While the dead of summer is when we expect many of the big action blockbusters, the same cannot be said of horror movies this year. July 2017 horror movies are a bit low key this month, though not without some interesting entries. There are three movies that showed at the Sundance Film Festival back in January. There’s one mainstream summer scary movie. And, as always, there are quite a few low-budget, low-profile horror flicks rounding out the July 2017 horror movies. It’s definitely a mixed bag, but with movies like Killing Ground and It Stains the Sands Red, there’s hope for horror this month, despite the appearance of Wish Upon.

If nothing else, it will be only a few short weeks until The Dark Tower, Annabelle: Creation, and Polaroid!

Enjoy.

July 7

  1. A Ghost Story

Recently deceased, a white-sheeted ghost returns to his suburban home to console his bereft wife, only to find that in his spectral state, he has become unstuck in time, forced to watch passively as the life he knew and the woman he loves slowly slip away. Increasingly unmoored, the ghost embarks on a cosmic journey through memory and history, confronting life’s ineffable questions and the enormity of existence.

This isn’t really a horror movie, but it does have a ghost in it.

A Ghost Story was shown at Sundance, which makes me think that it won’t be a bad movie. Based on the trailer, it looks very sad and very poignant, with plenty of achingly beautiful and gloomy shots, muted and meaningful conversations, and depressing developments. All of which will be accomplished despite the kind of silly sheet-draped ghost, which adds its own sad whimsy.

Emotionally and psychologically, I can’t imagine what it would be like to come back to your old life, detached from your loved ones and unable to participate in any way. You could only watch as they moved on without you. And to experience the afterlife as you continue to endure? It would be mind-blowing and wondrous and completely unsettling.

All of that doesn’t mean this will be creepy or disturbing. At the very least, it should be interesting.

 

July 14

  1. Wish Upon

Jonathan Shannon (Ryan Phillippe) gives his 17-year-old daughter Clare (Joey King) an old music box that promises to grant its owner seven wishes. Skeptical at first, Clare becomes seduced by its dark powers when her life starts to radically improve with each wish. Everything seems perfect until she realizes that every wish she makes causes the people who are closest to her to die in violent and elaborate ways.

What are you doing in this movie, Ryan Phillipe?

Whenever a trailer overuses the strobe effect, I know the trailer is having to really work to convince me of the movie’s creepiness.

And boy, does this movie look crappy and not scary It looks completely unimaginative, like any other teen horror film with the “careful what you wish for” moral. The trailer is riddled with clichés, from the blonde popular girl bullying the awkward but angry brunette girl to magical Asian murder box to hilariously specific curses. It has so many clichés that the film already has its own page on TVTropes.org.

Infinitely worse, the main character has a helpful Asian friend to explain how the box works (yeeeeeesh). I don’t trust this film to develop that character as anything other than as a prop, a device to move the plot forward. The horror genre is particularly prone to relying on terribly racist stereotype, and Mystic Asian (a cousin of The Magical Negro) is a really bad one. Isn’t it 2017? Shouldn’t we be past this? Aren’t we better than this?

Pass.

 

  1. Granny of the Dead (Limited)

“Regular guy Ed (Marcus Carroll) awakes one morning to find that his Grandmother has become one of the living dead. While trapped in his home Ed tries to survive the day, keep his house zombie free, stay alive and save the day.”

The very first frame of this trailer is placard informing you that this movie was produced by the director that gifted Sharknado to the world. It is a calculated move, and much appreciated because now I know exactly what kind of movie to expect.

Granny of the Dead looks like a low-budget rip-off of Shaun of the Dead but with old people zombies thrown in. On the one hand, there are waaaaay worse movies to rip-off than Shaun of the Dead; on the other, those are pretty big shoes to fill. But I kind of love it? It could work out really well! There is a lot of potential horror-comedy to explore with elderly zombies, and maybe quite a few nuanced points.

It looks cheesy and silly and gory, which suits me just fine. Especially with that hilarious Jurassic Park reference at the end of the trailer there. I definitely want to give this movie a watch.

 

July 21

  1. Kuso (Limited)

“Events unfold after a devastating earthquake in Los Angeles.”

That plot description seems like…an understatement, given that trailer.

Kuso a body-horror comedy film directed by Flying Lotus, aka Steven Ellison, a DJ, rapper, artist, and (very) experimental filmmaker. From what I’ve gathered from several reviews, this film was made to be the grossest film ever.

