BMD Picks: 2017’s Most Underrated Movies

As year end Best Of lists begin to roll out, we choose the titles we don't want to see excluded.

"Best Of" lists are hard to make, mostly because you almost always feel like you're forgetting to include one of your favorites (or have to exclude a title you truly love due to a calender having been that stacked with good shit). Happens to the best of us. However, that's why "Underrated" lists were invented, so we can recognize the movies we pretty much know aren't going to show up on many critics' Top Tens, and give them the props they deserve. 

Keeping that in mind, the BMD gang got together and decided to select the movies they thought were going to be left out of this conversation come the close of '17. Don't think of it so much as a "you guys got it wrong", as it is a "don't you forget about me" (cue the Simple Minds)...

Goon: Last Of the Enforcers (d. Jay Baruchel, w. Jesse Chabot & Jay Baruchel) 

It was surprising enough that the original Goon was so good; just a solid, fun sports story about a dummy with a heart of gold who happens to be super great at kicking asses in the hockey rink. There was no great expectation that a sequel (also the directorial debut of writer/star Jay Baruchel) would live up to that standard, so the fact that it might even surpass the original is outright shocking.

Essentially ripping off Rocky II and III (you don't see me complaining), Goon: Last of the Enforcers has all the heart of the original Goon, but adds way more violence and manages to move these characters forward in ways that are interesting enough to justify another story in this bizarre Canadian world. I’m not sure it was even meant to make much of a splash here in the States, but it would also be a huge shame if fans of the first somehow missed this great sequel. It’s not quite on the same level of many 2017 “Best Of” movies, but it’s an unexpected blast nonetheless. - Evan Saathoff

T2: Trainspotting (d. Danny Boyle, w. John Hodge) 

It’s no surprise T2: Trainspotting flew under many's radar. A sequel to a twenty-year-old cult film whose artistic impact far outweighed its actual success, amidst a glut of revivals offering little more than nostalgia? No wonder people slept on it. But they missed out, because T2 was much more than just a chance to hang with beloved characters again. Don’t get me wrong; it was was certainly that - the cast does sterling work revisiting their seminal roles with more miles on the odometer - but director Danny Boyle and writer John Hodge use that as a springboard from which to explore Edinburgh’s underworld with older, wiser eyes.

T2 uses nostalgia as a key theme, but upends it - maybe there were no “good old days,” it posits; maybe the “good old days” were actually kind of shit. Change is central to the film, depicted both through its characters - whose self-awareness and willingness to change define their story arcs - and the city of Edinburgh itself. Thanks to its eponymous Festival and the unstoppable march of capitalism, the city has lost much of its old character by the time Mark Renton returns, his old crew the last vestiges of its dirty past. But the new Edinburgh bears the same hollowness of spirit that drove Renton and friends to heroin in the old days. Nobody’s happy, but perhaps the comforting lie of nostalgia is enough to get you through.

A sequel more nuanced and self-reflective than T2 did not get released in 2017 (aside from maybe, maybe Alien: Covenant). Its multiple sequences of bravura filmmaking and/or performance are just a sweet chaser. - Andrew Todd 

Happy Death Day (d. Christopher Landon, w. Scott Lobdell) 

The long-standing rule of slasher films is that they couldn't be PG-13, because that severely cripples the "boobs and blood" traditions that, for some "fans", are the only reason to watch these things. But luckily, I am a grown adult and don't need to be titillated by a movie (well, not all of them) to enjoy it - even a slasher film. So I was incredibly delighted that the "Groundhog Day, but as a slasher" Blumhouse release Happy Death Day satisfied all my own requirements for an enjoyable slasher film: a memorable killer costume (check), some fun kills (check, even if they were often of the same person), and most important of all, a Final Girl I can really root for.

This is where the film shined most brightly, as Tree (Jessica Rothe, in an instant star-making performance) starts the film off as one slasher archetype - the bitchy blond girl - and by the end of it has become a classic Final Girl, who acts selflessly and uses her brain as well as her ability to duck and dodge her pursuer. The easiest critique one can levy at a body count film is that the characters are paper-thin, so to center one around someone essentially learning to be a better person is kind of genius, and proved that even a seasoned slasher vet such as myself can still be surprised. Bonus: it also finds time to let a genuine romance blossom between Tree and the requisite virginal nerd character, making this sort of the Princess Bride of slasher movies, in that it can satisfy fans of many genres at once. - Brian Collins 

Anna and The Apocalypse (d. John McPhail, w. Alan McDonald & Ryan McHenry)

You might be wondering why there’s a film that hasn’t gotten distribution yet on this list of picks, but the answer to that is in the question. We’re here talking about Anna and the Apocalypse because somehow in the year of our lord 2017 this film was passed up, and I want all of you ranting and raving about this until we get the damn movie on some screens!

