The Last Horror Blog: 10 Best Horror Films of 2017

The Last Horror Blog: 10 Best Horror Films of 2017

Dec 21, 2017

It Comes At Night

This has been a strange year – a year wherein our day-to-day existence has been scarier than almost any fright flick Hollywood could conjure up. Human predators, terrorism, the largest mass shooting in this country's history, the threat of nuclear annihilation…it's been a rough 12 months. A madman killing horny camp counselors with a variety of sharp-bladed instruments sounds downright quaint at this point, doesn't it?

This has also been a great year for horror films. Choosing the 10 best efforts is a challenge every year, but in the 18 years I've been writing about this genre, I can't remember a time where narrowing down the list was this hard. Many worthwhile contenders didn’t make the cut. Some, like mother!, got the axe solely because they bended genre in such a way that I’m not entirely sure they’re horror movies in the traditional sense. (The other film that falls into this category, Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water, wasn't screened near me in time to make the list one way or the other, unfortunately.)

Others, like Mike Flanagan's adaptation of Gerald’s Game, would have made it in years past despite having some minor flaw (in this case, the ending – which isn’t Flanagan's fault, because it's the same ending that ruins the book, too) that keeps it from being legendary. Competition this year was so tough that things I enjoyed (like The Babysitter) just couldn't crack the list. You should go see them anyway – just do it after you see these movies first.

The beauty of 2017’s horror slate is that it featured a little something for every taste – from smart social commentary, to foreign arthouse sensibilities, to unsettling and disturbing things that will linger with you long after the credits roll. This was a banner year for genre films – and one can only hope that this momentum will carry forward into 2018.

Enough blather from me, though – let's get on with it, shall we? Here are – in no particular order – the 10 best horror films I saw in 2017.

 

It Comes At Night

One of the most interesting trends this past year has been watching horror films subvert what we think of when we hear the term "horror film." The aforementioned mother! did this in an amazing (and highly divisive…) way, but so too do several other features on this year's list. The first of these is Trey Edwards Shults' It Comes at Night (pictured at top).

This post-apocalyptic chiller about two families trying to survive is not an action-packed thrill ride. It’s slow, it’s very chatty, and its terrors are far more existential than overt. Because of that, it’s almost assuredly not for everyone – but those who like a genre flick with a genuine sense of dread hanging over every single frame will find that this film burrows into your psyche and doesn’t let go.

 

The Devil’s Candy

Filmmaker Sean Byrne’s long-awaited followup to his cult classic The Loved Ones (which appeared on my Best of the Year list several installments back) isn’t as amazing as his previous feature – but is still one of the best genre efforts to emerge in 2017.

With elements of stalker cinema, haunted house movies, and occult films (along with a great performance from Ethan Embry), Byrne’s film constantly keeps the viewer off-balance. Bad things are afoot from the first moments of The Devil’s Candy, but it’s only as the film nears its climax that we truly put it all together. I called Byrne a talent to watch after The Loved Ones – and that still stands after viewing this film. Let’s hope it doesn’t take him half a decade to give us his next feature.

 

Better Watch Out

Billed as "Home Alone meets The Strangers," this horror comedy could become a Christmas staple in years to come. A babysitter and her charge (who happens to have a crush on her) battle home invaders with hilariously gruesome results. There’s more to it than that, but I don’t want to spoil anything.

This one has laughs, scares, chills, and thrills – and is great for friends who maybe aren’t so into the whole hardcore horror film thing and like a few laughs to break the tension.

 

Tragedy Girls

Yes, 2017 was a pretty good year for horror comedies, and Tragedy Girls may well be the best of this year’s crop of titles.

Two high school girls (Brianna Hildebrand and Alexandra Shipp) become psychopaths in training to boost their social media status in this hilariously fun (and occasionally gory) romp from director Tyler McIntyre. The cast is excellent, the laughs are plentiful, and the whole thing feels sort of like a twisted social media-obsessed updating of Heathers. Slasher cinema still has some life left in it.

