This is one of my favorite times of the year (where everyone starts shitting out their year-end lists), because it’s just another reminder of how great the movies are. Not only that but it’s also a fantastic way to discover films you’ve never heard of—I’ve already seen a few lists full of movies I never got around to seeing, which tells me I’ve either been slacking in the movie-watching department or it was just that good of a year for horror (or maybe a little bit of both). And although TMR slightly took a backseat to life this year, I still managed to watch enough genre films to scrape together a list for you lovely folks.
I decided to change things up ever-so-slightly this year, however, by going with my favorite movies rather than trying to nitpick them into a best of list. So if you don’t agree with my choices, you can just blame my shitty opinion. And again, I missed a few notable movies this year that include: Thelma, The Lure, Split, A Cure for Wellness, Happy Death Day, Annabelle: Creation, Creep 2 and so on. So without further ado, here are my 15 favorite horror movies of 2017! Enjoy!
15. It Comes at Night
Being one of the most depressing movies of the year has to count for something, right? So much of it is perfectly paced, blending its post-apocalyptic atmosphere with razor sharp tension as we watch two families come completely unhinged. Trey Edward Shults does a fantastic job of selling practically nothing here. Instead, he lets the tension of the unknown do all of the talking, allowing the horror to unfold slowly and with purpose. You can’t trust anyone because as soon as you do, you’ve let the monster in. And that’s what makes this movie so painful to watch, too, because its message is so achingly tragic—being kind to others might get you fucking killed. [Review]
14. The Girl with All the Gifts
Colm McCarthy’s undead feature was a welcome surprise, especially for a genre as saturated as this one. And part of the reason why it is so refreshing is because of its focus on the future—it’s not only about Melanie’s journey, but the journey for all children that have to grow up in this scary new world. The hook, however, is that all the children share the same hunger for flesh as the undead. It’s that simple wrinkle that propels McCarthy’s film into a new and altogether fascinating direction, and one with its fair share of thrills. [Review]
13. A Dark Song
Where this one really set itself apart from everything else the genre had to offer this year was in the way that it completely dissects a ritual; almost the entire movie is spent performing each and every step in ridiculous detail. Most horror movies spend very little time on this—they light a few candles, mumble a couple of words, and voila you have your demons. This movie is nothing like that. And because A Dark Song dedicates an entire narrative to this one ritual, it has a surprisingly sharp edge that completely caught me off guard. We watch this woman go through hell for something that she’s not even sure is going to work—that doubt becomes viciously engaging the more the ritual consumes her. [Review]
12. The Devil’s Candy
There’s just something about that genuine out-for-blood mentality that when you put in the right hands can look a lot like this—a twisted and totally insane exploration of what happens when you bow to evil. Look, it’s an 80 minute horror movie, a lot could have gone wrong here. But where it lacks in story and character building, it makes up for in its headbanging, kill ’em all attitude. I can dig that. [Review]
11. Hounds of Love
If you really want to fuck up someone’s day, just make them watch Ben Young’s viciously told story of rape and murder. The thing about this movie (and other films like it) is that it hits hard for everyone because it shines a gnarly light on the monsters that actually exist—people. People are terrifying, and so Young exposes that with a film that feels all too real. Look, it’s not an easy movie to sit through (why would it be?) but it is a rewarding one for those brave enough to stick with it. And one thing that is important to mention is that it’s not nearly as disturbing as some critics are making it out to be—don’t get me wrong, it’s plenty troubling—but there’s nothing here we haven’t seen before and Young does a fantastic job of leaving most of the horror to the imagination. [Review]
10. Gerald’s Game
Shooting almost an entire film in just a single location has been a tool used throughout movie history for a long time—Hitchcock was a master at it (Rear Window, Rope, Dial M for Murder)—so while the artifice of Gerald’s Game’s one-room nightmare isn’t anything new, it doesn’t mean that filmmakers can’t spin that same yarn in some unique and powerful ways. What you simply think is a movie about a woman handcuffed to a bed, quickly turns into an entirely different beast. Her past creeps up on her in the night, her delusions begin to blur the lines between what’s real and what isn’t. There’s just so much going on in this movie that it’s amazing that Flanagan was able to balance all of it as well as he did. In other words, he directed the hell out of this one. Also, it has one of the most gnarly horror scenes of the year—it’s worth watching for that alone. [Review]
9. Tragedy Girls
I’ll admit that I was fully prepared to hate this movie after its first few minutes. The dialog is so over the top—like, do teenagers really talk like this, fam? Am I really that old? Am I not lit enough for this movie? But in all seriousness, the dialog and its sassy characters are what end up making Tragedy Girls so enjoyable. And it works because it’s so deeply rooted in a teenage world that while it is exaggerated, it never feels forced or unnatural. There’s certainly a message in the movie, too, but it’s not trying to force-feed it to the viewer either. MacIntyre does a fantastic job of balancing those elements, delivering a movie that has something to say and plenty to kill. [Review]
8. Get Out
Not only was Jordan Peele’s directorial debut one of the most talked about movies of the year, it also made a metric fuckton of money—that’s a win win for horror. Its message was powerful and timely, with Peele taking our current social climate and turning it into an inventive horror story. Get Out has a little bit of everything, too—the way Peele blends paranoia into humor and tension so seamlessly is why the film works so well, and those last 20 minutes are straight up fantastic.
