2017 in Review: The Best of SyFy


Continuing my look back at the best of 2017, today is the day that I reveal my picks for the best SyFy movies and performances of the previous year!

But before I do that, a plea to the SyFy Network.  I make this plea every year and it never does any good.  It probably won’t do any good this year.  But still, I’m going to make it.  SyFy, give us more original films!  From a business point of view, I can understand why SyFy shifted their focus from movies to episodic television.  But I’m not a business person!  I’m a movie lover, one who has wonderful memories of when every weekend would bring another gloriously over-the-top SyFy movie.

Those were wonderful days and it’s sad that the only time that I get to relive them is either during Shark Week or during October.

Seriously, SyFy — give us more original movies!

With that in mind, here are my picks for the best of 2017 SyFy:

(All credits are based on what’s listed at the imdb.  If anyone has been incorrectly credited or left out, please leave a comment and I will correct the mistake.)

Best PictureHouse of the Witch (produced by Neil Elman, Margaret Huddleston, Bryan Sexton)

This haunted house movie was effectively creepy and featured some unexpectedly starting imagery.  Runners-up (and it was a close race): Trailer Park Shark, Sharknado 5, and The Sandman.

Best Director — Griff Furst for Trailer Park Shark

The idea of sharks attacking a trailer park sounds like a huge joke but Furst crafted it into a compelling and entertaining story that celebrated redneck ingenuity.

Best Actor — Ian Ziering in Sharknado 5

The fifth time is the charm as Ziering gives his best performance so far as the chainsaw-wielding Finn.

Best Actress — Haylie Duff in The Sandman

Duff brings some much-needed gravity to the role of a formerly irresponsible aunt trying to save her niece from a monster made of sand.

Best Supporting Actor — Jason London in Mississippi River Sharks and Dennis Haskins in Trailer Park Shark

As much as I tried, I simply could not make a choice between London’s comedic performance (as himself) and Dennis Haskins’s villainous turn.  So, we have a tie!

Best Supporting Actress — Shae Smolik in The Sandman

As the girl being haunted by the Sandman, Smolik gave a refreshingly realistic performance.

Best Screenplay — Neil Elman for House of the Witch

This is the third year in a row that Neil Elman has won in this category.

Best Cinematography — Dane Lawing for House of the Witch

House of the Witch feature some truly haunting images.  In my review, I raved about one shot in particular, of a pickup truck driving across the desolate landscape in the middle of the night.

Best Costumes — Mary-Sue Morris for Empire of the Sharks and Kendra Terpenning for Neverknock

Another tie.  Empire of the Sharks proved that, just because the world’s ending, that doesn’t mean you can’t look good,  Neverknock’s costumes made good use of the Halloween setting, especially with Lola Flannery’s devil costume.

Best Editing — Anna Florit and Ryan Michelle for Sharknado 5

In 2017, Sharknado 5 took us on a trip around the world, offered up nonstop action, and there was never a boring moment.

Best Makeup — Madeleine Botha for Empire of the Sharks

Again, just because the world’s ending, that doesn’t mean you can’t look good.

Best Score — Andrew Morgan Smith for Trailer Park Shark

The score brought the bayou, the trailer park, and the shark to life!

Best Production Design — Anthony Stabley and Dana Rice for House of the Witch

Seriously, that house was so creepy!

Best Sound — Dylan Blount, Leandro Cassan, Jonathan Iglecias , Mitchell Kohen, Chris Polczinski, Mike Varela for House of the Witch

It wasn’t just the way the house looked in House of the Witch that made it a creepy place.  It was also the way that every sound in the background could have just been someone stumbling around or it could have been the witch about to jump out and rip off someone’s fingers.

Best Visual Effects — Craig Bassuk, Sasha Burrow, Yancy Calzada, Glenn Campbell , Yolanda Charlo Rodriguez, Aine Graham, John Karner, Tammy Klein, Mark Kochinski , Kevin Lane, Christian McIntire, James Payfer, Richard A. Payne, Paul Runyan, Chris Simmons, Scott Wheeler, Aaron Witlin,
Al Magliochetti for Sharknado 5

Keep those sharks flying!

