Let’s face it, 2017 has not been an easy year. But despite the troubling times – or perhaps because of them – horror movies have had a great year at the box office. With the insane profits that some of the top films have created, it’s great news for the future of our favorite genre.
While blockbuster giants have dominated, there’s also been a solid group of indie films coming to genre-focused festivals and streaming services like Netflix and Shudder. So, as is our annual tradition here at iHorror, I’ve compiled a list of some of my personal favorite horror films from 2017.
Be sure to check back in with us through the week for more lists from some of iHorror’s top writers!
#15 Gerald’s Game
Synopsis: While trying to spice up their marriage in their remote lake house, Jessie must fight to survive when her husband dies unexpectedly, leaving her handcuffed to their bed frame.
Why I love it: 2017 is the year of Stephen King, and Netflix’s presentation of Gerald’s Game is definitely one of the better adaptations of his work. It’s gripping, calculated, and wonderfully directed by Mike Flanagan (Hush).
Deep down, I long to have the same confident self-facing pep-talk that Flanagan’s super strong female characters have had in his films.
#14 Happy Death Day
Synopsis: A college student must relive the day of her murder over and over again, in a loop that will end only when she discovers her killer’s identity.
Why I love it: While Happy Death Day is pretty predictable, it’s also outstandingly fun. The film has an upbeat Groundhog Day-meets-Mean Girls vibe, and I’m very much down with it.
It seems like we don’t often get a mainstream, broad appeal, wide theatrical release horror film that isn’t just part of a franchise, so it’s great to see new and accessible films hit the big screen.
In a time bogged down by sequels and remakes, the wickedly cheeky Happy Death Day is a breath of fresh air.
Synopsis: Widow Ruth is seven months pregnant when, believing herself to be guided by her unborn baby, she embarks on a homicidal rampage, dispatching anyone who stands in her way.
Why I love it: Alice Lowe is an absolutely fantastic talent. Prevenge is a pitch-black dark comedy (much like Sightseers, which she co-wrote and starred in previously) that will make you seriously question the decision to grow another human inside of you.
I should also note that Lowe wrote, directed, and starred in the film while she was 8 months pregnant. Damn, girl.
Synopsis: Three girls are kidnapped by a man with a diagnosed 23 distinct personalities. They must try to escape before the apparent emergence of a frightful new 24th.
Why I love it: I think that a lot of people gave up on M. Night Shyamalan after an unfortunate pattern of poorly-received films. With the support of Blumhouse, Split proved to be the director’s great revival… his Shyamalanaissance, if you will.
#11 Victor Crowley
Synopsis: Ten years after the events of the original movie, Victor Crowley is mistakenly resurrected and proceeds to kill once more.
Why I love it: Director Adam Green didn’t bother to build anticipation for the next entry in his Hatchet franchise, he just surprised the hell out of everyone with a fully finished film. He Lemonaded us.
Victor Crowley takes a trip back to the swamp, tongue firmly in-cheek, and has an absolute blast doing so. I saw this one at Toronto After Dark with a full audience and it was one of the most wildly entertaining theatrical experiences of my life. (Click here to read my full review).
Synopsis: When a young vegetarian undergoes a carnivorous hazing ritual at vet school, an unbidden taste for meat begins to grow in her.
Why I love it: Writer/director Julia Ducournau presents an unflinching coming-of-age tale with a deadly and dread-fueled twist.
Garance Marillier and Ella Rumpf‘s nuanced performances as Justine and Alexia are like a raw, meaty steak, and they drive the film forward, hypnotically drawing you in. The ending is perfection, and it’s one that will definitely stay with you.
#9 It Comes At Night
Synopsis: Secure within a desolate home as an unnatural threat terrorizes the world, a man has established a tenuous domestic order with his wife and son. Then a desperate young family arrives seeking refuge.
Why I love it: It Comes At Night burns with a stressful, steady paranoia. I actually really love the idea that we’re not granted the full history of the film; we’re observers mid-way through the events. While some may find this frustrating, I think that it’s a great way to leave your story in the hands of the viewer.
We’re informed only by what we see, and it lets your imagination run wild with possibilities. It draws you in and keeps you rapt with attention throughout, searching for any hidden hints.
I do love a good isolation horror, and It Comes At Night is driven by the idea of what happens when a secure safe hold is threatened. The choices made by the characters are complex and loaded with potential danger. It’s an example of how – even when you do everything right – things can still go so wrong.
#8 Hounds of Love
Synopsis: Vicki Maloney is randomly abducted from a suburban street by a disturbed couple. As she observes the dynamic between her captors she quickly realizes she must drive a wedge between them if she is to survive.
Why I love it: Australians are incredibly good at small-town horror (see The Snowtown Murders and The Loved Ones for further examples). Hounds of Love not only embraces this setting, but demonstrates how a subservient and manipulative relationship can spiral out of control in an incredibly dangerous way.
The whole film is superbly tense, emotional, and straight-up terrifying. It’s very easy to imagine yourself in the position of our young protagonist. You’ll find yourself on the edge of your seat with anxious anticipation.
#7 A Dark Song
Synopsis: A determined young woman and a damaged occultist risk their lives and souls to perform a dangerous ritual that will grant them what they want.
