Even though it probably has already been said by many horror writers and bloggers out there in the last few weeks but I’m still going to say it anyway: 2017 truly was an amazing year for horror films. When you look back over the past 12 months, it’s not hard to see why 2017 became a banner year as a whole for the horror genre.
This was a year where some horror films became major box office smashes or surprise hits (IT, SPLIT, ANNABELLE: CREATION), one horror film became a potential major Oscar player (GET OUT), some quality Stephen King film adaptations were released (GERALD’S GAME, 1922), indie and foreign horror films received a lot of critical acclaim (RAW, PERSONAL SHOPPER, THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER, THELMA), some of our favourite franchises released brand new entries into their series (ALIEN: COVENANT, CULT OF CHUCKY, JIGSAW, LEATHERFACE), slasher films made a bit of a comeback (HAPPY DEATH DAY, TRAGEDY GIRLS, PREVENGE), some received very divisive reactions from audiences/critics (IT COMES AT NIGHT, MOTHER!, A CURE FOR WELLNESS), there were some documentaries on horror films (78/52, HORROR MOVIE: A LOW BUDGET NIGHTMARE, SPOOKERS) and even my home country of Australia released some horror gems this year too (HOUNDS OF LOVE, BERLIN SYNDROME, BETTER WATCH OUT, KILLING GROUND, RED CHRISTMAS).
Sure there were still some pretty bad horror films that came out here and there but when compared to the quality ones, when were few and far between. Since I saw so many great horror films in 2017, I thought I would write a top 10 list of the best ones that throughout the year. Now before I get to my official final list, here’s another list of films that sadly didn’t quite make it on there but were my honorable mentions for the year.
NOTE: I’ve only included horror films that were officially released in cinemas, DVD/BluRay or streaming in either Australia, the U.K. or the U.S. in 2017 (however some horror films that I saw at film festivals this year won’t be included if they hadn’t had a theatrical release in either of those three countries yet).
HONOURABLE MENTIONS (In Alphabetical Order): 1999, 78/52, ANNABELLE: CREATION, BETTER WATCH OUT, CREEP 2, CULT OF CHUCKY, THE DEVIL’S CANDY, HAPPY DEATH DAY, HORROR MOVIE: A LOW BUDGET NIGHTMARE, IT COMES AT NIGHT, KILLING GROUND, KONG: SKULL ISLAND, SEOUL STATION, SPLIT, SPOOKERS, THE TRANSFIGURATION.
My Top 10 Horror Films of 2017:
10. GERALD’S GAME (Mike Flanagan)
Over the past couple of years, Mike Flanagan has slowly been going up the ladder as one of my best horror filmmakers working today due to his acclaimed horror films ABSENTIA, OCULUS, HUSH, and OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL. Now with his adaptation of Stephen King’s novel GERALD’S GAME (which has had a reputation by many as being ‘unfilmable’), he has delivered without a doubt his best film as a filmmaker so far. He takes the book’s simple but very challenging premise and crafted a horror film that keeps you absolutely riveted throughout its entire running time. Not only that Flanagan also makes this film a brilliant showcase for his lead star Carla Gugino, who gives without a doubt the performance of her career here. Also, any film that happens to have a scene in it that legitimately freaks the absolute hell out of me definitely needs to be seen.
9. PERSONAL SHOPPER (Olivier Assayas)
When I sat down to watch PERSONAL SHOPPER for the first time, I actually didn’t know what to expect since I didn’t read the film’s plot beforehand. Honestly, I expected it to be just a drama based on what director Olivier Assayas and star Kristen Stewart did on their previous collaboration CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA but to my absolute surprise, PERSONAL SHOPPER was actually a horror film. Quite a unique in fact as well since the film’s story is a mixture of haunted house film, stalker thriller, grief drama and psychological character study. It’s an interesting mix to put these different types of sub-genres together in one film but in Assayas’ hands, he balances them all together superbly and delivered something that truly fantastic. Also if you were on the fence about Stewart as an actor, this film will definitely change your mind about her. She’s absolutely fantastic in this film.
8. MOTHER! (Darren Aronofsky)
After watching MOTHER!, I can definitely see why this film had such a divisive reaction from critics and audiences. It’s dark, disturbing, challenging, pretentious, bizarre and without a doubt the most unsubtle film that director Darren Aronofsky has made so far (it’s pretty easy to figure out exactly what the film’s plot is symbolic of) but in all honesty, it’s those exact same qualities as to why I loved it overall. It’s very rare to watch a film that gives you such a visceral reaction both good and bad while you’re watching it, but MOTHER! certainly did that to me many times throughout it. Especially during its third act, which was just absolutely insane. While its quality will definitely still be debated in years to come but for me personally, it’s a really great and fascinating horror film that provided me a unique cinema experience that I’m not going to forget anytime soon.
7. MY FRIEND DAHMER (Marc Meyers)
It really astonishes me that not that many people are talking about director Marc Myers’ big screen adaptation of John “Derf” Backderf’s acclaimed graphic novel MY FRIEND DAHMER (which explored his friendship with notorious serial killer Jeffery Dahmer when they were in high school in the ’70s) ’cause I thought that it was one of the best and most underrated films, horror or otherwise, of 2017. While I haven’t read the graphic novel myself, I still found this to be a captivating, disturbing and superbly made film that gave me a fascinating insight into what Dahmer was like as a teenager. Also, it’s definitely worth watching just to see the performance of Ross Lynch (who previously starred in Disney Channel films and TV shows) as ‘Dahmer’. This is the first project that I’ve seen Lynch in and he absolutely phenomenal. If you haven’t seen this yet, make it your priority to do so.
