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The Best Horror Movies of 2017

Focus World / Paramount / Warner Bros. / Universal / Blumhouse / ScreenCrush
Focus World / Paramount / Warner Bros. / Universal / Blumhouse / ScreenCrush

It was a terrible year for real-life horrors, but 2017 was another great year for horror movies, which provided a cathartic escape from the relentlessly awful news cycle. Jordan Peele’s Get Out kicked off a strong year for the genre, which also included films ranging from surprisingly great to absolutely insane and low-key dreadful, and everything in between. It wasn’t too hard to choose the top 10 horror films of the year, but it was difficult to rank them beyond the number one pick. Just know that no matter where the movies land on this list, they’re all fantastic.

Before we get to the top 10 proper, I want to name-drop some of this year’s other great horror films that are worth seeking out. 2017’s honorable mentions, in no particular order: Creep 2ThelmaTragedy Girls, and A Cure for Wellness. I’ll also go ahead and recommend The Snowman, but only for the sheer WTF factor of a film so insanely incompetent.

10. Happy Death Day
Directed by Christopher Landon

2017 gave us not one, but two surprisingly good riffs on the Groundhog Day formula — both led by women who play mean girl-types that have to overcome their own crumminess to fight their way out of a time loop: Before I Fall (a poignant teen drama starring Zoey Deutch) and Happy Death Day, a slasher flick featuring an excellent performance from Jessica Rothe. The latter is thrilling, clever, and insanely fun, with enough self-awareness to make it a worthy throwback to ’80s classics.

Happy Death Day will be available to stream or buy on January 16, 2018.


9. Gerald’s Game
Directed by Mike Flanagan

IT wasn’t the only surprisingly great Stephen King adaptation this year. Mike Flanagan’s adaptation of the horror master’s most unadaptable novel is a chilling and poignant exploration of abuse and its effects — both immediate and lingering. Carla Gugino’s performance as Jessie, a woman whose husband dies after handcuffing her to a bed to “spice things up,” is phenomenal and worthy of consideration alongside any of this year’s other Best Actress contenders. While Gugino will likely be overlooked come awards time, her work here ensures this is one horror movie you shouldn’t miss. (Our review.)

Gerald’s Game is currently streaming on Netflix.


8. It Comes at Night
Directed by Trey Edward Shults

The first official teaser for It Comes at Night (above) could easily qualify for one of the eeriest things to hit movie screens this year. Trey Edward Shults’ follow-up to last year’s riveting drama Krisha is basically 2017’s The Witch, inspiring an irksome (and unnecessary) debate over whether or not it’s actually a horror film. It most certainly is. But the real terror of It Comes at Night isn’t in guts and gore or sinister slayings; it’s in the characters’ humanity or lack thereof. An exploration of grief and coping with the death of a loved one, It Comes at Night is a powerful exercise in dread, one that will linger with you long after the credits roll. (Our review.)

It Comes at Night is available for digital rental and purchase.


7. Alien: Covenant
Directed by Ridley Scott

This may be a controversial pick (and rank), but Ridley Scott’s Prometheus sequel / Alien prequel is one of the most underrated films of the year. At this point in the franchise, Scott would benefit from evolving past the xenomorphs (which feel like more of a distraction than anything else) — a notion fairly openly suggested by the film’s ending. Michael Fassbender gives two great performances as both the devious synthetic David, and his more subservient next-gen counterpart, Walter. Covenant artfully explores the relationship between creator and creation (and man’s morbid fascination with his inability to organically engage with the latter), while simultaneously offering a metaphor for filmmaking: David could be seen as Scott himself (intellectual, risk-taking) while Walter, with his Americanized accent and pliant naïveté, is a younger and less daring director eager to please his bosses. (Our review.)

Alien: Covenant is currently available for digital rental and purchase.


6. Split
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan

James McAvoy goes off the rails with a series of performances that can only be described as extra in M. Night Shyamalan’s clever thriller about three young women who are kidnapped by a man with dissociative identity disorder. Anya Taylor-Joy leads the trio as a misfit with a mysteriously traumatic past, which comes in handy in her bid for survival. Shyamalan’s film deftly examines how trauma is internalized and how it ignites internal evolution. Those experiences can create empathy, which becomes its own super-power of sorts, or they can fester and grow into something beyond our control. (Our review.)

Split is currently available on HBO GO and HBO NOW.


5. IT
Directed by Andres Muschietti

Although I’m still mourning the Cary Fukunaga adaptation that might have been, Andy Muschietti’s weirdly entertaining version of Stephen King’s horror classic (or half of it, anyway) is an exceptional consolation prize. Equal parts thrilling and hilarious, Muschietti’s IT follows a stellar ensemble of youngsters as they try to overcome their fears and defeat a supernatural evil that’s terrorizing their small Maine town. Bill Skarsgard is a deliciously demented Pennywise, tapping into something twisted and wonderfully self-aware that underscores the idea that the scariest thing of all isn’t some inhuman sewer clown, but the all-too-human people on the surface. (Our review.)

IT will be available for digital rental and purchase on December 19.


4. Raw
Directed by Julia Ducournau

French filmmaker Julia Ducournau’s directorial debut is a ferocious take on the female coming-of-age sub-genre: When Justine, a sheltered girl from a strict vegetarian family, heads off to veterinary college and is forced to consume meat for the first time, she begins to change in startling ways. Both sexual and primal awakening, Ducournau’s film uses cannibalism as a disturbing and darkly humorous metaphor — one that’s surprisingly layered and thoughtful in its explorations of sexual identity, suppression and politics. (Our review.)

Raw is currently available to stream on Netflix.


3. The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos

A narcissistic surgeon with a god complex (redundant, I know) squares off with a devilish teenage boy in the latest from Yorgos Lanthimos, which reunites the Greek filmmaker with The Lobster star Colin Farrell. Those who assumed Lanthimos might be going soft were sorely (perhaps even painfully) mistaken. To say much more about the film’s wildly unnerving machinations would spoil the, uh, fun of watching its wicked game unfold. In Lanthimos’ most deranged thriller yet, Farrell’s character and his toxic masculinity are more than deconstructed; they‘re brutally dismembered. (Our review.)

The Killing of a Sacred Deer is still playing in select theaters.


2. mother!
Directed by Darren Aronofsky

If I had to choose just one word to describe Darren Aronofsky’s latest, it would be “brazen.” From that opening shot (you know the one) to the bats— insane climax, mother! is a shamelessly bold piece of work. Though far from subtle, Aronofsky’s film is a skillfully crafted thematic patchwork that combines multiple metaphors effortlessly. It may be executed with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer, but there’s still something graceful about the way Aronofsky ties together all these themes: Environmentalism, the Bible, Mother Nature (an exceptional Jennifer Lawrence) and the flawed, narcissistic artist who forsakes everything else for his one true love — his art. (Our review.)

mother! will be available for digital rental and purchase on December 19.


1. Get Out
Directed by Jordan Peele

Jordan Peele’s social-horror satire isn’t just the best horror film of 2017; it may just be the film of the year. The highest-grossing original directorial debut of all-time puts a contemporary spin on the Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? formula: Daniel Kaluuya plays a young man who goes home with his white girlfriend (Alison Williams, in the role she was genetically-engineered to play) to meet her wealthy, eagerly liberal family, only to discover the insidious secret lurking in their idyllic upper-class suburb. The very experience of watching this exceptionally clever confrontation with well-meaning white liberal racism was (for this white liberal) like participating in a meta-ouroboros of self-inventory and guilt. (Our review.)

Get Out is currently available on HBO Go and HBO NOW.


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