Tomorrow, my look back at 2017 continues with my list of good things that I saw on television last year (not counting, of course, all of the good things that I just mentioned in this post).

Previous entries in the TSL’s Look Back at 2017:

  1. 2017 in Review: Top Ten Single Issues by Ryan C
  2. 2017 in Review: Top Ten Series by Ryan C
  3. 2017 In Review: Top Ten Collected Edition (Contemporary) by Ryan C
  4. 2017 In Review: Top Ten Collected Editions (Vintage) by Ryan C
  5. 2017 in Review: Top Ten Graphic Novels By Ryan C
  6. 25 Best, Worst, and Gems I saw in 2017 by Valerie Troutman
  7. My Top 15 Albums of 2017 by Necromoonyeti
  8. 2017 In Review: Lisa Marie’s Picks For the 16 Worst Films of 2017
  9. 2017 In Review: Lisa Marie’s Final Post About Twin Peaks: The Return (for now)
  10. 2017 in Review: Lisa Marie’s 14 Favorite Songs of 2017

 

Cleaning Out The DVR: Empire of the Sharks (dir by Mark Atkins)


(Hi there!  So, as you may know because I’ve been talking about it on this site all year, I have got way too much stuff on my DVR.  Seriously, I currently have 178 things recorded!  I’ve decided that, on February 1st, I am going to erase everything on the DVR, regardless of whether I’ve watched it or not.  So, that means that I’ve now have only have a month to clean out the DVR!  Will I make it?  Keep checking this site to find out!  I recorded Empire of the Sharks, off of SyFy on August 5th, 2017!)

Welcome to the future!  It’s very wet.

That’s to be expected, of course.  In fact, now that 98% of the world is underwater, we should probably be surprised that the future isn’t more wet than it actually is.  What survives of humanity now lives on floating, makeshift communities.  Some of them are doing better than others, of course.

A warlord floats out there.  His name is Ian Fien (John Savage).  With the help of his main henchman, Mason Scrimm (Jonathan Pienaar), Fien has several communities under his grip.  Everyone is required to pay Fien his tribute.  Failing to do so means getting attacked by the sharks that Scrimm has under his control.

(Once 98% of your planet is underwater, you learn not to laugh at the possibility of being eaten by a shark.)

However, Fien has finally gone too far.  He’s kidnapped Willow (Ashley de Lange), the daughter of a shark caller who may have inherited her family’s ability to control the sharks.  Her boyfriend, Timor (Jack Armstrong), sets out to rescue Willow but it quickly turns out that he’s not going to be able to do it alone.  Fien is simply too powerful and his fortress too well-defended by both men and sharks.  Timor is going to have to travel to a floating bar and recruit a team of misfits to help him both rescue Willow and free his people from Fien’s tyranny.

If the plot of Empire of the Sharks sounds familiar, that’s because it’s a prequel to 2016’s Planet of the Sharks.  It’s also an Asylum film.  Of course, The Asylum is best-known for the Sharknado franchise but I think that, if they don’t also develop a Planet of the Sharks franchise, they’ll be missing out on a huge opportunity.  One of the things that I liked about both Planet and Empire was the amount of effort that was put into creating the future.  Each floating community is its own little world and full of details that will reward sharp-eyed viewers.

(I know that some people online complained that everyone looked too good, considering that they were living in a post-apocalypse wasteland.  That may be true but here’s something to consider.  Do you really want to spend 90 minutes watching ugly people?)

Anyway, I enjoyed Empire of the Sharks.  The movie is pure fun.  (Just the fact that the main villains are named Fein and Scrimm should tell you a lot about the film’s sense of humor.)  It’s a cheerfully crazy movie, featuring CGI sharks and a nicely demented performance from John Savage.  Hopefully, during this year’s shark week, we’ll get a third installment in the Planet of the Sharks franchise.