6. TRAGEDY GIRLS (Tyler MacIntyre)
If you love slasher films like I do, 2017 was definitely a good year for us fans of the sub-genre since they made a bit of a mini-comeback. While I really enjoyed quite a lot of what was released, there was no doubt in my mind that director Tyler MacIntyre’s horror/comedy TRAGEDY GIRLS was the absolute best of the bunch. I saw the film at the 2017 Melbourne International Film Festival and I knew within the first 10 minutes, I was going to have an absolute ball with it. What I loved so much about the film is that not only works as both a really smart and hugely entertaining slasher film, it’s also a darkly hilarious and very relevant satire on our social media/fame-obsessed culture too. Plus it’s backed by two great performances from lead stars Alexandra Shipp & Brianna Hildebrand, who have terrific chemistry with each other. If you love slasher films, you’re definitely going to have a blast with this!
5. HOUNDS OF LOVE (Ben Young)
I know that this make will sound extremely biased since I’m an Aussie and all, but I think that 2017 was a pretty big year for Australian horror films. Usually, we’ll have at least one or two in cinemas a year but in 2017 though, Australia had five major horror films released throughout the world during the year. If you were to ask me though which film was the best one, it’s no question in mind that it would definitely be Ben Young’s directorial debut HOUNDS OF LOVE. Taking his inspiration from real-life events, Young made an incredibly riveting and deeply disturbing crime horror/drama that keeps you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end. It’s a superbly executed film in every way (I can’t believe that this is his first feature-length film) that also has amazing performances from its main cast Stephen Curry, Ashleigh Cummings and especially Emma Booth, who was truly astonishing.
4. GET OUT (Jordan Peele)
If you asked me a year ago that actor/comedian Jordan Peele’s directorial debut GET OUT would be one of the most critically/commercially successful horror films of 2017 and as well as being a major contender for this year’s Academy Awards, I honestly would never guess it. That being said, it’s very easy to see why became as big as it did. In his very time in the director’s chair, Peele has brilliantly crafted an intelligent horror/thriller that not only is both creepy and intense, it’s also a darkly satirical and thought-provoking one whose social commentary on racism makes it very a timely film. It’s a superb film that no matter how many times I go back to watch it, my love and appreciation of it will grow more with each viewing. After this film how this film turned out, Jordan Peele is definitely going to be a major force in the horror genre in the years to come. Mark my words.
3. THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER (Yorgos Lanthimos)
If you were to ask me who is one of today’s most interesting and unique filmmakers, Yorgos Lanthimos would definitely one of the first names I think of. While he is definitely a required taste but after loving his previous films like DOGTOOTH and THE LOBSTER, anything he makes is an instant must-see for me. When I heard he was making a foray into the horror genre with THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER, I had to see it as soon as possible. As you would expect, I absolutely loved it! It was pretty much exactly what I expected a horror film made by Lanthimos would be: dark, unconventional, bizarre, hilarious, disturbing, intense, beautifully shot and superbly acted across the board (Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman and newcomer Keoghan were terrific). While it definitely won’t be for everyone, I think it’s an absolutely fantastic. It’s one of the most truly original horror films of 2017.
2. THE BLACKCOAT’S DAUGHTER (Osgood Perkins)
You know what’s funny? I expected a lot of things from actor-turned-director Osgood Perkins’ debut film THE BLACKCOAT’S DAUGHTER (which was titled FEBRUARY in Australia) when I watched for the first time as part of my 31 Days of Horror list during October last year, what I didn’t expect was that it would rank up there as one of my favourite horror films of 2017. From the very beginning the film had me hooked with both its very chilling story and unnerving eerie atmosphere. Also by the time it was over, it absolutely floored me in so many ways that I didn’t even expect (the ending to this film is up there as one of my favourites of the year). While I can some people being put off by its deliberately slow pace and art-house feel but for me personally, I absolutely loved everything about it. It’s captivating and haunting horror that’ll stay with you long after you’ve watched it.
1. IT (Andy Muschietti)
I’m not going to lie. When the first trailer for IT was released online back in early 2017, I really good feeling that the film that the film was going to be a massive hit. While my prediction turned out to be absolutely correct in that regard, I will admit that I never expected it to smash box office records and then become one of the highest horror films of all time. You know what? It absolutely deserves all the success that it has received. Director Andy Muschietti was able to achieve the impossible and successfully brought to life Stephen King’s classic novel for the big screen in every way. Sure he had to make some changes here and there, but Muschietti was able to perfectly capture the essence of why the book has terrified readers for decades. It truly is a fantastic and brilliantly made horror film that’s equal part hugely entertaining, compelling, creepy, intense and surprising heartfelt. Bill Skarsgård’s terrifying performance of ‘Pennywise’ is now the definitive take on the character and it has the young cast ensemble since both THE GOONIES and STAND BY ME. As far as I’m concerned not only was IT my pick as the best horror film of 2017, it’s also one of the best overall films of the year as well. I loved it so, so much.
Well, there you have it. Those are my official top 10 horror films of 2017. Agree or disagree? Let me the comments below and as well as what were you favourite horror films from 2017 were!
Bede is a film critic, writer, podcaster and the most terrible Australian you’ll ever meet. Why? Because he watches all the bad films that nobody else wants to watch. He loves all different types of cinema but he is a particular fan of horror, so-bad-they’re-good and Australian films.