 

Hounds of Love

Some of my favorite horror films are genre-benders grounded in real life – and this Australian offering inspired by a true crime story falls squarely into that category.

A demented husband and wife team -- who’ve clearly killed before -- abduct a young woman…and her only shot at survival is to create distrust between her captors. The synopsis doesn’t really do Hounds of Love justice – but trust me when I tell you this is an intense and unsettling film that fans of movies like The Snowtown Murders are sure to dig.

 

Raw

There’s a distinctive arthouse vibe at work in Julia Ducornau’s sensually shot Raw, and that may turn off some horror fans who appreciate their thrills and chills wrapped up in a less cerebral package.

However, brave genre fans who take the plunge into this French-Belgian co-production will find a film that defies easy categorization. Is it a cannibal film? Is it a black comedy? Is it a coming of age metaphor? It’s all of the above – and more. This story of a young woman (who’s a vegetarian) at veterinary school who discovers an insatiable craving for meat is both sensual and disturbing. It’s not for everyone, but folks who like their horror films with an arthouse flair and plenty of subtext will almost assuredly enjoy Raw.

 

The Blackcoat’s Daughter

Sometimes, a film just comes out of nowhere and knocks you on your ass. This is one of those films.

Director Oz Perkins gives us a cinematic slow-burn about two girls experiencing strange events at a boarding school over an extended winter break. To say more about it than that would be to potentially ruin some of the film’s charms – which are numerous – so I’m just going to leave it at that. Just take my word for it – all the weirdness eventually pays off in a really satisfying way that will leave you pondering it all for days after you’ve seen the film’s conclusion.

 

A Dark Song

A Dark Song is one of those films that feels like it was made specifically for me. A woman and an occultist lock themselves away in an empty house for a year as part of an elaborate ritual to make contact with her dead son. But is this really possible or some sort of elaborate scam?

With an insane amount of occult detail and an engrossing narrative  (complete with an ending that will almost assuredly catch you off-guard), this is another finely made indie from Ireland, a country that’s become a genuine hotbed for interesting genre fare in recent years.

 

Get Out

If you told me a year ago that Jordan Peele would direct one of the most talked about horror films in recent memory, I’d have called you insane. And yet, here we are a year later, and Peele has done just that.

Brimming with social commentary and interesting observations on numerous topics – most notably, race relations in modern day America – Get Out is a cerebral, genre-bending affair. It’s funny, it’s crazy, and it’ll make you think. This is not – despite what the mainstream film press would have you believe – unusual for a horror film (there have been smart horror films for years). But Peele deserves all the credit in the world for his deft handling of this material, and the way he so seamlessly blends it all together into a wholly satisfying concoction.

 

It

This was the year of Stephen King. The master of horror – whose works have often not had the best adaptations – was everywhere in the past 12 months: in theaters, in bookstores, on television, on Netflix, and on Twitter (where he regularly lambastes Donald Trump), which is a great thing if you love Uncle Steve’s work like I do.

The highlight of the Year of King was Andy Muschietti’s adaptation of King’s massive novel It. Fans (including me) were concerned that a two-part cinematic adaptation of the book wouldn’t live up to the source material or the 1990 miniseries, but those fears were largely unfounded.

Muschietti’s version of It is not entirely faithful to the source material (I think the miniseries does a better job of capturing some of the book’s creepier moments), but it nails enough of the key elements to where it feels like both an adaptation and a reimagining at the same time.

Fans’ biggest concern – that Bill Skarsgard’s Pennywise the Clown wouldn’t compare to the Tim Curry version – was a non-issue. Skarsgard is brilliant in the role – creepy, menacing, and downright terrifying when the scenes call for it. This is to take nothing away from Curry’s performance, but the Skarsgard casting was equally perfect.

Now, the question becomes this: Can Muschietti maintain the momentum in the story’s second half? We’ll find out in 2019.

Categories: Features, Horror
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