 

Cleaning Out The DVR: House of the Witch (dir by Alex Merkin)


(Hi there!  So, as you may know because I’ve been talking about it on this site all year, I have got way too much stuff on my DVR.  Seriously, I currently have 178 things recorded!  I’ve decided that, on February 1st, I am going to erase everything on the DVR, regardless of whether I’ve watched it or not.  So, that means that I’ve now have only have a month to clean out the DVR!  Will I make it?  Keep checking this site to find out!  I recorded House of the Witch, off of SyFy on October 7th, 2017!)

Let’s say that you’re a teenager and you’re living in a small, rural town.  There’s not really much to do, other than making out in pickup trucks and hanging out at the local diner.

However, there is a haunted house.

Of course, the official story is that the house isn’t haunted because everyone knows that there’s no such thing as ghosts.  That said, the house does have a long and somewhat infamous history.  And everyone knows that going anywhere near the house would probably be considered to be trespassing.  In fact, one of your classmates is currently missing.  He was last seen talking to two girls who dared him to pry the address off of the house’s front door.

So, it’s Halloween night.  And you’re living in a small town and there’s not a whole lot to do.

So, the question is: would you break into the haunted house?

Now, I know a lot of you are probably saying that there’s no way you would break into that house.  You’re too smart for that!  No way would you break the law and risk your lives just so you could go inside a condemned house!  You’re just going to go home early, do your homework, and get some sleep so you can wake up rested and ready for school on November 1st!

That’s what people say but we all know that’s not true.  If I found myself in that situation, I would totally break into that house and so would you.  Let’s just be honest here.  It’s fun to take chances.  It’s fun to get scared on Halloween, especially when your best friends are the ones who are scaring you.  Even more importantly, it’s fun to think about how, for years afterward, you can brag about how you spent the night in a haunted house and you survived!

It’s human nature.  We all want to touch the freshly painted wall.  We all want to see the movies that were not supposed to watch.  And we all want to break into the haunted house on Halloween.

House of the Witch is wonderfully creepy little movie about a group of teenagers who give into their natural instincts and break into a house on Halloween.  Needless to say, the house turns out to be even more haunted than they were led to believe.  In fact, the house is home to an ancient witch.  Soon, everyone is trapped in the house and being hunted down one-by-one.  Blood is spilled.  Fingers are lost.  Faces are infected with … something.

The storyline may sound simple but it’s also wonderfully effective and atmospheric.  The dilapidated house is a truly frightening location and it just gets more frightening as the film progresses.  By the end of the movie, I was looking over my shoulder to make sure that there weren’t any witches creeping around my living room.  (Fortunately, there weren’t.)  The film does a great job of keeping the viewer off-balance.  Even though you know that damn witch is going to be behind every corner, you still jump when she suddenly pops up.

I liked the whole look of the film.  Early on in the film, there’s a wonderful overhead shot of a pickup truck heading towards the house and the scene perfectly captures not only the creepiness of Halloween but also the emptiness of life in the nearby small town.  Seeing the truck driving past empty and endless fields, it was easy to understand why the film’s characters were drawn to that cursed house.  In a landscape defined by nothing, that house and its infamous reputation was at least something.

All in all, this was a great film for Halloween.

 

Cleaning Out The DVR: The Sandman (dir by Peter Sullivan)


(Hi there!  So, as you may know because I’ve been talking about it on this site all year, I have got way too much stuff on my DVR.  Seriously, I currently have 189 things recorded!  I’ve decided that, on January 15th, I am going to erase everything on the DVR, regardless of whether I’ve watched it or not.  So, that means that I’ve now have only have a month to clean out the DVR!  Will I make it?  Keep checking this site to find out!  I recorded The Sandman off of the SyFy on October 14th!)

Madison (Shae Smolik) is a little girl who appears to have some issues.

For instance, her father just died under the most mysterious of circumstances.  One of the last things that he did before he died was get paranoid when a police car drove by him.  He was carrying a gun when he died, as well.  Also, he died right in front of Madison.

