As 2017 comes to a close, we break down the very best monsters from the year’s film, television, video games, or wherever!
2017 has been a phenomenal year for not only horror, but also sorts of genre content. Whether television, film, video games, or even comics, the year has been full of new and exciting tributes to the supernatural. While there have never been more options for people to check it, it’s sometimes easy to get overwhelmed or completely miss a great program because there’s too much out there. In lieu of this, we’ve culled the many different forms of 2017’s media and put together a list of the very best monsters that came forward this year. Whether they were in a huge blockbuster film or a niche comic, here are the creatures that gave us the most joy in 2017.
The Mind Flayer – Stranger Things
The arrival of the second season of Stranger Things was one of the most anticipated television events of 2017. Miraculously, the series continues to rise to the occasion and somehow tops the magic that it created back in its debut season (which is high praise). If the show’s first year introduces the audience and the residents of Hawkins, Indiana to “The Upside Down,” then season two spends time with the Big Bad of the shadow world.
The Mind Flayer is all sorts of terrifying and it’s the sort of creation that would even make Lovecraft shudder. If the Mind Flayer’s disturbing appearance wasn’t enough, the way that it’s able to take over people’s bodies is even more upsetting. The sequence where the Mind Flayer “invades” Will is one of the most frightening from the show’s second season and also develops the powerful hive mind capabilities of the dark Mind Flayer. The most disturbing thing here is that it looks like the show is far from down with this beast and that he’ll back with a vengeance in season three.
The “Cannibals” – Channel Zero: No-End House
Channel Zero is the best anthology show that you’re not watching. Much like with American Horror Story, each new season tells an entirely new story, but unlike American Horor Story, Channel Zero sticks the landing and is consistently creepy throughout its entire season. The show’s second year deals with an elaborate, “living haunted house” that keeps a group of friends hostage.
Channel Zero finds a lot of different ways to be creative and in No-End House the monsters take the form of loved ones and familiar faces. These creatures that populate the fake mirror neighborhood of No-End House are known as cannibals and they survive by eating memories. It’s a thoroughly disturbing visual and the cannibals’ “memory food” has this weird pomegranate-esque quality. It’s all unique as well as a brilliant new take on how danger can hide in plain sight and the way that someone’s memories aren’t always reliable. Even without these creepy monsters, Channel Zero should be mandatory viewing for horror nuts.
Pennywise – IT
You guys ever hear of this one? Sure, IT hit super status this year and became one of the most popular films of 2017, something that’s a tremendous feat for a horror film. So while it may not be original to throw some more praise in the way of IT and Bill Skarsgård’s uncanny portrayal of the nighmare “clown,” there’s a reason that the film was so successful. It’s goddamn terrific.
What’s so fantastic about Skarsgård’s performance as Pennywise is how unpredictable he is. He’s not trying to be scary so much as he just wants to seem like he’s fun. It feels more like the Genie from Aladdin than it does one of the titans of horror, like Freddy Krueger or Michael Myers. It’s all of these specific details that make this portrayal of Pennywise so memorable and there’s no doubt that Skarsgård will only bring more to the table in Part 2.
“Calvin” – Life
Life is the hard-boiled sci-fi horror mash-up that Alien: Covenant should have been. Life works so well because it’s full of smart characters that in spite of doing the right thing in each situation they still are outsmarted by the growing alien organism. On that note, the ways in which “Calvin” evolves are alarming and glorious and they inject a real sense of danger into what’s going on. This alien is also just straight up brutal. He does not like people and it’s jarring to watch this cast of A-Listers get murdered.
Fun fact: There’s an unofficial fan theory that’s popular on the Internet that Calvin, the alien in question here, is actually the Venom symbiote from the Spider-Man series. While this is most certainly not true, there’s nothing to directly dispel this theory and the film is certainly a lot of fun if you imagine it as a weird puzzle piece of the Spider-Man universe.
The Werepony – Stan Against Evil
No one’s going to hold anything against you if you don’t watch Stan Against Evil. “Name Pun Titles” are the worst and they’re always a hurdle to get past. That being said, while Stan Against Evil isn’t perfect, it’s a pretty glowing love letter to horror cinema. It’s the perfect series to watch between new episodes of Ash Vs. The Evil Dead and John C. McGinley always delivers gold.