7. The Killing of a Sacred Deer
As a big fan of Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster, I couldn’t wait to see how he’d approach a story as dark and twisted as The Killing of a Sacred Deer. And although the delivery its characters’ dialog takes way longer than it should to get used to, the plot is so next-level batshit that it becomes less a distraction and more of a driving force behind the horror. It’s so uncanny and strange with a plot that doesn’t fully make sense, yet there’s a method to Lanthimos’ madness that draws you into the narrative. And even though it’s nearly impossible to recommend to normies, those who love a bit of what-the-fuck in their movies will surely get a kick out of this one.
6. Alien: Covenant
It’s been several months since the release of Ridley Scott’s sequel to Prometheus and I still can’t believe the response it received upon release—there were a lot of angry bros out there. But just like Prometheus, Scott was never interested in making a cookie-cutter Alien movie when it came to Covenant. Even beyond its existential themes, Covenant still delivers a lot more of what we all wanted from Prometheus—it’s gnarly and murderous, a bloodletting new Alien movie that introduces another terrifying species in the neomorph, and it’s one that will gladly tear you limb from limb. Even amongst the evisceration though, Covenant still manages to further explore the intrigue of Prometheus so that we can have our cake and eat it too. Look, it’s not perfect by any means—the xenos are a bit underwhelming, plot mechanisms feel very loose at times, and it’s becoming even more difficult to figure out how all of this ties into 1979’s Alien—and yet it’s still a gloriously weird, nihilistic slice of sci-fi horror that has expanded a decades-old franchise in ways we never expected. This movie rules. [Review]
French director Julia Ducournau makes her feature film debut here, and it’s one of the most confident first-films you’ll ever see. Nasty, sly, gross-out horror blends itself into a surreal world that I’m glad doesn’t actually exist—dating would be so much more painful than it already is—as it dissects its multi-layered themes in perfectly gory detail. It’s ridiculously stylized and one of the most original horror films of the year. Its eye-gouging cinematography and skin-crawling score (by Jim Williams) was a gnarly addition to an already nasty little film, tying together a coming-of-age tale unlike any other that has both you and I on the menu. [Review]
I’m not a good enough writer to fully put into words how I felt about Darren Aronofsky’s Mother!, and I still have no clue how it ever got made, but I’m happy as hell that it did. It’s the most polarizing movie of the year (and it’s not even close), and for good reason—it’s a wall-to-wall narrative shitstorm of biblical thematic layers that come at you in vicious waves, slowing down only once before one of the most fucked up movie-endings in recent memory hits you like a truck. What I really liked about this movie was how Aronofsky takes an already claustrophobic setting and makes it feel even smaller by sucking the very life out of its characters one scene after another. He then turns it into a literal war zone of terror—it’s a bold movie (understatement of the year), and Jennifer Lawrence turns in an all-time performance.
3. The Blackcoat’s Daughter
It feels weird putting a movie that came out… like… 400 years ago (or something) on my favorite movies of 2017 list, but thanks to one delay after another (and another), here we are. For The Blackcoat’s Daughter, the devil really is in the details—it’s atmospheric in a way that’s always unsettling and cryptic before rolling into a vicious and bloody final act that’s masterfully in stride with everything that came before it. It’s a unique take on a monster that has ruled the genre since the beginning—the devil—and Perkins dissects it in a way that feels both classical and untouched, crafting a fantastic slow-burn slasher hybrid that I think horror fans are really going to appreciate. Hail Satan! [Review]
2. Super Dark Times
The more I think about this movie, the more I love it. While it may not be scary in the traditional genre sense, it’s absolutely terrifying for its characters; you can see the pain and horror all over their faces. That sudden loss of innocence is so powerful and terrifying that you can’t help but feel for them. Kevin Phillips’ debut is one of the biggest surprises of the year. It’s a powerful coming-of-age tale fueled by teenage angst, and it reminds us how just a single moment, one that comes and goes in an instant, can change our lives forever. And the score fucking rules, too. [Review]
For my money, Andy Muschietti’s IT is as good as big-budget horror gets. It’s shockingly brutal and twisted, going to some of the darkest places the genre has to offer. And while doing so, Muschietti creates a Losers’ Club that you can’t help falling in love with, breaking up the horror with a coming-of-age tale that lives up to King’s brilliant novel. And for the angry bros out there who say the movie isn’t scary, imagine watching it as a little kid. Skarsgård’s Pennywise is just so good, and he quickly distances himself from anything we thought we were going to see. He’s this perfectly creepy, childlike presence that’s never not scary—he has a giant porcelain doll-like quality to him with a smile that never ends. Is there a better way to scare the shitty pants off of kids? Doubtful. [Review]
So there you have it, my favorite 15 horror movies of the year! As you can see, it was another solid year for the genre and I’m already looking forward to seeing what 2018 brings with it. Now you tell me: what were some of YOUR favorite horror films of the year?