Madison ends up at the hospital, where she has violent nightmares and struggles so much with the doctors and the orderlies that she has to be strapped down.  Since both of her parents are dead, a call is made to her Aunt Claire (Haylie Duff).  Claire is willing to adopt Madison but Child Protective Services is a bit less enthusiastic.  Claire is unmarried and hasn’t always been the most responsible adult.  She currently works as a photographer, taking pictures of aspiring Bettie Pages in her garage.  Can Claire not only prove herself to be a good mother but also solve the mystery of what happened to Madison’s father?

You probably read that plot description and thought to yourself, “That sounds like a typical Lifetime film.”  And certainly, there is a bit of Lifetime to be found in this SyFy movie.  Peter Sullivan has produced, written, and directed several films that have appeared on both SyFy and Lifetime.  Haylie Duff is a regular Lifetime actress.  For a financially struggling photographer, Claire certainly does live in a nice, big house, which is one of the most familiar signs that you might be watching Lifetime film.

However, make no doubt about it, this is definitely not a Lifetime film.

You see, the reason why Madison is a nightmare to deal with it is because she’s linked to a monster.  The reason why Madison is an orphan is because the monster killed her father.  And now that Madison is living with Claire, the monster is coming for both of them.

And what a monster!  Seriously, the Sandman is about as frightening as a SyFy monster can get.  As you can probably guess from the name, he’s made of sand. The best way to avoid him, of course, would be to go some place where there is no sand but good luck with that.  SAND IS EVERYWHERE!  The Sandman pops up whenever Madison is in danger.

Nosy neighbor wants to know about Madison’s father?  Here comes the Sandman, pouring in through the kitchen faucet!

Hospital doctor planning on recommending that Madison be institutionalized?  Sandman!

In fact, anyone who poses a threat to Madison, whether real or perceived, can expect a visit from the Sandman.

Tobin Bell plays Valentine, a government agent who thinks that Madison could be weaponized.  He’s probably right but seriously, everyone should know better than to mess with the Sandman.  That said, it’s always fun when Tobin Bell is in one of these movies.  He’s just such a good villain.

The Sandman was a good mix of Lifetime family melodrama and SyFy horror.  As the aunt and the seriously disturbed niece, Haylie Duff and Shae Smolik were believable and sympathetic and the Sandman made for a memorable monster.  Watch this movie the next time you’re planning on spending a weekend at the beach.

Cleaning Out The DVR: Neverknock (dir by Sheldon Wilson)


(Hi there!  So, as you may know because I’ve been talking about it on this site all year, I have got way too much stuff on my DVR.  Seriously, I currently have 190 things recorded!  I’ve decided that, on January 15th, I am going to erase everything on the DVR, regardless of whether I’ve watched it or not.  So, that means that I’ve now have only have a month to clean out the DVR!  Will I make it?  Keep checking this site to find out!  I recorded NeverKnock off of the SyFy on October 16th!)

Sitting in a small town, there’s a deserted and dilapidated house.  The address is 59 Oakwood Lane.  In 1986, three teenagers were found dead in the house.  Carved in their backs were three words: “Never never knock.”  Forty years later, the murders remain unsolved but everyone has heard the legend.  If you knock on the door, the Never Knock Creature comes to life and uses your own fears to kill not only you but also all of your friends…

Okay, I know what you’re thinking.  “Easy solution to this problem!  Don’t knock on the freaking door!”

But let’s be honest here.  If I lived in that town, I probably wouldn’t knock on that door but I’d sure as Hell beg all of my friends to do it.  After all, who wouldn’t want to see what would happen?  When I was in college, there was a legend that one of the hallways of my dorm was haunted by Wicked Wanda.  They said Wicked Wanda could kill you but I still begged my roommate to go look for her.  Urban legends are like wet paint signs.  You have to encourage people you know to test them.

Needless to say, that is what happens in Neverknock.  Grace (Dominque Provost-Chalkley) is the new girl in town.  She’s still struggling to recover from a personal tragedy.  Her best friend, Leah (Jodelle Ferland), invites her to spend Halloween night with her and her friends.  Grace agrees but she makes the mistake of bringing along her bratty younger sister, Jenna (Lola Flanery).  Jenna dresses up like the devil for Halloween and she soon proves that it’s not a totally inappropriate costume by knocking on the door to 59 Oakwood Lane.  The Never Knock Creature comes to life, Jenna promptly disappears, and Leah, Grace, and all their friends find themselves being stalked by a creature that uses their worst fears to kill them.

