BJ Colangelo’s Top 10 Horror Films of 2017
2017 was one hell of a great year to be a horror fan. “Best Of” lists are one of my favorite things to read as we wind down the year, because it’s a fascinating exploration of taste and personality. No two end-of-year lists are going to be the same, and that’s what makes horror the long-lasting and wonderful genre that it is. While we’re all afraid of something, that something is not universal. I truly believe that this is why horror has maintained the popularity crown of film fans all over the world.
Before I dive into my top 10 list, I have to stress that these titles are the ones that I felt the strongest about personally. This is not meant to be a definitive “these are the only good films worth talking about” list or a list of the most “technically good” horror films. Rather, this is a list of the horror films that struck me to my core, resonated with me long after the final credits have rolled, and reminded me why I love the horror genre as much as I do. With that being said, I present to you my top 10 horror films of 2017.
10) Always Shine
There was a limited theatrical release at the tail end of 2016 for this film, but it finally became widely available in 2017 thanks to the wonderful folks over at Shudder. Directed by Sophia Takal and starring Caitlin FitzGerald (Masters of Sex, UnREAL) and Mackenzie Davis (Black Mirror, Blade Runner 2049), Always Shine focuses on two actresses in differing stages of their career on a trip together to Big Sur, California. More of an atmospheric horror film than a hack-and-slash gorefest, the film is deeply engaging phantasm of a lack of a grasp on reality, molding together with a beetling exertion of ego and insecurity. The terror of this film is deeply rooted in the emotional psychology of these two “friends” and the impossible pressures women place on themselves to find success.
09) Gerald’s Game
Said to be the “unfilmable” Stephen King property, Netflix (who straight up KILLED IT this year) joined forces with emerging modern master of horror, Mike Flanagan to create one of the most tense films of the year. Actress Carla Gugino delivers the performance of a lifetime, and the film features one of the most unsettling gore scenes of recent memory and one scare that sincerely left me paranoid for the remainder of the day following my first viewing.
08) Better Watch Out
Of all my selections, this is probably the one that will garner the most shit in the comments section, because a lot of people HATED this film. There’s an inherent camp association with horror films set around the winter holiday season, and every year we’re bombarded with poorly crafted and hastily thrown together films for the sake of trying to profit off of people looking for Christmas films not created by Lifetime or Hallmark. Every once in a while however, a flick comes out that solidifies its place in the Christmas horror canon, and Better Watch Out is this year’s newest inductee. What starts out as a typical “babysitter home invasion” film takes a hard left out of nowhere and turns into something pretty shocking and a whole lot of fun. This was a big year for child actors in horror, and Levi Miller is more than deserving of this placement.
07) The Lure
Anyone who’s read my previous work on other websites shouldn’t be surprised at all about my addition of The Lure. This absolute tonal clusterfuck is most easily described as Polish sex-comedy horror musical about man-eating mermaids. The musical elements are presented more like Phantom of the Paradise rather than West Side Story, and the art design feels like something out of an Argento fever dream after having watched Hedwig and the Angry Inch for the first time. Probably the least accessible of all of the films on my list, but one that I’ll be revisiting for years to come.
06) The Devil’s Candy
For those that prefer something a little heavier than man-eating mermaid sex musicals, The Devil’s Candy may be your ticket to music driven horror. Created by Sean Byrne (The Loved Ones), this father’s apocalypse is littered with heavy metal music, Satanic visions, and a possessed (and very topless) Ethan Embry. Embry has been cranking out a lot of stellar horror performances as of late, but he’s truly at his best with The Devil’s Candy.
As a lover of the french extremity movement of the early 00s, I was pleasantly surprised with how brutal RAW was as a film in addition to its sincerity. Julia Ducournau’s debut feature is a triumphant celebration of womanhood, and the horrific strength that comes along with embracing one’s true self. Garance Marillier stars in a breakout performance that is nothing short of captivating. It’s an intense coming-of-age story much like Ginger Snaps, but replacing any humor with stomach-churning violence.
If 2017 was good for anything, it was getting people to finally admit that the IT mini-series is sort of terrible and is only beloved because Tim Curry’s performance as Pennywise was iconic. There was a lot of hesitancy when Warner Bros. announced IT was returning as a film, but this film absolutely shattered my expectations. It was heartfelt, well-crafted, entertaining, but most importantly…scary. 2017 was also the year of incredible child actors in horror, and there wasn’t a single member of The Losers Club that I didn’t immediately love and want to adopt as my own. IT has always been a cultural phenomenon but seeing non-horror buffs running to the theatre to check out the film was a truly surreal experience.
03) Super Dark Times
Coming of age films set with a horror background tend to be some of my favorite films, and Super Dark Times was no exception. This one flew under my radar for a hot minute, but it was well worth the wait. It’s a haunting look at the relationships between adolescents and the harrowing loss of innocence that comes with growing up. There’s something about how these characters were created that feels uncomfortably familiar. We all grew up with these kids, some of us may have been these kids. And it makes the film’s horrific reveal all the more of a gut-punch. It’s the heartbreaking reality of what would actually happen if I Know What You Did Last Summer wasn’t an over-the-top slasher but a real event between friends.
02) Tragedy Girls
This film was absolutely tailor-made for me and my tastes. The story follows two best friends who are desperately seeking social media fame as crime reporters. After the two capture a serial killer, they determine the best way to hold on to their new found fame and get the scoop before anyone else would be if they murder people themselves. It’s a biting commentary on the current obsession of “true crime as entertainment” fad wrapped in an instagram perfectly placed bow, but with hardcore brutality that will please any gorehound. Tragedy Girls hashtag SLAAAAAYS it.
01) Get Out
Simply put, Get Out is going to go down in history as one of the greatest horror films ever made. It’s downright terrifying and manages to intertwine the brilliant social critique with effective scares. It’s astounding to see a film that manages to be so unbelievably intelligent, and so genuinely entertaining, while maintaining a sincere sense of dread. Jordan Peele was able to make a film that so many audience members have been thirsting for, and did so by being ambitious, thought-provoking, entertaining, and downright scary. This is a horror film that deserves as much attention as any of the Oscar-bait shilled out every year, but it probably won’t…proving the core value of Get Out to be very, very true.