By: Thomas Foster
2017 has been a year filled with real horror. We are constantly reminded of the racism, rape culture, and male violence that continue to fester in our nation. Fortunately for this snowflake of a cuck, there were amazing horror films to escape into. Directors continue to produce strong perspectives in horror cinema, setting up the 2010s to be a revitalization of the genre. From blockbusters like IT to movies that push the genre forward like Get Out and mother!, this year ran the gamut and did so with some amazing additions to the horror family.
Some of these movies may have been released in prior years at film festivals or abroad, but they qualify for my list if they did not reach widespread availability in the U.S. until 2017. Likewise, some of the movies I haven’t seen yet might find their way onto my 2018 list.
10. Gerald’s Game
IT is not my favorite Stephen King adaptation of 2017. Instead, it was Gerald’s Game — also known as Yes, Daddy! No, Daddy! — which took me down a believable descent into madness, vulnerability, and, finally, empowerment. This film is largely psychological but provides some satisfying gore and menace lurking in the shadows. Lord, I did not need that epilogue though.
At the heart of this macabre, cannabalistic horror is a coming-of-age story. Raw is stylish in its mundanity and thematically contemplative. The audience is made to feel just as awkward and out of place as the film’s protagonist, Justine. By the time the story resolves, you’re left with an understanding of its lore and you’ll feel the same sense of growth the characters experienced. There are some surprisingly sweet moments too.
8. It Comes At Night
The year’s best post-apocalyptic horror film will suck you into its atmosphere of decay. It Comes At Night plays into your paranoia and leaves you in the dark as to what force is causing this decline in humanity. Perhaps it leaves too many questions on the table about the state of the world and answers some smaller questions that were better left vague.
7. The Void
Every aesthetic choice I could want in a horror film is in The Void. The costuming, the body horror, the monster design, the baddies lurking in the darkness, the cosmic-horror landscapes, the hellscapes, the slashing, the devilry. This movie throws everything but the kitchen sink into its story and it is one the most badass movies of the year as a result. The story itself gets convoluted as an unfortunate side-effect, but nonetheless, horror fans were given a gift with this film.
6. Tragedy Girls
If Mean Girls was told from the perspective of Regina George and Regina George was a sociopathic murder queen, you would have Tragedy Girls. Two besties try to build their social media empire by profiting off of the deaths of people in their small town. They end up taking matters into their own hands because they are, as it turns out, great at murdering. Tragedy Girls is the best pure horror-comedy of the year and the key to its success is in the chemistry of its leads, McKayla (Alexandra Shipp, X-Men: Apocalypse) and Sadie (Brianna Hildebrand, Deadpool). The pair is charming, smart, and hilarious. You will be smiling the whole movie.
Tell your children not to walk my way. Darren Aronofsky returns with another story about an obsessive anti-hero. However, this film tells the story from the perspective of the gaslit victim of this anti-hero. I have never seen a movie that is so singular and unwavering in its perspective. The camera situates itself in Jennifer Lawrence’s perspective and you experience everything through her character. The film seamlessly unfurls into a bizarre nightmare with each twist and turn, bringing the viewer into a more surreal space. The film might be too literal with its Christian allegory — even if it wasn’t immediately apparent to me. Arresting from start to finish, mother! provides horror fans with one of the most inventive and visionary films of the year.
4. Get Out
Get Out is the most “2017” horror film. It forces its white audience members to confront the realities of liberal racism and cultural appropriation while supplying black audience members with a measure of catharsis. Jordan Peele brings his repertoire of humor and crisp cinematography — which is so divorced from our usual lens of horror — to Get Out, allowing the film to be truly fresh and groundbreaking. 2017 was a step in the right direction for black representation in horror film leads — from It Comes At Night to The Girl With All The Gifts and Tragedy Girls — but only Get Out was bold enough to give the elephant in the room a name. It’s monumental for a genre and culture that disproportionately defaults to white. This is the iconic film of the year.
3. The Killing Of A Sacred Deer
I view The Killing Of A Sacred Deer as modern witch tale. A family finds itself under the hex of an unusual witch — a frail teenage boy (Barry Keoghan, Dunkirk) who gives one of the year’s most haunting performances. The movie has stunning cinematography, features some masterfully crafted sequences, and left me genuinely disturbed. After peeling back its layers, the story proves to be — at its “heart” — a tale of the destructiveness of guilt.
2. A Dark Song
Rarely can a horror film hit as many emotional notes as A Dark Song. The movie has a minimal cast of two characters yet never fails to be engaging, captivating, and dynamic as it takes you on a journey from grief to forgiveness. A Dark Song also showcases how practical effects and subtle sound cues can cause a haunted house to invoke fear in fresh, new ways. This is one of the most beautiful films of the year, taking uncompromising turns in its story that I imagine will be polarizing.
Honestly, other films did not have much of a chance this year. I was excited and biased towards this movie from the first trailer I saw. I’m just a sucker for any type of space-horror and good ones don’t come around often enough for me. Life was a harrowing, unrelenting, and literally heart-pounding experience. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time or pinned far back into it. I know this description might sound cliché but it’s true. It may lack the thematic richness of the other movies on this list, but there are beautiful shots and and I was really into the crew’s chemistry. Epitomizing survival horror, Life— like 2017 — did not let up.
Honorable Mentions: The Blackcoat’s Daughter, The Endless, The Belko Experiment
Best Original Soundtracks: Life, A Dark Song, Get Out
Best Performances: Barry Keoghan (The Killing Of A Sacred Deer), Catherine Walker (A Dark Song), Bill Skarsgård (IT)
Best Moment: Georgie meets Pennywise in IT, the ending of Life, The Guardian in A Dark Song
Best Movies I Didn’t See: The Shape of Water, Thelma
2017’s 2016 Movie of the Year: Train to Busan is one of my favorite horror-action movies ever and has the most precious, tear-jerking climax imaginable paired with a stunning piano score. Please watch this film.