It’s been a great year for horror films! Seriously, 2017 has seen an impressive amount of quality horror offerings that made the genre one of the most consistently entertaining and significant genres in all of film. Some films touched on social commentary, some were just plain scary and captured the spirit of horror perfectly. Regardless there were so many great movies to choose from that this has been one of my favorite top 10 list to present throughout the entire year. Continuing my “Best of” series for the 2017 year in film I took a look at the best films in horror that were theatrically released this calendar year. It was a tough list to narrow down, so let’s do this! These are my picks for the Top 10 Horror Films of 2017.
For this list a film had to be considered a “horror” film by genre in order to apply. These horror films include psychological horrors, traditional horror, supernatural horror, slasher, and dramatic horror films. With that said you won’t see some movies here that could loosely be considered horror but fit more in other genres. They were likely saved for future “Best of” lists. Any film under this banner from Netflix was NOT considered as Netflix will get its own overall “Best of” list later this month however if a film had a theatrical run in addition to being featured on Netflix upon release it was considered for this list.
While the horror genre might be stereotypically about bringing the scares, many of these films made the list because of their social commentary as well as their ability to capture the spirit of the genre. These are the best movies in horror from the last year that presented scary creatures, great narratives, blood and gore, and maybe even a reason to fear ourselves. Every one of these films received a review from me, so there are no missed opportunities from me here.
Hopefully 2018 will continue to carry the torch to legitimize horror once again. Let me know your favorite horror film of 2017 in the comments below. Without further pause, on with the list!!!!
Seven years after the “Saw” franchise unofficially closed out with its supposed final chapter the highest grossing horror franchise ever built on its legacy with a new entry in 2017, “Jigsaw”. Returning the film to the deadly traps of its titular killer, a new group of victims experienced bloody retribution for the sins they’ve committed in their lives in this Halloween reboot that I saw as frustrating, but fun. “Jigsaw” was far from the best “Saw” film and in some ways lacked the charm of its predecessors and while I didn’t love it I saw it as a pretty entertaining a brutal film on its own when not compared to other movies in the franchise. The mystery is satisfying and some of the traps are pretty creative and fitting of the “Saw” legacy. It might be middle of the road but it had enough redeemable qualities to barely make my “Best of” list for horror, and it’s not even the last “horror game” style film to be featured. Another film following a similar “test the players” format takes up my next spot as well. Read my review of “Jigsaw” here.
9. “The Belko Experiment”
“The Belko Experiment” took the same formula as the “Saw” franchise and made it feel fresh as a group of employees are forced to kill each other in a game of survival where only the last one standing is allowed to leave. The film delves into a “Lord of the Flies” type of scenario as factions form and survivors are forced to come to grips with who they are willing to become in order to win the game. The movie was billed as “Office Space” meets “Battle Royale” and it lived up to that description in full by providing some creative kills and not-so-subtle jabs at workplace dynamics. It challenges viewers to ponder what they would do in such a scenario and while it lacked originality and was terribly predictable the film was still an entertaining ride all the same. In my review I said “it doesn’t really pack much of a punch beyond its deeper themes”, meaning that “The Belko Experiment” benefits greatly from its attempt to add a more human element to its bloody kills. All the same it’s just unique enough and thrilling enough to be considered among the best of horror in 2017.
8. “Happy Death Day”
It’s been a while sense we’ve had a unique and original slasher film come our way and in 2017 we had a pretty popular one in “Happy Death Day”. In my review I called this time loop movie about a young woman reliving her murder over and over again “fun” and “somewhat imaginative” and I actually may like the film more in hindsight than I did when I first saw it in October. While it remains a middle of the road slasher flick “Happy Death Day” was entertaining in all the right ways and fully embraced its time loop premise combining the same somewhat self-aware horror approach as “Scream” with the creative time travel plot device of “Groundhog Day” to bring old themes to a new generation. The film also serves as a great career starter for Jessica Rothe who totally owns her position as a leading lady. It holds its own even if its not a work of art and thus lands here at number eight on this list.
In recent years the divisive M. Night Shyamalan has made somewhat of a career resurgence, specifically in the realm of horror where he got his start. Considered a major comeback accomplishment, the director brought us “Split” in 2017 which saw James McAvoy portray a man with multiple personalities who kidnaps several women with plans to unleash a hidden personality built from pure evil. Well acted, well paced, spooky, and containing one of the director’s trademark twists to cap it all off this was a satisfyingly surprising quality movie that I considered an “entertaining thrill ride” that brings out the best of everyone involved. While the plot is a bit convoluted it works as an effective example of escapism with some deeper elements mixed in for spice. The promise of a sequel that plays into its equally satisfying twist has me excited and it’s a testament to the remaining films that this list that it only lands here at number seven. You can read my full take on “Split” here.
6. “It Comes At Night”
Now for one of two horror films on this list that proved to be extremely divisive because of its focus on thematic elements over more traditional horror tropes. “It Comes At Night” trades in cheep scares for a more realistic fear, the terror of what humanity can become in their darkest hour. Post apocalyptic horror can be tricky but this film utilizes effective drama and great atmosphere to drive its story home as two families try to coexist after an unknown illness has sent the world into terror. The scariest thing about this film is the statement it makes about how far people are willing to go to protect the ones they love, even at the cost of others around them. In my review I called this a “truly human horror film” and the fact that it didn’t crack the top five is evidence enough of how great the next few films were. The only problem with this movie is its inability to fully realize its character driven story. Otherwise it’s a perfect fright fest for those who appreciate more subtle horror over jump scares and clichés.
