2017 was the best year for horror movies in a long time with genre offerings like Get Out and IT generating serious Oscar buzz as we tip-toe closer to Awards’ Season. When examining the year in retrospective, it was actually difficult limiting my list to only 15 entries. Believe me, there are many other horror movies released this year that are worthy of your attention.
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Below, in no particular order, are my selections for the 15 Best Horror Movies of 2017! I’m also including my 5 worst disappointments; films that had potential and that I went to see with an open mind, but still walked away from with a bad taste in my mouth. Of course, with so much to celebrate, a handful of misses shouldn’t be a sticking point.
Give the list a read and let us know what you think in the Comments section! In addition to trailers and synopses, we’ve included reviews when we have them. What do you think of my selections? Did your favorite horror movies of 2017 make the list? Let the debates begin!
Brawl in Cellblock 99 (Directed by S. Craig Zahler)
Official Synopsis: A former boxer loses his job as an auto mechanic, and his troubled marriage is about to expire. At this crossroads in his life, he feels that he has no better option than to work as a drug courier. He soon finds himself in a gunfight between police officers and his own ruthless allies. When the smoke clears, Bradley is badly hurt and thrown in prison, where his enemies force him to commit acts of violence that turn the place into a savage battleground.
The writer/director of Bone Tomahawk, S. Craig Zahler, strikes gold twice with his modern exploitation follow-up Brawl in Cell Block 99. It’s a suspenseful and emotionally devastating film, not just for its constant threat of extreme violence, but for the knowledge that (but for the grace of God) many of us could find ourselves in a similar unimaginable dilemma. The film stars Vince Vaughn and Don Johnson in roles outside both actors’ comfort zones; you’ll barely recognize them to tell you the truth. By creating genuine drama and characters we can relate too, Zahler creates a viewing experience of rare intensity.
The Devil’s Candy (Directed by Sean Byrne)
Official Synopsis: A struggling painter is possessed by satanic forces after he and his family move into their dream home.
Art, heavy metal, and horror collide in The Devil’s Candy, the sophomore feature from The Loved Ones filmmaker Sean Byrne. Featuring an impeccable performance from Ethan Embry, the film can be viewed as a meditation on how the blind pursuit of art can devastate families. Like several films on this list, The Devil’s Candy succeeds, in no small part, by delivering characters that are easy to bond with—making their harrowing tribulations all the more devastating.
The Blackcoat’s Daughter (Directed by Oz Perkins)
Official Synopsis: During the dead of winter, a troubled young woman (Emma Roberts) embarks on a mysterious journey to an isolated prep school where two stranded students (Kiernan Shipka, Lucy Boynton) face a sinister threat from an unseen evil force.
There’s a mystery at the core of The Blackcoat’s Daughter that makes it so much more than a story of demonic possession and sexual awakenings. While many 21st Century horror films are obsessed with delivering a shocking twist, this movie’s secrets are unraveled slowly, dawning on viewers like a sneaking suspicion before everyone’s darkest fears are realized. The Blackcoat’s Daughter is anchored by stellar performances from a trio of talented thespians: Emma Roberts, Kiernan Shipka, and Lucy Boynton.
Get Out (Directed by Jordan Peele)
Official Synopsis: Now that Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and his girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams), have reached the meet-the-parents milestone of dating, she invites him for a weekend getaway upstate with Missy and Dean. At first, Chris reads the family’s overly accommodating behavior as nervous attempts to deal with their daughter’s interracial relationship, but as the weekend progresses, a series of increasingly disturbing discoveries lead him to a truth that he never could have imagined.
Get Out, the debut film from Jordan Peele is the third top-grossing R-Rated horror movie of all time. It’s also garnering Oscar buzz, something almost unheard of in our beloved genre. Peele’s film succeeds in no small part because of its powerful mix of suspense, mystery, and social relevance.
Related Article: “Get Out” to be Nominated for Golden Globe—As BEST COMEDY?
47 Meters Down (Directed by Johannes Roberts)
Official Synopsis: Young sisters Kate and Lisa and travel to Mexico for a vacation filled with sun, fun and adventure. Lisa needs some extra persuasion when Kate suggests that they go diving in shark-infested waters. Safe in their protective cage, the thrill-seeking siblings come face to face with a group of majestic great whites. Their worst fears soon become a reality when the cage breaks away from their boat, sending them plummeting to the ocean floor with a dwindling supply of oxygen.
While I agree in general with those who claim 2016’s The Shallows is a supremely entertaining shark-centric horror, but in my opinion, 47 Meters Down is superior. While it kicks off with a dismissible after-school-special vibe, it descends into a truly terrifying nightmare with way more balls than The Shallows (which is a literal day on the beach by comparison). The twist, semi-fake-out ending irked some fans, but I loved it; I found the conclusion both nihilistic and triumphant.