(So, if the Never Knock Creature came after me, I’d have to worry about heights, drowning, dogs, fire, deserted barns, dead wasps lying unseen in the carpet, odd numbers, and the wire popping out of my favorite bra and stabbing me.  Good to know.)

Anyway, I liked Neverknock.  As is typical of Sheldon Wilson’s SyFy film, Neverknock has a ton of atmosphere and the pace never lags.  Wilson changes things up a little in this movie by having the fright scenes occur during both the day and the night.  For some reason, to me, it’s even scarier when someone gets attacked by an evil creature during the middle of the day.  Even with the sun out and hundreds of people around, there’s no escape from the Never Knock Creature.  Admittedly, Neverknock‘s characters are not exactly the most complex group of people to show up in a horror film.  For the most part, they’re just teenagers who don’t understand that importance to staying together in one group while being stalked by a demonic force.  But the cast is made up of appealing performers and veteran actor Nicholas Campbell makes a welcome appearance.  You don’t want to see any of them die and that’s really all that a movie like this demands.

And finally, the Never Knock Creature is seriously creepy!  When he first responds to Jenna knocking on that door … AGCK!

All in all, this was a good SyFy horror film.

Cleaning Out The DVR: Stickman (dir by Sheldon Wilson)


(Hi there!  So, as you may know because I’ve been talking about it on this site all year, I have got way too much stuff on my DVR.  Seriously, I currently have 191 things recorded!  I’ve decided that, on January 15th, I am going to erase everything on the DVR, regardless of whether I’ve watched it or not.  So, that means that I’ve now have only have a month to clean out the DVR!  Will I make it?  Keep checking this site to find out!  I recorded Stickman off of the SyFy on October 21st!)

When she was seven years old, Emma (Hayley Law) was accused of two terrible crimes.

The authorities say that Emma murdered both her sister and her mother.  She’s spent the last ten years in an institution, haunted by nightmares of the demonic monster that she claims committed the murders.  According to Emma, the Stickman comes for you if you make the mistake of reading a poem aloud.  The only way to keep the Stickman at bay is to draw a picture of him every night.  Of course, no one believes Emma.  At the institution, she has to regularly deal with smug doctors who refuse to accept that she’s being stalked by an unstoppable monster.  Obviously, they’ve never watched It Follows or that HBO documentary about Slenderman.

When 17 year-old Emma is finally released from the institution, she is sent to a half-way house where she is to live with 5 other girls.  They’ve all committed different crimes.  One of them is an arsonist.  Another one has a paranoid obsession with the dark web.  Emma’s the only one to have been accused of murder.  Even though Emma is assured that, as far as the other girls are concerned, “their bark is worse than their bite,” she soon finds herself targeted by Liv (Zoe De Grand Maison).  Not only does Liv refuses to believe in Stickman but she also doesn’t want to live with a murderer.

(I have to admit that sounds kinda reasonable to me.)

Anyway, as you can probably guess, that poem gets read again.  And, on her first night of half-way house living, Emma has a nightmare about the Stickman.  However, this time, Stickman doesn’t just stay in her dreams.  Instead, Stickmsn shows up in the real world and starts killing people.  Emma thinks that she can find a way to stop Stickman if she returns to the hospital.  Liv, meanwhile, remains convinced that Stickman is a myth and somehow, Emma is responsible for it all…

Stickman was aired as a part of SyFy’s 31 Days of Halloween.  I really wish that SyFy would show more original films.  Years ago, they used to show a new movie every weekend.  Now, we only get original movies during Shark Week and October.  (And, this October, SyFy devoted one weekend time slot to Jeepers Creepers 3, directed by convicted and admitted pedophile, Victor Salva.  Seriously, what the Hell was up with that?)  Original SyFy films, like Stickman, are always fun to watch and live tweet so it really does seem, to me, that SyFy is missing an opportunity by not showing more of them.