While the film was released in limited capacity in March I didn’t get a chance to actually view “Raw” until late 2017. Filmed in French, this story of a woman’s struggle with cannibalistic urges is a fascinating viewing and there are credible reasons why reports claimed that viewers fainted while watching it in the theater. The movie lives up to its name by presenting us with truly raw presentations of cannibalism and delving into the animalistic tendencies of all human beings. It’s unsettling, gruesome, well acted, and well paced. “Raw” is an artistic and mesmerizing horror film that sheds light on the monsters inside. I called it a top-notch project in my review and a “cringe worthy display of human consumption”. It’s easy to overdo cannibalism in a horror movie, but it’s downright difficult to make is seem natural and somewhat normal. By stripping things down and focusing on character and presentation “Raw” accomplishes something few films of its kind can ever claim. It presents brutal and nauseating scenes of bodily horror while also being tasteful and surprisingly human which earns it a respectable place on this countdown.
4. “Annabelle Creation”
James Wan has helped create an interesting horror universe in his “Conjuring” franchise and while the original “Annabelle” standalone film based on the real-life cursed doll of the same name was far from perfect, the 2017 prequel was a lot closer to perfection. While the previous entry may have been a good piece of fanfare, this prequel film went more full-on horror and worked tremendously well with its creepy antagonist at the center of it all without sacrificing quality or its story. “Annabelle: Creation” was actually quite a scare fest, utilizing jump scares and supernatural elements effectively to create an impressive modern horror classic that I called “a perfect melding of everything great about the horror genre” when I reviewed it. What the first “Annabelle” film failed to do this movie accomplished brilliantly as a fun cinematic experience that was gripping, scary, and earned its place here as not only one of the year’s best horror films, but one of the year’s scariest films as well.
Stephen King had a big year with numerous film adaptations of his horror works released either theatrically or on Netflix in 2017. The most talked about however was one of the best horror films of the year by far, the theatrical take on “It” which had previously been adapted to a classic television film. The film is the first of two based on the book with this first movie focusing on the childhood of a group called The Losers Club as they take on the mysterious “it” that takes the form of Pennywise the dancing clown and feeds on the fear of its victims. Filled with fascinating and fantastic performances “It” is a thrilling horror trip worth taking that utilizes great visuals and some extremely touchy realities of life to create a story with depth and a narrative that flows well and keeps the viewer fully invested in what happens next. It also allows its young stars to shine despite the fact that Pennywise was the character we all turned out to see. “It” has some detracting factors that kept it from perfection in my book, but I still considered the movie to be “a film that grabs your attention and holds on from the first frame to the last” and it’s because of this that the movie qualifies for my “Best of 2017” overall list with a third place finish here. Read my review of “It” here.
2. “Get Out”
I’ll be honest, the moment I walked out of this movie I knew that it would be near the top, if not AT the top, of my best of horror in 2017 list. One of the year’s first true phenomenons in film, “Get Out” was the directorial debut of Jordan Peele and, to put it bluntly, is a masterful mix of social commentary and science fiction horror. “Get Out” incorporates themes of racism into its look at a black man’s first awkward meetings with his white girlfriend’s family. Without spoiling this fantastic film’s plot and twist I can say “Get Out” is highly original and holds on tight, never letting go. It challenges viewers to looks at racial judgment from a different perspective, albeit one that’s no more positive or acceptable than how we already see it. As I said in my review “’Get Out’ manages to touch on some very delicate subject matters with a touch of horror flair, but does so in an impressively tasteful manner.” “Get Out” reminds us that horror films can be great without being brooding and overcomplicated or cliché. Still, there was one film that took as many chances as “Get Out” but produced an experience that was just a little bit more insane and memorable in my book and that film tops my list of the best horror movies of 2017.
Like it or not “Mother!” is an absolutely excellent film. A psychological horror experience truly like nothing you’ve ever seen before, “Mother!” was divisive for promising horror scares and instead delivering a terrifying and eye opening take on religion and man’s relationship with nature that hit all the right buttons in all the best ways. I called this film “destined to be misunderstood” and “a thinking man’s movie in a day and age where Hollywood and movies in general are over saturated with easy-to-follow, spoon fed plots with little substance or significance.” “Mother!” opened eyes to realities of humanity and the hypocrisy of mankind like few other movies have ever attempted to do and is truly an artistic film worth seeing and a well-crafted horror trip worth experiencing. This kind of project is what movie’s were meant to be and as pretentious as “Mother!” was at points it sported great performances and visuals and great direction by Darren Aronofsky to offer a truly mind-bending cinematic spectacle that may take a few viewings at least to fully understand. Its horror is derived from its truth and its willingness to go places where no other film has so perfectly gone before. It’s one of the most memorable and insane movie’s I have personally ever seen and this alone makes it my pick for the best horror film of 2017. You can read my review of “Mother!” right here.