It’s that time of the (new) year again. 2017 was a surprisingly strong year for horror flicks. Once you got past duds like the latest Resident Evil and Underworld installments, horror hit its stride with a slew of stellar releases, one of them already on most classics lists. Many of my favorites came out between January and April, which is not the norm. I had a hard time whittling my list down to 13, and some real quality movies just missed the final cut. Basically, I ranked movies based on how much they lingered with me long after the final credits rolled on. There are some controversial picks on here, so strap in and get ready…
#13 – CREEP 2
Mark Duplass is one hawk-eyed lunatic. I loved Creep and was anxious to see what he did with the sequel. Let me tell you, Creep 2 did not disappoint. Stakes were upped, strangeness got, er, stranger, and Peach Fuzz made a reappearance! Best watched in a hot tub with a serial killer.
#12 – SUPER DARK TIMES
As My Chemical Romance once sang, “Teenagers scare the living shit out of me.” This one creeped me out because it seemed so damn real…and terrifying. Set in upstate New York, it’s bleak both in imagery and tone. You’ll remember kids you grew up with that were just like the cast presented here, and you’ll think, “crap, this could have happened to me.” This is one that will stick with you for a long, long time.
#11 – THE DEVIL’S CANDY
From the director who gave us one of my favorite movies, The Loved Ones, this one was on my top 10 list for most of the year, getting bumped at the very end. Ethan Embry gives a stellar performance as a struggling artist caught between a rock and a devilish place. Filled with awesome metal guitar licks and psycho imagery, it’s a can’t miss.
#10 – GERALD’S GAME
2017 was inarguably the year of Stephen King. Unlike most people, IT won’t be on my list. But the adept direction of Mike Flanagan brought King’s most difficult book to life, anchored by the performance of the year by Carla Gugino. It also had the most cringe-inducing scene of the year, bar none. Netflix has knocked another one out of the park. I also suggest you head on over to Netflix to check out another King adaptation, 1922. It’s bleak and haunting, so have plenty of booze on hand.
#9 – SPLIT
Thanks to The Visit, I was chomping at the bit to see M. Night Shyamalan’s newest venture into horror. James McAvoy is brilliant, his multiple personalities putting us all on edge from start to finish. There’s not a wasted frame of film in this tight, suspenseful hostage drama with an ending that had people shouting “holy shit!” at the screen.
#8 – LIFE
I have to say, this one surprised me the most. When I saw the coming attractions, I was like, meh. Boy, was I wrong. Life is the best monster movie of the year. I tell folks it’s like Alien, only brighter and prettier. The creature in this space opera is terrifying and there are some super-sweat-inducing moments. Best of all, they nailed the ending. Life breathed life into the monster movie!
#7 – A DARK SONG
In any other year, A Dark Song might be my top pick. How can I describe it? Dark. Desperate. Bizarre. Creepy. A grieving mother hires a man experienced in the dark arts to bring her son back so she can talk to him one more time and get his forgiveness. You never know whether the shaman is full of shit or the real deal, and what he puts her through is truly torturous. A fantastic movie.
#6 – THE SHAPE OF WATER
Having known about this movie for some time, I had penciled it in as my favorite movie of the year way back in March. It didn’t quite make it, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a beautiful movie to behold. Imagine a love story between the Creature from the Black Lagoon and a mute cleaning woman. It’s lush and dreamy and at times achingly beautiful, so much so that it’s on the fringe of a true horror movie. Guillermo Del Toro is a master storyteller and his visual aesthetic is this side of stunning. I’m pretty sure I’d love this movie even if the sound was off.
#5 – THE BELKO EXPERIMENT
Now, this is my kind of horror. We all think of the work place as one of the inner circles of hell. Well, your warren of cubicles and backbiting co-workers has nothing on Belko. It’s gleefully insane, bloody and gripping. I rarely watch a movie more than once in a year, but I’ve already seen it three times. The Belko Experiment takes no prisoners. Literally.
#4 – THE BLACK COAT’S DAUGHTER
I can’t say enough good things about this atmospheric, haunting tale by Oz Perkins (son of Anthony “Psycho” Perkins). With a miniscule but fantastic cast, this is one that will linger with you for a long while. The sense of isolation in this blizzard-wracked girl’s academy will leave you shivering. I have to admit, this one bothered me for days. I watched it again to see if I could dispel the feeling, and it only got worse! It also has one of the most realistic and brutal kills of the year. Watch it now!
#3 – GET OUT
Look, I know this is going to be #1 on 90% of lists you see. Don’t get me wrong, it deserves it. Get Out is an instant classic, a Rosemary’s Baby-esque romp into dark territory and creeping dread. I loved it. Jordan Peele knows his horror and has his pulse on the stuttering heartbeat of American society. It’s crackling smart and witty and will keep you guessing all the way to the end. Everyone who loves horror needs to watch this one.
#2 – MOTHER!
I’m not going to lie, this is the most controversial movie I’ve seen in a good long while. Is it horror? It is for me. The building tension and utter confusion had my heart racing for most of the movie. Jennifer Lawrence is simply amazing in her portrayal of a woman in love beset by people and events of Biblical proportions (there’s a hint for you). No movie has set my brain on fire more than Mother! – ever. Not to mention, there are a few scenes that left me breathless and wishing I’d averted my eyes. And that’s coming from an old, jaded horror hound. I can’t recommend this for everyone, but I feel in my gut it’s going to be the kind of movie people talk about and dissect for generations.
#1 – RAW
Yeah, I’m just as surprised that this French import has made the top of my list. Set in a veterinary school that looks like a post-apocalyptic academy run by MDMA-fueled lunatics, Raw was a punch to the gut. Again, we have a small yet killer cast (the Oscars never looking to the genre for best actors is just one of many reasons it’s a sham), off-kilter storyline and moments of incredible gross-outs that easily made it my movie to least forget in 2017. Subsequent viewings have only made it even better. Raw will be on my steady viewing rotation from here until I’m rotting and raw meat.
HAPPY DEATH DAY
Just like The Autopsy of Jane Doe from a couple of years ago, I didn’t see this one until recently, after I had compiled my list. Rather than revamp the entire list, I decided to give it an honorable mention. A self-aware horror take on Groundhog Day, this is witty and fun and guaranteed to make you jump a few times. Shit, even out cat hit the ceiling at one point. If you’re a fan of The Final Girls, you’ll love this.
What do you think of the list? How does it compare to your own? How many have you already seen?
But wait, there’s more! Still looking for more horror movies to catch up on? Take a gander at my Final Guys podcast where I present a slightly different list, along with my partners in crime. Happy bingeing!