-revenge thriller. A fresh take on vampires. An ambitious story of creation and destruction. A creature feature. And a gritty, 1970’s-style exploitation epic refashioned as a hero’s quest. The directors listed below each did something truly special, but the winner is S. Craig Zahler, who is already demonstrating the kind of technical prowess behind the camera, coupled with his vibrant and pulpy dialogue, that catapulted Quentin Tarantino to super-stardom. With Bone Tomahawk and Brawl in Cell Block 99, Zahler has firmly established himself as one of the best directors, genre or mainstream, working today.
Bryan Bertino, The Monster
Darren Aronofsky, mother!
Michael O’Shea, The Transfiguration
Natalia Leite, M.F.A.
S. Craig Zahler, Brawl in Cell Block 99
There was no denying the quality of acting chops present in some of the year’s top genre offerings. In the case of Split, James McAvoy seamlessly cycled through nearly a dozen different personalities, often switching mid-thought between two wholly disparate characters. Levi Miller was deceptively sweet and magnificently evil in equal measure, proving that younger actors can still stand shoulder-tall with their older counterparts. Steven Yeun showed The Walking Dead will be just a belt notch in his should-be-long list of accomplishments. But Vince Vaughn injected his character, Bradley Thomas, with the doomed pathos of a Greek folk hero, displaying a side of his personality previously unseen and delivering the year’s best, most nuanced performance.
Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out
James McAvoy, Split
Levi Miller, Better Watch Out
Vince Vaughn, Brawl in Cell Block 99
Steven Yeun, Mayhem
The most difficult competition to judge, in all honesty. Each of the actresses listed below elevated their respective films to a level of quality and majesty typically not found in genre cinema. But Zoe Kazan was simply heartbreaking and inspiring as a mother battling her own personal demon (booze) while trying to provide a stable environment for her displaced daughter on a long, fateful roadtrip to see the girl’s father. That they end up stranded on a deserted road fighting a beast born of nightmares was almost secondary to the ferocious, raw honesty that Kazan displays.
Brittany Allen, It Stains the Sands Red
Francesca Eastwood, M.F.A.
Zoe Kazan, The Monster
Natasha Lyonne, Antibirth
Aubrey Plaza, Ingrid Goes West
Best Supporting Actor
It’s not always the lead actor or actress who carries a film and cements its status in the hearts of fans. Supporting roles form the foundation that allows a story to unfold properly, and it’s those character actors that fully immerse themselves to the point of disappearing entirely that stay lodged in our brains after the credits roll. Juan Riedinger plays a zombie named Smalls in It Stains the Sands Red, which on the surface might not sound like much of a challenge. Not only is Riedinger tasked with shamble-shuffling after Brittany Allen’s coked-up stripper across a huge swath of the Nevada desert, but he also must act through his impressive special effects makeup to allow audiences to see the human he once was. The end result is nothing short of transformative. Smalls becomes one of a short list of zombies whose names you actually remember and more, you genuinely care about.
Noé Hernández, We Are the Flesh
Don Johnson, Brawl in Cell Block 99
Liam Neeson, A Monster Calls
Juan Riedinger, It Stains the Sands Red
Pruitt Taylor Vince, The Devil’s Candy
Best Supporting Actress
Don’t laugh. Yes, that Katherine Heigl, queen of TMZ gossip, the once-promising Knocked Up superstar-on-the-cusp, returned with a vengeance last year in a role that could have been an easy payday with little effort. But Heigl didn’t treat Unforgettable like the bigger-budget Lifetime Channel movie that it basically is, and she certainly didn’t treat the role of Tessa Connover as a cliched villain. Heigl took the role of a meticulous perfectionist, who is forced to stand by while her ex-husband and son welcome a new woman into their lives and showcased the complex emotions that such scenarios generate. She is instantly relatable, at least until the crazy takes over. Watching Heigl descend into madness was mesmerizing, and it elevated Unforgettable above the slew of similarly-themed features that populate the ‘woman scorned’ subgenre.
Ella Ballentine, The Monster
Katherine Heigl, Unforgettable
Catherine Keener, Get Out
Olwen Kelly, The Autopsy of Jane Doe
Michelle Pfeifer, mother!
Best Foreign Import
As is often the case, a number of import films made a huge mark in genre cinema in 2017. South Korea took the zombie genre, and made it terrifying again. Mexico shone bright with a twisted sexual exploration focused entirely on the vagina. But it was Raw, an intoxicating treatise on family and heredity, as well as cannibalism, that truly stood out, delivering one gut-punch sequence after another in telling the story of a young girl whose entrance to college awakens a primal hunger and yearning that she can’t ignore.
The Eyes of My Mother
Train to Busan
We Are the Flesh
Best Visual Effects
Special effects, whether practical or computer-generated, have improved so much in the past 10 years that it should no longer be surprising to gaze in wonder and awe when a film transports you to someplace new, or introduces a creature unlike any you’ve seen before. It’s even more surprising to consider that the best visual effects we saw all year came packaged in a sequel to a movie that pretty much no one enjoyed. Seven years after Skyline, however, that’s exactly what happened. Beyond Skyline not only put its main hero, Frank Grillo, in the belly of a giant alien spaceship, it made you believe that Grillo really was in an alien world. From the smallest details to the original extraterrestrial creative design, Beyond Skyline was a feast for the imagination. And that was before its bonkers climatic battle that mashed-up brutal hand-to-tentacle combat between the ragtag human resistance and the invading E.T. marauders with a dizzy, shout-inducing kaiju battle-royal between two giant mecha-aliens.
Best Original Screenplay
Making a good movie often comes down to a collection of parts. You need a director with vision, stars with enthusiasm who understand their character arcs and solid special effects. But none of that would matter without a good story, one that makes audiences think, makes them uncomfortable and provides them with a perspective they might otherwise never have had. Leah McKendrick, an actress and producer, had no idea when she wrote M.F.A., her scathing indictment of male entitlement and sexual assault, framed through the lens of an exploitation rape-revenge fantasy, that her story would debut in theaters less than two weeks after the Harvey Weinstein scandal began, and just before the #MeToo movement reached mass awareness. And that’s why it’s so powerful. McKendrick, a survivor herself, braved the establishment to pen her screenplay long before the reckoning began, but that M.F.A. is such a blistering success on its own merits is why it wins outright.
Matias Caruso, Mayhem
David Lowery, A Ghost Story
Leah McKendrick, M.F.A.
Danny Perez, Antibirth
Edgar Wright, Baby Driver
For a complete rundown of all New Releases, plus movie news, interviews and more, visit BVB online at Blood Violence and Babes.com, like us on Facebook @BloodViolenceBabes and follow us on Twitter @BVB_reviews.