It may just be that my love of horror grows every year, but it honestly feels as though 2017 has been a red-letter year for the genre. Not only are films like Andy Muschietti’s IT and Jordan Peele’s Get Out generating Oscar buzz but we’ve seen horror elements seep into mainstream movies and TV shows, from Logan to “Stranger Things”.
And this hasn’t merely been an amazing year for mainstream horror, with powerful indies emerging as some 2017’s best; it’s further proof that many of the most compelling and important genre flicks are being produced outside the traditional Hollywood system. Below, in no particular order, are my selections for the Best Horror Films of 2017. Let me know what you think in the Comments section!
Though the subject matter is completely different, S. Craig Zahler’s Brawl in Cell Block 99 has many parallels to his first film, 2015’s Bone Tomahawk. Both movies build slowly and are anchored by compelling characters and engrossing dialogue; furthermore, both films are deceptively understated until an explosive and shocking 3rd Act hits like a gut-punch.
Vince Vaughn delivers a genuinely poignant portrayal of Bradley Thomas, a down-on-his-luck drug runner willing to do anything to protect his family from disgruntled former associates. Don Johnson also deserves a shout-out for his turn as corrupt Warden Tuggs, the most unnerving fictional jailer since Cool Hand Luke.
Brawl in Cell Block 99 isn’t your typical horror movie, presenting a meandering narrative, but it’s still as entertaining as anything that follows an established formula. Horror is always most compelling when we can connect with a film’s protagonists, and this film delivers in spades.
Julia Ducournau’s Raw both benefited and suffered from reports of audience members fainting and falling ill during the film’s 2015 premiere at TIFF. Upon its limited theatrical release, The Nuart in Los Angeles passed barf bags out to moviegoers, a tactic usually reserved for the most extreme and outlandish of B-movies, films intentionally crafted to trigger the gag-reflex. While Raw does indeed contain scenes that are very difficult to stomach (pun intended!) it’s hardly a 2-dimensional gross-out.
Before classifying the film as horror, it’s a coming of age saga first and foremost. Themes of cannibalism and bodily mutilations become metaphors for sexual awakenings and transitions into adulthood. Raw is also a compelling study of sibling rivalries and the powerful influence of heredity on personal development.
Though released after I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, The Blackcoat’s Daughter is actually the debut film from Oz Perkins (son of horror icon Anthony Perkins). It combines the supernatural terrors of a possession movie with the compelling complexity of a murder mystery. The all-girls boarding school in winter provides a moody aesthetic with Gothic undertones while serving as an incubator for sexual awakenings and religious guilt.
The Blackcoat’s Daughter hinges on a powerful twist, but this doesn’t hit the audience like a ton of bricks; rather, the film’s secrets are gradually unraveled, resulting in a slow realization that’s as poignant as it is shocking. The film succeeds in no small part thanks to compelling performances by a trio of talented young thespians: Emma Roberts, Kiernan Shipka, and Lucy Boynton.
Sean Byrne is one of the most talented horror practitioners to emerge from Australia in the 21st Century. His debut film, The Loved Ones, is an under-seen sleeper that balances teen angst, dark comedy, and extreme violence. With his follow-up film, The Devil’s Candy, Byrne is finally getting the attention he deserves.
It’s less extreme than The Loved Ones, but The Devil’s Candy’s understated presentation, genuine drama, and slow-burn build-up delivers more palpable dread and a lasting resonance. The Devil’s Candy is a chaotic mix of heavy metal music and inner demons and can be viewed as a metaphor for how the blind pursuit of art can destroy families.
Ethan Embry deserves a shout out for his harrowing portrayal of father and artist Jesse Hellman. Who’d have thought the kid from Can’t Hardly Wait would develop into such a skilled actor?
Historically, Q1 is a bad time for horror movies, as studios are prone to dumping films they have little faith in. Jordan Peele’s Get Out breaks the rules in many ways and, though released in February, it remains one of the most lauded and analyzed films of 2017—in any genre. The inclusion of sociopolitical elements makes Get Out both unique and timely, although even without its social agenda, Get Out is a compelling and unnerving experience, one that stokes paranoia by exacerbating primal fears related to deception and isolation.
Peele has become an exciting and refreshing figure in horror with plans for more socially-conscious thrillers in the years to come.
Nearly unceremoniously dumped directly to DVD in 2016, In the Deep was rebranded 47 Meters Down and given a theatrical release last Summer, where it became an unlikely hit. Perhaps hampered by preconceptions relating to lead actress Mandy Moore, 47 Meters Down is nonetheless immensely entertaining, eclipsing 2016’s shark-horror blockbuster The Shallows.
I do have doubts about the film’s ability to spawn a franchise (there’s currently a sequel in the works, being produced under the temporary title 48 Meters Down) considering this film hinges on a twist that can only be used once, so it’s difficult to imagine a sequel with the same impact—but who knows?
Ultimately, though, even a bad sequel won’t diminish the shine of 47 Meters Down. The film also proves there are still plenty of ways to pack legitimate terror into a PG-13 horror movie.
- Twist Of Kane She received a paycheck for doing the new Halloween also. Let's not pretend she did it solely for the fans.
- One-Eye ROAD GAMES is great. Although it's no secret Curtis had a bad experience shooting in Australia, so I guess that colours her memory of the film.
- Christopher Parker Howard I'm curious what people found so scary, or even original about this film. It's a 2 hour family drama with 15 minutes of supernatural horror all at the end. There was some great disturbing imagery for...
- Andrew Lyall I love stuff like this, keep em coming!
- Dread Central I kind of need to read this now.
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