The best episode from the show’s latest season is “Curse of the Werepony,” which sees the series take on the typical werewolf transformation story. The show subverts this in the best way possible by having the afflicted victim turn into a pony instead of a wolf and for whatever reason it’s just so damn funny. Once you see a man go all American Werewolf in London and turn into a pony, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.
Marcus – Ouija: Origin of Evil
This one is a series shock, but it’s a testament to how with horror, what’s important is the director and not necessarily the story. The original Ouija film is nothing to get excited about and it’s the generic sort of PG-13 mass-produced horror that comes and goes. However, the film’s sequel takes a different approach and tells a whole new Ouijia-based story and brings on the always-amazing Mike Flanagan (Oculus, Gerald’s Game), who directs the hell out of this film.
The big threat in Origin of Evil is the spirit Marcus, who the film’s family summons. Marcus was an immigrant during World War II and experimented on by a twisted doctor that gives him a powerful, frightening rage. Every set piece in this film is frightening stuff but the way in which Marcus possesses and frightens the young girls in this film hits especially hard. This is one evil spirit that doesn’t hold back.
The Kaiju Monster – Colossal
Nacho Vigalondo is a madman genius and even his worst films deserve to be seen. Colossal is not perfect, but it’s an incredibly original, exciting premise for a film. Basically, whenever Anne Hathaway’s Gloria stands in a playground at 8:05 AM, a giant kaiju monster (think Godzilla) appears in Seoul. Gloria’s actions become the monster’s actions and as she flails around the playground, the monster wreaks havoc in Seoul.
The plot considerably thickens when Jason Sudeikis’ character causes a similar effect (but with a giant robot) when he enters the playground. The kaiju monster and the giant robot are the real dangers in this film, but Jason Sudekis also plays the slimiest asshole in this film and it’s great to see him excel as a bad guy. What follows is truly unlike anything else and it’s a story that’s all about addiction in the end, too. Vigalondo’s take on a giant kaiju looks great and is a true highlight of the year.
Mr. World – American Gods
Crispin Glover. That is all.
Seriously though, simply Glover’s name and this bonkers character design is really all you need to know that this is worth your time. On that note, anything that Bryan Fuller does is worth your time and it’s probably time to binge through Hannibal again if you recently haven’t. Fuller’s adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods is a homerun on all fronts and he not only brings some impossible visuals to life in this television show, but he also manages to elevate Gaiman’s source material, too.
Admittedly, Glover’s Mr. World is seen very sparingly throughout the first season of American Gods, but his appearance is so distinct that it’s impossible not to mention. In all honestly, Yetide Badaki’s Sex God, Bilquis, is probably the more fitting entry here. Take your pick, both of these “monsters” are super powerful and will take away your life in ways that you didn’t think were possible.
“Nicole” – The Exorcist
The Exorcist continues to quietly kick ass in its second season, but still manages to be one of the most satisfying horror programs on television. The show’s second season has had some serious fun as it plays around with both the audience and the characters’ perception of what’s real. This angle does the show a lot of favors, but there’s also a genuinely disturbing demon that’s present this year. The Exorcist’s first season dove into the film’s infamous Pazuzu, but this year introduces “Nicole” who’s the very worst kind of threat. She’s described as a demon that targets weak families who have lost children and are susceptible to grief. The demon attacks during these moments and takes advantage of the parents’ vulnerabilities. The full damage of this spirit has yet to be seen, but at this point it’s already messed with people’s minds and presented enough visceral visuals to earn a spot as one of the year’s best.
Jack Baker – Resident Evil 7
Resident Evil 7 was the return to form that the series desperately needed. The past few entries in the franchise had burned up the audience’s good will and a change was demanded. What follows is Resident Evil doing its best Texas Chain Saw Massacre impression with the game’s Baker family acting as the de facto hillbilly psychopaths.
Resident Evil 7 slows things down and really lets gamers get lost in the horrors of the Baker family. The most tragic story amongst the clan is probably what happens to Jack Baker. Every time he appears he’s more of a twisted shell of his former self and it’s a lot take in. Straight up monsters from previous games like Lickers or Regenerators might still be more frightening overall, but Jack Baker is still very much the stuff of nightmares.
