The Best Movies of 2017 You Probably Haven’t Seen

super dark times

(Welcome to The Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, a series that takes a look at slightly more obscure, under-the-radar, or simply under-appreciated movies. In this edition, we take a look at some of the best films of 2017 that didn’t make a critical splash, earned next to nothing at the box-office, and aren’t even being touted as among the year’s most underrated.)

2017, like many of the years before it, has been a pretty great time at the movies. You’re reading a movie site so that isn’t news to you, but while the other writers here focus on the best films of the year, the most successful, the most underrated, and the ones with the most gif-able dance sequences, my job remains the same – highlight the good to great ones that have slipped under the radar and deserve more attention. This column typically looks at movies from years and decades past, but this time I’m focusing on those released over the last twelve months with little fanfare and even smaller reaction.

Keep reading for a look at six of the best 2017 movies that you probably haven’t seen.

among the living

Among the Living

Three young friends fill their days with daydreams, pranks, and imaginative outbursts, but they find that even fun has its limits when they bail on school to go wander a long-abandoned studio lot. Props and sound stages litter the area, but something is amiss. The deserted landscape isn’t exactly empty, a creepily-masked figure drives into view, and a bound, gagged, and terrified woman is trapped in his trunk.

Picture an Amblin Entertainment movie meets a hard R-rated horror film, and you’ll have an idea what to expect here. There’s a playful sensibility to the three kids, each of them average and aimless little punks, and the thought of exploring an empty studio is an enviable experience for any now-grown movie lover. When the horror kicks in it does so swiftly and brutally, and the bloody violence is cringe-worthy and wet. There’s tension and suspense to spare, and the third act ramps up the intensity taking things further than you might expect for a teen-oriented tale.

At the risk of being labeled a cheater, this first entry isn’t even a 2017 release. I’m sorry. It’s a French horror thriller from 2014 that for whatever reason didn’t reach U.S. shores (outside of film festivals) until earlier this year when it premiered on the Shudder streaming service. The delay’s an odd one as it’s from writers/directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury, the duo behind the gory 2007 breakout hit, Inside. Even stranger, the same thing happened to their second film, 2011’s Livid, which still hasn’t been released in the U.S. But hey, at least their Leatherface reboot is widely available on Blu-ray.

Watch Among the Living on Amazon via Shudder.

bokeh

Bokeh

A young couple on vacation in Iceland awake one morning to discover they’re all alone. Their hotel is empty, the small city appears deserted, and attempts to reach family back home go unanswered. As the days pass their efforts to find answers raise questions about their situation, their beliefs, and their chances of survival in an empty world.

This meditative feature is one part Icelandic tourism video, one part extended Twilight Zone episode, and one part existential exploration of our core beliefs and truths. It’s a beautifully-filmed look at personal themes both important and uncomfortable, and the end result is a film that resembles an engaging dream every bit as much as it does a harrowing nightmare. The film moves at a very deliberate pace, and its interest in human revelations over narrative ones might test some viewers, but the journey is well worth the patience required.

Maika Monroe (It Follows) and Matt O’Leary (Live Free or Die Hard) anchor the film as the only characters on screen for most of its running time, and they make it easy to buy into their relationship and the diverging reactions to the world they find themselves in. While the story and characters hold viewers rapt, they’re competing with the stunningly gorgeous Icelandic landscape which paints a breathtaking backdrop for the unfolding mystery and drama. The destination may not be everyone’s speed, but no one will be complaining about the view.

Buy Bokeh on DVD from Amazon or rent via Amazon Video.

boys in the trees

Boys in the Trees

It’s Halloween night in late ’90s Australia, and as younger kids go house to house in search of free candy, the older teens go searching for something less tangible. One of them finds just that after crossing paths with a boy he used to consider a friend. Paths diverged, and while Corey grew more popular and assured Jonah became a target. The two reconnect while walking among the jack-o-lantern-lit streets, but memories of their youth haunt their reminiscing.

Like the French film at the top of the list, this Australian import actually released prior to 2017, but it premiered in North America this year so it counts. I said it counts! The film released quietly on Netflix, and while it deserves more eyeballs, it’s perhaps fitting for such a hushed tale. The film’s trappings, and to an extent its marketing, reveal a terrifically-crafted Halloween atmosphere with the sights and smells of Fall drifting from the screen and into our senses. It succeeds beautifully in transporting viewers into a specific time and place, and for many of us it will be a reflection into our own youth.

The core narrative feels a bit like a YA Twilight Zone, but the emotions it mines are ones felt long into adulthood. The loss of innocence, guilt over past actions, and the sadness that comes with realized regret all play into the drama of two friends traversing what was and what could have been. There’s a dark beauty here and an even darker anguish, but while surface details offer the sheen of horror the substance beneath is pure humanity.

Watch Boys In the Trees on Netflix.

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