While 2017 was full of terrible events, the films of 2017 were quite better than one would expect. horror film wise, there were plenty of contenders for best of the year. 2017 was a horrible year for humanity, but filmwise this year was full of phenomenal examples for the genre. There were plenty that I wanted to mention after the honorable mentions, but they had to be cut. Here are all the films that really exemplified the crazy, destructive year that was 2017. Starting with…
10. THE EVIL WITHIN
The Evil Within was a curiosity. When it originally started filming in 2002 and finished in 2008, The Evil Within was a maddening experiment that went into the year with a sense of entitlement. Writer/director Andrew Getty – one of a few grandsons of oil tycoon J. Paul Getty – was editing this right up until his meth addiction induced death in 2015 before it was finally released this year. All of the horror comes from the elaborate paranoia of one man hoping for escape from his fantasies that may be more real than they imply. There’s so much hand maid madness within The Evil Within, all of which is full of personal fear. It’s clearly a first film, but one unlike anything else out there.
9. The Void
The Void is an elaborate nightmare in time. One can compare it to John Carpenter-style nightmares of horror and Lovecraftian style terror. The practical effects work on display is monumental in terms of its craft and ability to terrify with tactile monsters. The claustrophobia is taut and clearly felt on every level. Yet, one can’t help but be compelled by all the madness unfolding. An 80s throwback without creative bankruptcy.
8. The Girl With All The Gifts
A phenomenal twist on the zombie genre, The Girl With All The Gifts is a film about accepting the future. Treating zombification as more of an evolutionary step rather than a disease. Young Sennia Nanuna goes toe to toe with great actors like Paddy Considine & Glenn Close to show the intelligence and compassion she has, which contrasts wonderfully with the human cruelty on display. Feels especially relevant during our modern political discourse. Something horror is incredibly precise about when it wants to be.
7. The Devil’s Candy
The Devil’s Candy is character driven horror at its finest. The scares come from investment and empathy, even with our disturbed villain. Ethan Embry delivers one of the year’s best performances as a man trying to grasp the horrors in his head. That being said, Pruitt Taylor Vince as a deranged killer under some disturbed influence and Shiri Appleby as Embry’s daughter shouldn’t be counted out, though. Also has one of the most metal moments in cinematic history during the climax.
mother! is Darren Aronofsky’s Halloween Horror Nights maze for our times. Every corner leads to a new horror that puts a mirror not just to us, but also Aronofsky himself. While many have talked about the biblical interpretations of this narrative, mother! is also about religion, politics, gender roles, war, famine, murder, parenthood and so many other thematic concepts that one can get lost in the barrage of ideas Aronofsky is throwing at the screen. There’s plenty of ways to interpret, but the central motif of society run amuck is consistent & chilling. The divisiveness of this one is totally understandable, but one can’t dismiss the audacity that makes this on a unique ride.
5. The Shape of Water
Guillermo del Toro blends every genre under the sun & magically makes this coalesce into a gorgeous adult fairy tale. Shades of sci-fi, romance, horror and film noir stew in del Toro’s pot until he unleashes the onions to get you right in the feels. Every member of this cast is phenomenal, but Doug Jones needs more love as the Creature from the Black Lagoon creature who forms a very touching romance with Sally Hawkins despite obvious barriers. This breathtaking tribute to Old Hollywood grounds itself in deconstructing the idea of success from this older perspective. It’s a great example of how to commenting on the concept of modern disenfranchisement through a genre lense.
The best recurring theme of the horror films from 2017 was the strong female characters fighting institutions of patriarchy. With Colossal, we see this on display as grand scale is given small yet crucial vital stakes. Anne Hathaway delivers one of the best performances of her career as an alcoholic wading through life without much purpose or direction. Her journey isn’t one with major life changes as much as it is awareness, not just of her own foibles but how others treat her. This gives Jason Sudeikis the chance to deliver one of the best performances of the year, consolidating toxic masculinity into one nuanced role that uses his affable charm to great misdirective effect. Writer/director Nacho Vigalondo has created something that may not seem horrific, but really digs its nails into the monstrous ways people have been treating each other. The kaiju is merely a conduit for that theme.
3. Twin Peaks The Return
The line between what constitutes a film or not has been debated hotly with the end of the year amongst online contributors. If there’s ever been anything to make this debate more solidified, it’s Twin Peaks The Return. The most divisive & daring example of television to come out this year. David Lynch imbued this revival with so much imagery that lead to discussion which may have ultimately been a major troll, but the work itself still says so much about our modern age. The misogyny, corporate greed, collapsing family dynamics, corruption of innocence & general reliance on nostalgia that no longer matters in our modern landscape is all on display in admittedly cryptic fashions here. While it does stretch out over 18 hours, Twin Peaks The Return still feels like a film in elongated time. Stretching out while flying so fast on the screen proper.
2. Get Out
Socially relevant horror hasn’t been this on point in decades. Writer/director Jordan Peele takes the concept of a “post-racial America” and deconstructs that with such nuance and a small budget. The genre thrills are elegantly constructed, but they’re all in purpose of taking the concepts at play and directly confronting the audience with truths hidden within the horror. Yet, it’s also a massive crowd pleaser. This is exactly what the horror genre should be doing, especially with Jason Blum giving a small budget so much creative freedom. Of all the films on this list, I suspect Get Out will be the one discussed most decades down the line.
1. A Ghost Story
Devastatingly artful look at how humans think about death. Writer/director David Lowery takes the afterlife as a never ending gaze. Our ghost watches as humanity moves forward, forgets individuals/their artistic works & cycles all over again. Especially as his own wife (Rooney Mara, who downs an entire pie in one of the year’s most daring single takes) grieves and moves on. Even while being quiet and contemplative, it’s clear Lowery loves horror films and uses the trappings of a haunted house story to explore brutal horrific truths about humanity. The themes of A Ghost Story cover concepts that are large and bombastic, but in a powerful & refreshingly quiet way.
Before we head out, here are some honorable mentions:
- Creep 2: Takes the concepts of the original & adds a far more engaging protagonist into the mix. Allows for a far more engaging dynamic based in gender & a weakness for dominance. Mark Duplass is chilling yet believably sad in ways that make watching him consistently mesmerizing.
- It: The most popular of many Stephen King adaptations from 2017 and truly the greatest surprise. Bill Skarsgard redefines Pennywise as far more of a creature fighting for survival, making his assault on the kids far more impactful. Blows the mini-series out of the water.
- 68 Kill: Crime thriller with a Troma horror comedy bent that’s full of highly enjoyable twists. Also does a fantastic job of examining gender roles while keeping the breakneck pace. Has the best limb severing of any film this year.
- Gerald’s Game: Aside from an ending that felt completely unnecessary, this was a stand out in a year crowded with great Stephen King adaptations. Carla Gugino gives the performance of her career. Mike Flanagan continues to be a great force for the genre.
- 1922: The most underrated of the Stephen King adaptations this year. Thomas Jane is nuanced, disturbed & tragic. More drama than horror, but the drama feeds the horror perfectly