“The Beast” – Split
There’s so much to love about Split and James McAvoy truly throws everything into his layered performances of 23 personalities that are all “trapped” within one body. Just watching McAvoy navigate through the tightrope walk of a performance of all of these different “people” is a sight to behold. Split does the smart thing by having these many voices continually tease one ultimate evil personality that’s hiding at the end of the tunnel. This effectively creates suspense through the film and when “The Beast” finally gets unleashed, man oh man, things get crazy. McAvoy’s character essentially turns into an animal at this point. He’s capable of bending steel and operates with almost a spider-like quality to his movements. It’s an incredible performance, which will surely only become deeper with the next chapter in the story, Glass.
The Saint of All Killers – Preacher
Look, the Saint of All Killers is too much for some people, but he’s a character that’s all about excess. He’s designed to be an invincible monolith of a threat. The first season of Preacher allows the character to fire his guns a bunch and prove what a spooky motherfucker he is, but the second season doubles down on the character. Audiences learn a whole lot more from the character’s past and he goes through a number of trials this year that are maybe even more impressive than what Jesse Custer has to get done. This year simultaneously made the Saint of All Killers more terrifying and more empathetic, which is pretty damn impressive.
The Chucky Brigade – The Cult of Chucky
The Child’s Play franchise has an insane amount of resilience and versatility. While other series come and die, the Chucky films continue to plus along. The series has experimented around a little with shifting the films’ priority from horror to comedy, but the latest installment, The Cult of Chucky, pleasantly embraces its horror roots. There’s not a whole lot to Cult of Chucky, but it wisely combines the killer doll idea with the mental institution trope and it finds real success. Chucky terrorizing an insane asylum is a delight, but the series also ups its game when it brings multiple Chuckys into the mix. Each of these Good Guy dolls has a different quirk to help distinguish them from each other, but they’re all equally murderous. The Chucky films have done a lot of scary things, but somehow it’s taken them this long to multiply the little guy and allow him to multi-task his murders.
Worldender – Rick and Morty
The way that the Rick and Morty writing staff describe Worldender is basically the perfect distillation of the character:
“If you think Thanos fucked Darkseid and, like, had a baby, and that baby then fucked some other giant creature monster, that’s Worldender”
He’s Thanos to the extreme, got it?
It’s a lot of fun to see Rick and Morty take on the Avengers and Justice League with their analogous Vindicators group. The show paints a real image of the genocidal horrors of Worldender (and even if it didn’t, his name is a big giveaway to what his whole deal is), but the character itself is barely present in the episode. So while Worldender is the official monster entry, the fellow Vindicators of Million Ants, Alan Rails, and Crocubot all deserve honorable mentions and make more of an actual impact in the entry.
Korg – Thor: Ragnarok
Who said that all of these monsters had to be scary? Thor: Ragnarok’s break-out character, Korg, is as laissez-faire as they come, but he’s still a sufficiently awesome character that deserves some attention. Korg might simply be around to help raise morale and stoically pontificate on the nature of existence, but he’s also the most memorable rock monster to come around in recent years. And if Korg really needed to frighten someone, the rough guys is probably capable of turning up the aggression.
And just for a little fun, here is what we considered to be the worst monster of 2017.
It’s a Tie: The Taheen – The Dark Tower and Mr. Hyde – The Mummy
Goodness gracious. It’s a little bonkers that in the same year some of the best Stephen King adaptations of all time were released, as well as one of the absolute worst. What’s even more crushing is that the culprit happens to be one of King’s most glorious texts, his Dark Tower series. There are too many things wrong with The Dark Tower movie to get into here, but the biggest what the fuck moment is in the form of Mid-World’s Taheen demons. These are likely the equivalent to the “low men” from the novels. The portrayal of these demons, who hide under human skin—complete with zippers—is outright laughable and the film never recovers from this point. It’s utterly confusing why this take is taken with these characters, but it’s one that just looks sloppy and doesn’t work.
Speaking of things that don’t work, remember that whole “Dark Universe” thing that was supposed to happen? This plan for a connected universe of Universal Monsters seems like a crazy fever dream now and a lot of that has to do with the big mistakes made in The Mummy. Tom Cruise’s take on gaining “mummy powers” is something else, but good Lord, Russell Crowe is also in this as Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde and it’s the worst thing. This guy mumbles through scenes and reduces this classic character to surly stereotypes. It’s such a disaster and one of the biggest misfires of the year.