After I heard about this movie showing at Sundance, I didn’t have any desire to see this. The trailer doesn’t really change my stance. Gross-out movies that look like Monty-Python-film-meets-a-bad-acid-trip don’t much appeal to me.

Not that Kuso doesn’t have any artistic merit. As Chris Plante over at The Verge put it, “[Kuso] is often quite literally a load of shit. But that can be comfortingly frank when it feels like the world is on fire.” Emma Piper-Burket wrote for RogerEbert.com that “Frank Ellison has created the first midnight masterpiece of the 21st century.”

But then again, Variety went after the film, saying that, “Kuso can only strike most spectators as unnecessary further proof that infantile behavior from adults is as tedious as it is annoying.”

I’ll sit this one out. If any of you figure out what it means, let me know.

 

  1. The Gracefield Incident (Limited)

“Matthew Donovan, a video game editor, embeds an iPhone camera into his prosthetic eye to secretly record and document a weekend with friends in a luxurious mountain top cabin. The weekend takes a terrifying turn when a meteorite crashes the party forcing everyone to face the darkest, screaming nightmare while somehow connecting life, love, and loss in a twist of fear.”

WHY WOULD YOU TOUCH THE METEOR???

Sorry, I couldn’t help that outburst. I can’t stand it when people act stupidly in horror movies, like touching some unidentified substance that came from a freaking meteorite. Wouldn’t it be hot to the touch? Wouldn’t you be worried about radiation? Have you never seen a single science-fiction or horror movie where bad shit happened because of meteors?

With all that out of my system, let me say that this looks like an unimaginative new take on several alien encounter movies, shaky cam and all. That corn field scene is straight outta Signs and I couldn’t suppress an eye roll at that scene. But I will give points to how The Gracefield Incident puts the camera inside a man’s fake eyeball. I have never seen it done like that before.

I’ll pass.

 

  1. Awaken the Shadowman (Limited)

“After the mysterious disappearance of their mother, estranged brothers reunite and discover an unknown supernatural force.”

Horror movies about cults can mine great material and create chilling stories, as can movies about a mother turning against her child. The horror genre is full of them. Obviously, Awaken the Shadowman is aiming for something in that vein.

But I don’t think it will succeed.

Awaken the Shadowman might have been able to accomplish a lot, but not with that terrible acting and cartoonishly weird and evil-esque cult members. Also, why show the terrible, CGI’ed Shadowman in the trailer? Now I really don’t want to see this movie. Not only do I know now that the monster is real, but that it’s not scary. Way to showcase your major faults in the trailer.

 

  1. Killing Ground (Limited)

“A couples’ camping trip turns into a frightening ordeal when they stumble across the scene of a horrific crime.”

Finally! One of the Sundance horror films I actually wanted to see! It received rave reviews from its Sundance screening, where the general consensus was that Killing Ground is scary, brutal, and artfully made. It’s not shallowly gory or horrifically violent for violence’s sake—the violence has narrative purpose. Dennis Harvey over at Variety said the film, “Transcends the clichés even as the film uses plenty of familiar tropes.” David Rooney at The Hollywood Reporter said that Killing Ground is, “Basically 88 minutes’ worth of good reasons not to seek tranquil solitude in Australia’s beautiful nature reserves…a blunt, brutally effective survival tale distinguished by the parallel suspense tracks of its non-chronological structure.”

Granted, a well-cut trailer can sell just about anything, but this looks good! Who knew that actual acting and careful attention to tension-building would work?

 

July 28

  1. It Stains the Sands Red (Limited)

“In the throes of a zombie apocalypse, a troubled woman from Las Vegas with a dark past finds herself stranded in the desert with a lone and ravenous zombie on her tail.”

One thing even a good trailer can’t fake is a solid story, which It Stains the Sands Red seems to have in spades. As far as zombie/survival horror goes, this is one hell of a premise, like Walkabout meets Dawn of the Dead meets It Follows. We’ve seen zombie movies become complicated by harsh terrain, but never so elegantly as this film promises. Or so I suspect.

This looks like it has potential! It Stains the Sands Red might actually be good. I’m actually kind of invested in that poor woman’s success. And the trailer made me jump a few times! That zombie is giving me serious Romero vibes, which is always a good thing. This movie has all the makings of a great zombie film, which the genre has been sorely lacking recently. I can’t wait to see it!

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