2017 is gonna go down as a banner year for horror cinema. There were a lot of great new horror films, a ton of really okay horror flicks, and hardly any bad ones at all. 2017 was such an amazing year for horror that two films of our beloved genre appear to be on their way to the Academy Awards. Of course I’m talking about Get Out, Jordan Peele’s racially charged melding of The Stepford Wives and The Thing with Two Heads, and Guillermo del Toro’s slash fin erotica 50 Shapes of Water.
Everyone has their own picks but this list is about my personal picks for the very best horror films of the year, and thanks to a last-minute amendment tacked onto the recently passed congressional tax bill, my list is now legally binding. Funny how that works out.
Without further ado, in no particular order, here are my top five horror movies of 2017…
The Bye Bye Man
Imagine how much scarier Freddy Krueger would be if we were never given any indication as to who he is, where he came from, what he wants, or how to defeat him. Imagine how much scarier Freddy Krueger would be if rather than having to wait for you to fall asleep he could get you anytime, anywhere, any place, just so long as you speak a three-word combination (technically, two words twice) that any toddler saying goodbye to a stranger could unintentionally mutter conjuring forth murderous hell upon their day care center. Imagine no more! 2017 began with the year’s scariest movie and a new horror icon was born!
You know what truly makes Bye Bye Man awesome? He has his own train! How many well-respected horror icons have their own vehicle? None! Bye Bye Man has his own freakin’ train, folks! He doesn’t even ride on his train. He doesn’t take people captive on his train. He doesn’t even kill anyone with his train. Yeah, someone does get killed by a train in the movie but it’s not even his particular train that does it. That’s how awesome his train is. He doesn’t even need or use the damn thing. He just has a train. It’s always comin’. From where? To where? Who knows? Where are all the think pieces about Bye Bye Man’s choo-choo train?
The thing I love most about Bye Bye Man isn’t his train, or his never explained Franklin Mint commemorative coin, or even how easy it will be in the future for any lanky chemo patient with a hooded raincoat to dress up as him for Halloween. The thing that truly makes Bye Bye Man one of the year’s best is that he has his own pet: a skinless man-eating Hellraiser hound whose bark is worse than his Cenobite. No other movie slasher I can think of keeps a pet. You don’t see Leatherface running around with a dog wearing a muzzle sewn together from cat skins.
Jason’s been living in the woods for 40-years and he doesn’t even have so much as a snake or a squirrel to keep him company. Freddy exists in the realm of nightmares; he could dream up any creature he could ever want to keep as a pet and yet he chooses to live an afterlife of desperate isolation. All that has changed forever with the arrival of Bye Bye Man and Bark Bark Dog, and horrordom will never be the same!
Yeah, I get that Get Out got all the praise as the social thriller of the year what with it being a movie so woke insomnia has accused it of culture appropriation. Meanwhile, Wish Upon got completely ignored despite being the most socially relevant horror movie about millennials to date. The young derp faced lead of Wish Upon hates her life because she’s not the richest, not the prettiest, not the most popular, doesn’t have the hottest boyfriend, and her daddy is so uncool: pretty much the ultimate millennial nightmare. Rather than actually work to change her situation (SPOILER ALERT), she’d rather rely on a magical music box to do it for her. Even though she knows in advance that after this box grants her five wishes it will then kill her, and even though she takes stock that every good wish that comes true for her causes very bad things to happen around her, she just keeps on wishing. She even tries wishing to undo other wishes gone wrong, only further exacerbating her problems. And in the end – surprise – she ends up dead. A sublime roasting of the we-can-do-anything-without-putting-in-any-effort-or-thinking-this-through attitude too many millennials exhibit. How is Get Out getting nominated for screenwriting awards while Wish Upon continues to get snubbed?
The year’s best horror comedy about a serial killer doused with gene-altering chemicals causing him to transform into a wise-cracking murderous snowman. Wait a minute. That was Jack Frost. That was made in 1997, not 2017. What the hell was The Snowman? Did I even see The Snowman? Eh, forget it. Never mind.
A surefire sign that a movie is succeeding is if it makes you want to do the thing you’re seeing on the screen. Like back in the 80’s when Top Gun and The Karate Kid made many moviegoers so stoked they immediately signed up for the Air Force and karate lessons. Now take a techno-thriller like Friend Request about a vengeful spirit stalking people through their various social media applications. As I sat alone in the theater on opening day, it wasn’t long before the movie had me wanting to take out my phone and check my email, text messages, see what’s going on my Twitter and Facebook, surf the web, etc. Not one motion picture I saw this year inspired me the way this film did to begin texting, tweeting, doing anything social media related on my tiny handheld screen, even as the movie continued to flicker on the larger screen before me. That’s saying something because I also saw Geostorm.
The Man Who Invented Christmas
Outstanding blend of psychological and Hammer-esque Gothic horror about a famous Victorian era author facing personal, professional, and financial woes, as well as being forever tormented by traumatic memories of his past childhood servitude, who suddenly finds himself haunted by unforgiving figments of his own imagination, including the specter of a decrepit old miser with an absolute disdain for all of humanity, completely overtaking every aspect of his life sending him spiraling into madness as they coerce him to write what will be the greatest ghost story of all time.
The Man Who Invented Christmas is this generation’s The Shining.
Amityville: The Awakening
It was free. After sitting on a shelf for years, this movie was finally released straight to Google Play for free. Sure, there were much better genre films this year like The Shape of Water, Split, Colossal, It, and Happy Death Day, but I had to pay to see those movies. I saw Amityville: The Awakening for free. Therefore, it is one of the best of 2017.
Honorable Mentions: Rings, Flatliners, Monster Trucks, The Mummy, The Dark Tower, The Emoji Movie, Boo! 2: A Madea Halloween