Anyway, I enjoyed Stickman.  Sheldon Wilson has directed several SyFy films and he obviously know how to create and maintain a properly ominous atmosphere.  Stickman is full of dark shadows and sudden jump scares and, even if he is a bit of a familiar monster, the Stickman is genuinely creepy.  Though none of the characters are particularly complex, everyone goes a good job making enough of an impression that you can keep everyone straight.  If I really wanted to, I could probably devote another 500 words to picking apart the plot and citing every logical inconsistency but you know what?  That would be totally missing the point.  This is a horror movie.  It doesn’t have to always make sense, it just has to be entertaining.  In the end, Stickman was a fun movie for Halloween.  I wish SyFy would make more like it.

Let’s Talk About Sharknado 5 (dir by Anthony C. Ferrante)


I just watched the latest installment in the Sharknado franchise on SyFy and what can I say?  I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone who hasn’t seen the film yet so I’ll just say this:

Sharknado 5 is the best Sharknado yet!

Seriously, it’s amazing when you think about it.  The annual premiere of the latest Sharknado film has literally become a national holiday.  If you were to judge solely by what was happening on twitter tonight, you would be totally justified in thinking that literally everyone in the world was watching Sharknado 5.  Who would have thought that a franchise about sharks in a tornado would become a pop cultural milestone?  At this time, when the country seems so divided, Sharknado 5 brought us all together.  That, in itself, is no small accomplishment.

But beyond that, these film are consistently and surprisingly entertaining.  Considering that it was the fifth film in this particular franchise, Sharknado 5 felt remarkably fresh and creative.  Have no doubt,  Sharknado 5 had everything that you would expect from a Sharknado film.  You had Ian Ziering grimacing as he manfully beat up sharks.  You had Tara Reid acting like a super hero.  To the delight of many on twitter, Cassie Scerbo returned as Nova, who is now the leader of the Sharknado Sisterhood.

(My friend Ian Rice tweeted me, during the movie: “What is that (the Sharknado Sisterhood)?”

“The Sharknado sisterhood follows and monitors sharknados across the world,” I tweeted back.

After a minute or two, Ian replied: “I’m sorry I asked, LMB.”)

Of course, the script was full of one liners and deliberately bad puns, all of which were delivered with a straight face by the dedicated members of the cast.  There were plenty of homages and references to other films, including Raiders of the Lost Ark and Back to the Future.  The special effects were cheap in the most likable way imaginable.  And yes, there were celebrity cameos but — as opposed to what happened with Sharknado 4, Sharknado 5 did not allow those camoes to distract from the story being told.  Yes, Abby Lee Miller got eaten by a shark.  Yes, Geraldo Rivera got sucked out of a blimp.  But Sharknado 5 never lost its focus.

And what was that focus?  Well, basically, Finn accidentally created another sharknado.  No big deal, right?  I mean, Finn specializes in destroying those right?  Unfortunately, this time, Finn and April’s son, Gil, got sucked into the sharknado.  So, for most of the film, Finn and April were chasing the Sharknado across the world while Gil spun around inside of it.

Of course, while Finn chased the latest sharknado, the world was being destroyed by flying sharks.  A lot of famous landmarks ended up getting destroyed.  Actually, at the rate that these movies go, I’m shocked that there are any monuments or memorials left.  It was not an easy life for Finn but, fortunately, the Pope showed up and gave him a blessed chainsaw and…

Okay, never mind!  Are you expecting a movie about a tornado full of sharks to make any sense!?  What’s important is that the film is a lot of fun and Ian Ziering and Tara Reid, to their credit, are still going out of their way to make their characters vaguely credible.

What sets Sharknado 5 apart from the other Sharknado films is that, about an hour into the film (80 minutes if you’re watching with commercials), Sharknado 5 takes a very, very dark turn.  People who you don’t expect to die, die.  Places that you don’t expect to see destroyed end up getting destroyed.  It all ends with an homage to one final film and a cliffhanger.  You don’t want to miss it!

And I’m certainly not going to want to miss Sharknado 6.