Related Article: “47 Meters Down”: The Strange Saga of Mandy Moore Shark Thriller
Raw (Directed by Julia Ducournau)
Official Synopsis: When a young vegetarian undergoes a carnivorous hazing ritual at vet school, an unbidden taste for meat begins to grow in her.
This unflinching body horror is just as grotesque as you probably heard, but it’s the coming of age story (and the relationship between sisters) that makes Raw truly engrossing, compelling, and unforgettable.
Gerald’s Game (Directed by Mike Flanagan)
Official 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.
Gerald’s Game is a powerful and nuanced creeper; a timely examination of gender politics and the long-term effects of assault. Though firmly grounded in reality, the film nonetheless ventures into the supernatural territory that’s Stephen King’s hallmark. Mike Flannagan, who previously directed the horror hits Oculus and Hush, continues his winning streak with Gerald’s Game.
Related Article: “Gerald’s Game”: Ending Explained + Analysis
The Void (Directed by Steven Kostanski and Jeremy Gillespie)
Official Synopsis: Cloaked, cult-like figures trap a police officer (Aaron Poole), patients and staffers inside a hospital that is a gateway to evil.
A love letter to practice FX and an homage to 1980s era horror ala Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator and John Carpenter’s The Thing, The Void is completely unnerving, overflowing with suspense, and utterly Hellraising. Like the other films on this list, The Void succeeds in no small part because of the human drama at its core, specifically a relationship that failed after the death of a child juxtaposed against the untimely arrival of a new baby.
Prevenge (Directed by Alice Lowe)
Official 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.
Prevenge is a horror comedy on the surface, but this is a laugh now, cry later experience. A metaphor for the hijacking of the female body by a fetus, pregnancy is a jumping-off point for a larger exploration of karma, vengeance, and grief. Written, directed, and starring Alice Lowe (the star/writer of Ben Wheatley’s Sightseers) shines in every respect.
A Dark Song (Directed by Liam Gavin)
Official Synopsis: A young woman and a damaged occultist risk their souls to perform a ritual.
Most horror movies involving séances and supernatural invocations produce instant results, which is certainly not the case in A Dark Song. An occult ritual designed to give a broken woman her heart’s darkest desire binds two tortured souls through months-long exercises in meditation, introspection, and anguish. The ending is cathartic, mind-bending, and absolutely unforgettable; A Dark Song is often difficult to endure, but there a tenderness to it that’s genuinely heartwarming.
Creep 2 (Directed by Patrick Kack-Brice)
Official Synopsis: A video artist quickly realizes she has made a mistake when she meets a serial killer in a cabin.
Creep 2 is one of those rare sequels that’s at least as exciting and compelling as its predecessor. This is not a rehash or a quickly slapped-together production looking for a cash-grab. I was stunned by the creativity presented, the unbelievable twists, and the brilliance of the acting. Not only is Creep 2 a powerful viewing experience, it’s the kind of film that worms its way under your skin, remaining in the forefront of your consciousness for days.
It Stains the Sand Red (Directed by Colin Minihan)
Official Synopsis: During a zombie apocalypse, a Las Vegas woman becomes stranded in the desert with a ravenous zombie in pursuit.
It Stains the Sands Red lulls viewers into thinking we’re trekking through gross-out, horror comedy territory, but this flick is surprisingly deep and unexpectedly emotional. Things go from slap-stick to gut-wrenching on a dime, and Act 3 sees a change in focus and momentum that’s nothing short of heroic.
The Evil Within (Directed by Andrew Getty)
Official Synopsis: A lonely and mentally disabled boy who lives with his older brother is urged by a reflection in an antique mirror to go on a murderous rampage.
The emotional backstory surrounding The Evil Within (follow the link below) only enhances what is already a fantastic, sophisticated creeper that doesn’t shy from truly terrifying explorations of secrets, lies, and madness. It’s gripping, disturbing, and beautiful in a way that those who appreciate the macabre will adore. The opening scene is a dream turned nightmare depicting an empty carnival on an infinite desert wasteland; it’s enough to make anyone feel like they’ve taken some bad acid at Burning Man. A spin through a janky, animatronic house of horrors becomes a never-ending descent into a hostile Abyss.
Hounds of Love (Directed by Ben Young)
Official Synopsis: In 1987, murderous couple John and Evelyn roam the streets of Perth, Australia, searching for their latest victim. Fate leads them to Vicki Maloney, a teen who snuck out of her house at night to go to a party. Now held captive in a room, Vicki must use her wits to try and drive a wedge between the crazed duo before they can finish her off.
Fans of horror movies inspired by true-crime will definitely want to check out Hounds of Love, but be warned: This is an emotionally devastating movie. The cinematography is brilliant and milks every moment for maximum intensity. Think The Girl Next Door meets I Spit on Your Grave.