Why I love it: Two actors, one sparsely furnished house. That’s all it takes to build one of the strongest genre films of 2017. The action is entirely driven by the increasingly strained dynamic of the compact cast as their characters work tirelessly to perform a questionable ritual.
The ritual takes several months to complete and requires full dedication to achieve the desired effects. It’s highly complex, exhausting, and neither party can leave the house for the duration of the ritual. At all.
Much like the ritual itself, viewing A Dark Song requires patience for the dazzling finish. It’s a dark, compelling film that focuses on themes that are deeply human, and it’s got one hell of a slow burn.
#6 The Endless
Synopsis: Two brothers return to the cult they fled from years ago to discover that the group’s beliefs may be more sane than they once thought
Why I love it: Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead (Spring, Resolution) are extraordinarily talented and creative filmmakers. For The Endless, they adopted a bit of a DIY approach; they wrote, directed, starred in, produced, edited, and did the cinematography themselves.
It’s almost unfair how good they are at what they do; not only are they gifted filmmakers, they’re delightfully charismatic on screen as well. Because they had their hands in just about every aspect of the film, it’s completely their own (which is a wonderfully good thing).
The film is a complex, engaging puzzle that is driven by that peculiar feeling you have when something just doesn’t seem right. If you’re a fan of Benson and Moorhead’s 2012 freshman film, Resolution, you’ll definitely want to check this one out.
#5 The Void
Synopsis: Shortly after delivering a patient to an understaffed hospital, a police officer experiences strange and violent occurrences seemingly linked to a group of mysterious hooded figures.
Why I love it: Ah yes, the sweet, sweet joy of practical effects. If you want some good ol’ fashioned body horror with heavy doses of Lovecraft, look no further than The Void. Every creature and creepy crawly encounter is viscerally traumatizing.
The film proves that practical effects are still king in the genre, and truly, you haven’t seen effects like this in quite some time. It’s a great throwback to 80s horror in its heyday.
That being said, there’s more to it than just squishy shock value. There’s a connection between the characters that shows how trauma can bind us together. They’re flawed, but they’re likable and deeply human, and it’s hard not to feel twinges of worry for their fate.
Synopsis: A group of bullied kids band together when a shapeshifting monster, taking the appearance of a clown, begins hunting children.
Why I love it: Andy Muschietti’s It is the film I deeply wanted to see. With all the fun of a childhood coming-of-age-in-the-80s story and some straight-up spooky scares, It delivered.
The performances across the board were all fantastic (Jeremy Ray Taylor as Ben Hanscom actually broke my heart. I’m dead now). The pure charismatic chemistry between the child actors was perfection, and I was deeply impressed by Skarsgård‘s Pennywise.
#3 The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Synopsis: Steven, a charismatic surgeon, is forced to make an unthinkable sacrifice after his life starts to fall apart, when the behavior of a teenage boy he has taken under his wing turns sinister.
Why I love it: If you’re of the opinion that The Killing of a Sacred Deer is not a horror movie, then I’m assuming you haven’t seen it. Life isn’t fast and flashy and openly terrifying, life creeps up on you, twisting into something purely unrecognizable. Fear is patient. Also, just, calm down about genre definitions.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer is ill-at-ease; every performance is slightly off from what we would consider normal, casual, human interaction. Everyone is a bit too stiff, a bit too formal.
The film’s descent moves like an elevator – you feel the sinking in your stomach. Then the doors open and you’re so far away from where you ever thought you would be. It’s haunting and I can’t stop thinking about it.
#2 The Devil’s Candy
Synopsis: A struggling painter is possessed by satanic forces after he and his young family move into their dream home in rural Texas, in this creepy haunted-house tale.
Why I love it: Anyone who knows me knows that I have not shut up about this movie since I first saw it at TIFF in 2015. But! Since it didn’t get wider theatrical distribution until 2017, I can confidently include it on this year’s list.
Australian director Sean Byrne (The Loved Ones) brought this heavy metal masterpiece to Texas where it could bask in the sun-scorched rural setting (because, again, Australians do rural horror so damn well) with a more American theme of demonic influence.
It’s a deeply satisfying film with well-rounded (and intensely likable) characters, full of high-stakes, nail-biting tension with an explosive and truly gratifying finale.
#1 Get Out
Synopsis: It’s time for a young African American to meet with his white girlfriend’s parents for a weekend in their secluded estate in the woods, but before long, the friendly and polite ambience will give way to a nightmare.
Why I love it: I’m so in love with Jordan Peele as a writer/director because – as a comedian and die-hard horror fan – he knows how to flawlessly blend the two.
Get Out is not a horror comedy (no matter what the Golden Globes thinks), but Peele understands that levity enhances horror by allowing the audience to let their guard down, if even just for a moment. It makes characters more likable, and it makes bizarre situations more relatable.
Get Out is biting social commentary with such brilliantly camouflaged foreshadowing and layering that it demands multiple viewings (which will absolutely be as entertaining as the first time it’s watched). I firmly believe it’s the best film of 2017. (Click here to read my full review)
Any films I missed out on this year? Let us know in the comments!