2017 was a banner year for horror. But so was 2015 and 2016 with the likes of It Follows, The Witch, Green Room, and Don’t Breathe. More than just a hot streak, it feels like a genuine resurgence in the genre and it couldn’t have come at a better time. As scary as reality was for 2017, the big screen was ripe with terror with psychological thrillers, bloody b-movies, and just plain horrifying clowns to top it all off. This year was not only artistically impressive but also financially with some box office records being broken.
10) Creep 2
Plot synopsis: A video artist quickly realizes she has made a mistake when she meets a serial killer in a cabin.
This was the most recent movie I saw on this list. I had a fair amount of hype for this little movie considering I enjoyed the original Creep immensely. The center of both movies is a darkly humorous and uncomfortable performance from Mark Duplass as Aron. He keeps you on the edge even when there’s comedy made at the expense of his disturbing persona. Desiree Akhaven who plays the video artist bounces off of him with great chemistry that makes the movie that much more intriguing than the original. Not being a huge fan of found footage movies, it works mostly on the performances and writing. It also introduces the themes of how far artists are willing to go for their “masterpieces” in a twisted way. While it may not have as many scares as the original, it more than makes up for with a fascinating relationship between the two main characters.
Plot synopsis: A virus spreads through an office complex causing white collar workers to act out their worst impulses.
Joe Lynch has proven to be one of the more entertaining b-movie schlockmeisters of recent years with Wrong Turn 2 and Everly, Mayhem just might be his masterpiece. Blending workplace satire and graphic violence, it never feels like a downer experience like the concept could have been. It’s similar a concept of last year’s Belko Experiment, but less mean-spirited and more fun. Fans of The Walking Dead will get a kick out of Steven Yeun getting splattered with blood again, but it’s Samara Weaving who steals the show. She has a zany energy that perfectly fits the tone and I can’t wait to see where her career goes. If you’ve ever had a boring desk job, this movie just might provide a cathartic release.
8) The Devil’s Candy
Plot synopsis: A struggling painter is possessed by satanic forces after he and his family move into their dream home.
A homage to 70s cult thrillers with a metalhead twist. The plot sounds like a been-there-done-that Amityville horror type of movie, it overcomes its cliches with witty writing and emotionally affecting performances. It digs into human fears involving family and parenting, making the supernatural goings-on feel that much more intense. It’s also an ode to creativity and the sometimes frightening places it can spring from. Balancing jump scares and genuine dread, it offers everything for every type of horror fan. Sean Bryne proves he wasn’t just one-trick pony with The Loved Ones in 2012. Let’s hope his next movie doesn’t take another 5 years.
7) Gerald’s Game
Plot Synopsis: A woman accidentally kills her husband during a kinky game. Handcuffed to her bed with no hope of rescue, she begins hearing voices and seeing strange visions.
It’s been a big year for Stephen King and even more adaptations in the coming years. Gerald’s Game proved that even the most “unfilmable” novel material can be compelling on-screen. Director Mike Flanagan keeps knocking it out of the park year after year, it’s only a matter of time before he’s asked to take on a major property. He always keeps the suspense up and rarely relays on gore (even though that “one scene” will go down as all-time gross-out moment.) Carla Gugino gives a career-best performance that’s raw as it captivating and powerful. A seemingly simple survival story uncovers layers of themes about domestic abuse and how to overcome your past, it’ll stick with you.
6) It comes at Night
Plot Synopsis: After a mysterious apocalypse leaves the world with few survivors, two families are forced to share a home in an uneasy alliance to keep the outside evil at bay — only to learn that the true horror may come from within.
There’s been a debate if It Comes at Night is even horror movie. There’s no jump scares or strong gore, but the horror cuts deeper than that. A bleak meditation on how far a man is willing to keep his family safe in desperate times. The shares the same tone as The Mist and The Road, a slowly paced and emotional gut punch of a film that will have to prepare yourself for.
5) Get Out
Plot Synopsis: A young African-American to meet with his white girlfriend’s parents for a weekend in their secluded estate in the woods, but before long, the friendly and polite ambiance will give way to a nightmare.
Who knew funny man Jordon Peele had it in him to create one the most socially relevant movies of the year? A Twilight Zone-style thriller that uses the horror genre to express feelings that Peele himself has experienced about race relations in modern America. It never feels like it’s preaching with its entertaining mix of humor and horror. It may not be my favorite horror movie of 2017, but it certainly is the horror movie ABOUT 2017.
Plot synopsis: A man with 23 different personalities who kidnaps and imprisons three teenage girls in an isolated underground facility.
I’ve always been a fan of M Night Shamalayn, even through his rough period. It was fantastic to finally see him make a comeback in a big way, in no small to James McAvoy’s magnificent performance. What could have come off as a campy performance is scary, funny and sometimes a little sad. If the Academy paid attention to more genre films, no doubt McAvoy would no doubt be in the running for best actor. Shamalayn feels like early DePalma in taking a ridiculous concept and executing it to perfection. And as for that ending, my jaw dropped and not in the traditional Shamalayn twist kind of way.
3) The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Plot synopsis: A charismatic surgeon is forced to make an unthinkable sacrifice after his life starts to fall apart when the behavior of a teenage boy he has taken under his wing turns sinister.
A surreal twisted nightmare that could have only come from the mind of Yorgos Lanthimos. All the performances have a dead-pan stiffness that makes it all the more funny and unsettling, especially from newcomer Barry Keoghan. Yorgos channels his inner Kubrick with long shots and sharp editing, It has interesting aspects about revenge and regrets that wouldn’t feel out of place in a Korean thriller like Oldboy or I Saw the Devil. And like It Comes at Night, you have to be in a certain mood to watch a film this bleak. But for those looking for a challenging piece of cinema, no film this year has this looked this good while making you feel so bad.
Plot synopsis: A couple’s relationship is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home, disrupting their tranquil existence.
No movie this year split audiences and critics alike than mother! Some claimed it’s one of the most ambitious movies of the 21st while others damned it to be exploitative trash. I lean more towards the former as this movie had my head spinning coming out of the theater. Director Darren Aronofsky continues his fascination with biblical themes and stories he started with Noah in 2014. A mix of not-so-subtle metaphors and fever-dream directing give way the most insane over-the-top 3rd of the year with a particular scene of violence that caused an uproar in my screening. Love it or hate, there’s simply nothing quite like mother! and I hope more studios are willing to take as big of risks.
Plot synopsis: A group of bullied kids band together when a shape-shifting monster, taking the appearance of a clown, begins hunting children.
This was the one. This was the horror movie that mattered to me the most. Having read the book several times since high school, I was a huge fan, to say the least, and was both excited and scared of a new adaption of Stephen King’s magnum opus. It was a coming-of-age story as much as it was a horror story, a tricky balance to pull of. But the movie delivered everything I wanted and more. Bill Skarsgard brought Pennywise to life with a performance that’s charming as it is scary. He brings a gleeful attitude to haunting his victims without ever feeling too jokey. And of course, the movie would not have worked without the stellar kid performances. They had great chemistry with each other. You believed their friendships and that made it all the most intense when they were facing Pennywise. And not only was this a great horror movie but it was a cultural phenomenon that even non-horror fans saw, breaking box office records. 2017 has been a great year for horror, but this tale of childhood memories and killer clowns will be one that people will be watching for a long time to come.