IT: Chapter One (Directed by Andy Muschietti)
Official Synopsis: Seven young outcasts in Derry, Maine, are about to face their worst nightmare — an ancient, shape-shifting evil that emerges from the sewer every 27 years to prey on the town’s children. Banding together over the course of one horrifying summer, the friends must overcome their own personal fears to battle the murderous, bloodthirsty clown known as Pennywise.
IT will absolutely top many lists of the Best Horror Movies of 2017, but it’s also a contender for best genre offering of the 21st Century (so far). Andy Muschietti’s direction is bold and Bill Skarsgård’s Pennywise is instantly iconic. Fans are already chomping at the bit for IT: Chapter 2, scheduled for release on September 6th, 2019.
Related Article: Pennywise Was Supposed to EAT A BABY in Andy Muschietti’s “IT”
Top 5 Disappointments of 2017
The Mummy (Directed by Alex Kurtzman)
Official Synopsis: Nick Morton is a soldier of fortune who plunders ancient sites for timeless artifacts and sells them to the highest bidder. When Nick and his partner come under attack in the Middle East, the ensuing battle accidentally unearths Ahmanet, a betrayed Egyptian princess who was entombed under the desert for thousands of years. With her powers constantly evolving, Morton must now stop the resurrected monster as she embarks on a furious rampage through the streets of London.
The Mummy is pure bubble gum, meaning some will chew it up with glee while others will find the taste saccharine. Fans of superhero franchises will most likely enjoy the mixing of tropes, but The Mummy won’t win over fans of the original Universal classics, nor horror aficionados who like their genre offerings to pack legitimate punches.
Related Article: Screen Crush Recuts “The Mummy” Trailer with Actual Reviews
The Dark Tower (Directed by Nikolaj Arcel)
Official Synopsis: Roland Deschain (Idris Elba), the last Gunslinger, is locked in an eternal battle with Walter O’Dim (Matthew McConaughey), also known as the Man in Black. The Gunslinger must prevent the Man in Black from toppling the Dark Tower, the key that holds the universe together. With the fate of worlds at stake, two men collide in the ultimate battle between good and evil.
Perhaps attempting to condense over half a dozen novels into 90 minutes was a fool’s errand to begin with. It didn’t help that The Dark Tower was rated PG-13. By this point, everyone should be clear on that fact that any film based on a Stephen King story must be Rated-R in order to convey the sheer terror the bestselling author delivers.
Related Article: In His Own Words: STEPHEN KING on Why “The Dark Tower” Movie Failed
Flatliners (Directed by Niels Arden Oplev)
Official Synopsis: Five medical students embark on a daring and dangerous experiment to gain insight into the mystery of what lies beyond the confines of life. The bold adventure begins when they trigger near-death experiences by stopping their hearts for short periods of time. As their trials become more perilous, each must confront the sins from their past while facing the paranormal consequences of journeying to the other side.
The fact that Sony released Flatliners without allowing any advanced reviews, or even a Thursday Night premiere, means the studio had little faith in the film’s ability to perform. And while it’s not as bad as I expected, it’s little more than your average cookie-cutter horror offering, sugar-free genre bubblegum. 1990’s Flatliners wasn’t hardcore, but it was ballsy as hell compared to this remake/reboot/sequel/whatever.
Jigsaw (Directed by Michael Spierig and Peter Spierig)
Official Synopsis: After a series of murders bearing all the markings of the Jigsaw killer, law enforcement officials find themselves chasing the ghost of a man who has been dead for over a decade, and they become embroiled in a new game that’s only just begun. Is John Kramer back from the dead to remind the world to be grateful for the gift of life? Or is this a trap set by a killer with designs of his own?
Jigsaw is the worst installment in the Saw franchise—and that’s really saying something. While it’s always a pleasure seeing Tobin Bell in action, and Hannah Emily Anderson is a scene-stealer who proves she deserves top billing, the movie’s an affront to those of us who love the Saw films the most. It doesn’t work as a prequel, sequel, reboot, or standalone. Worst of all: It’s boring.
Related Article: Top 10 Deadly Traps from the “Saw” Franchise
Alien: Covenant (Directed by Ridley Scott)
Official Synopsis: Bound for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy, members (Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup) of the colony ship Covenant discover what they think to be an uncharted paradise. While there, they meet David (Michael Fassbender), the synthetic survivor of the doomed Prometheus expedition. The mysterious world soon turns dark and dangerous when a hostile alien life-form forces the crew into a deadly fight for survival.
Alien: Covenant should rightly have been called Prometheus 2. Period. Good flick, but still NOT the Alien prequel franchise fans were hoping for (and Ridley Scott promised). Closer, but still no cigar.