A Christmas Zombie Musical sounds like one of the more ridiculous movie premises, but it takes that ridiculousness and runs with it in the most charming way possible. The music is catchy as hell, and somehow the film weaves that in with the very real stakes of the zombie apocalypse. You care about each of the characters despite each of them being completely archetypal, and who doesn’t want some blood with their Christmas? Anna and the Apocalypse has a cleverness to it while never once taking itself too seriously, and your Christmas homework is to talk about it on social media or a zombie Krampus is going to come pee in your fireplace. - Amelia Emberwing 

The Evil Within (d. & w. Andrew Getty)

In 2002, inventor, oil heir, businessman, and (alleged) meth enthusiast Andrew Getty decided he was going to make a horror movie. Originally titled The Storyteller, the film would tell the story of a special needs boy haunted by (and eventually driven to violence) by a series of terrifying visions. 

Getty spent the next thirteen years struggling to finish the film, and eventually died before work was completed on the project. For reasons that we're still not entirely clear on, the film's producer, Michael Luceri, stepped in to fine-tune the final product so that it could be released upon an unsuspecting populace in the year of our lord two-thousand and seventeen. 

This film really flew under the radar (we didn't cover it nearly enough on the site, and for that you have our sincere apologies), but you should definitely consider seeking it out. The Evil Within isn't exactly a good movie, but there's an undeniable, unhinged power to the thing that really needs to be seen to be believed. 

Also Michael Berryman's in it, and Michael Berryman fucks. - Scott Wampler 

Lost In London (d. & w. Woody Harrelson) 

This selection is kind of a cop-out, as the reason Woody Harrelson’s Lost In London is underrated is because it screened exactly once, ever. It was performed and filmed in real time in the middle of the night in the UK, and broadcast LIVE to theaters on January 19th, 2017. It has yet to be released on streaming or disc, and there is no way you can possibly, at this moment, view the film. So let this underrated pick double as a heads-up that whenever Harreslon sees fit to release this experiment, though some of the energy of knowing it’s happening live will be gone, this is a cinematic first that deserves attention and respect.

Once you can view it, you’ll discover that Lost In London is an After Hours-esque adventure, shot in one continuous take. The film follows Harrelson (playing himself) on “the worst night of (his) life” after a stage performance on London’s West End. A series of mishaps send the actor down public streets, through nightclubs, into vehicles, in and out of a dream sequence, for fuck’s sake. The camera never cuts, and it was all beamed to movie theaters as it was happening. That’s already amazing. But when you (eventually) watch it, bear in mind it is the first thing Woody Harrelson has ever written or directed. Many actors-turned-directors tend to start with, I dunno, a slightly lower hurdle than mounting a cinematic stunt that has never been attempted before. As I said in my initial review, this kind of high-wire act might have inspired some hate-watching if it had been attempted by a more self-involved creator. But Harrelson - through a keen blend of gumption and self-deprecation - has you rooting for him the entire time. Unbelievable single-take experiment aside, Lost In London also manages to be a human, hilarious, thoughtful piece of self-reflection. - Phil Nobile Jr. 

Brawl In Cell Block 99 (d. & w. S. Craig Zahler) 

Craig Zahler is onto something with his idiosyncratic methods of creating throwback pulp. Even the script he didn't direct - 2011's Asylum Blackout - is defined by both its attention to character construction, before transitioning into full-blown brutality. Bone Tomahawk ('15) is like a cross between a Budd Boetticher Western and a Wes Craven cannibal picture. But Brawl In Cell Block 99 blows them all away, becoming a hodgepodge of white male aggression, muddied problematic politics, and old school DIY auteurism. Zahler is in control of seemingly every aspect of the movie, for better or worse, right down to the soundtrack, which he co-wrote and then hired The O'Jays to perform. It's a movie where its blue collar everyman protagonist (Vince Vaughn) beats the shit out of a car with his bare hands, and there's still over two hours to go after that. 

You're probably wondering why this writer is championing something with a borderline right wing political agenda during the Trump Era, and that's a fair question. But what makes Brawl so special is that it's singular in its pulp viewpoint, never once apologizing for being this weird, upsetting work of lowbrow art. That's rare these days; and the fact that its POV is packaged inside a movie that's actually this thrilling and bizarre almost qualifies it as a legitimate work of outsider art. Zahler's owning who he is as a person, and making the movies he wants to make, commentariat be damned. So, while Brawl In Cell Block 99 is certainly not going to be for the pearl-clutchers sitting amongst us - painfully requesting every piece of art adhere to their own value system in order to be fairly evaluated - those who are willing to accept a movie on its own terms are going to be in heaven once the final thirty ultraviolent minutes kick into high gear. Bones snap, bullets are fired, and a man's face is literally dragged across concrete. Let Zahler keep making movies forever. I'll watch every single one, dirty politics or no. - Jacob Knight 

Comments