2017 was a big year for horror movies, with films like Split, Get Out, and Stephen King’s IT raking in record-setting box office dollars. Meanwhile, a set of smaller, independent nightmares made major splashes with fans and critics alike. The year also saw a surprising variety in the types of horror movies that got released, from slasher throwbacks and ghost movie sequels to cutting social commentary and blood-soaked gorefests. So without further ado, here are 13 of the best horror movies to hit the big (or small) screen in 2017.
13. Cult of Chucky
While never quite weird enough to fully justify its own existence, the fact that the Chucky franchise is still going strong almost 30 years down the line, with the original writer still behind the wheel, makes this something unique.
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12. The Belko Experiment
With James Gunn’s (Guardians of the Galaxy) name on the byline, it’s no surprise that The Belko Experiment is as much black comedy as horror, or that it’s staffed by a roster of Gunn regulars. But while Severance (2006) may have beaten it slightly to its “Office Space meets Battle Royale” punch, there’s still enough meat left on the bone to make an enjoyable meal.
11. The Blackcoat's Daughter
From the writer/director of I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, Blackcoat’s Daughter gives us a solemn, haunting variation on the possession theme filled with plenty of potent imagery and subdued performances—even if savvy viewers may see the twist ending coming from quite a long way off.
10. The Devil's Candy
Yeah, the demonic heavy metal conceit of Devil’s Candy may feel a bit hoary by now, but there’s still a lot to like here for fans of intense, atmospheric horror and droning guitar.
9. Happy Death Day
Sure, Happy Death Day is (more than) a little shaky on the dismount, and never exploits its weird premise as much as it should. Yet the idea of a Groundhog Day-style time-loop slasher is so glorious that it stands strong even if the delivery lets some down.
8. Annabelle: Creation
Like last year’s Ouija: Origin of Evil, this is the rare sequel (or prequel, actually) that vastly surpasses its progenitor. While Annabelle: Creation may still suffer a bit from ghost movie fatigue (it is, after all, technically the fourth movie to spin out from The Conjuring), it is full of indelible scare scenes that really work, even, and sometimes especially, when they’ve been set up in advance.
This was a good year for Stephen King adaptations. IT made waves by making all the money in the world, becoming one of the highest grossing horror movies of all time. It accomplishes this partly via Stranger Things–style nostalgia tapping, but there’s no denying that when IT works, it really works—thanks in no small part to Bill Skarsgard’s jittery, animalistic portrayal of Pennywise the Dancing Clown.
6. The Girl with All the Gifts
The zombie movie fad seems to have fizzled in the last few years, which is probably for the best. And while the walking dead may be dominated right now by, well, AMC's The Walking Dead, 2017 did deliver a couple of the most innovative zombie movies in recent years. The Girl with All the Gifts may be the most inventive one of the bunch. Though the look of the film and its British setting call to mind 28 Days Later, the story is very much its own thing.
Some movies push boundaries simply for the purposes of shock value, while others do it in the service of some greater narrative. Raw falls firmly into the latter category, even if it still is definitely not for the squeamish.
4. They Remain
Philip Gelatt (writer of Europa Report) writes and directs the first official adaptation of a Laird Barron story (because Kill List and Sicario don’t count, no matter how much they feel like they do) and knocks it out of the park. A beautiful, meticulous, intentionally abstract and recursive film that will probably divide a lot of viewers, but will amply reward those who are willing to meet it where it is.
3. Gerald's Game
The ever-reliable Mike Flanagan realizes his passion project in adapting Stephen King’s novel into what is essentially a single-location, two-person play. The result is a haunting meditation on the lingering effects of trauma, with at least one moment of visceral horror that isn’t for the weak of stomach or heart.
2. Better Watch Out
The holidays have long proven a fertile ground for horror flicks, and the latest classic to add a little red to a white Christmas is Better Watch Out, a vicious twist on Home Alone best experienced by knowing as little about it as possible. If you haven’t seen the trailers, try not to, as they give away some of the film’s best reveals.
1. Get Out
When I walked out of the theater after seeing Get Out, one of the first things I said was, “I’ve gotta stop watching the best movie I’m going to see all year in February.” So far nothing has come along to prove me wrong on that front. Even if you could somehow strip out the social commentary, Get Out would still be a genuine horror classic, made all the more so by the fact that ignoring the commentary is a practical impossibility.
This list certainly isn’t exhaustive. A few honorable mentions include Tragedy Girls, Split, and Transfiguration. We’re always on the lookout for new flicks to watch, so be sure to tell us about your favorite horror movies of 2017 in the comments!
Featured still from "IT" via New Line Cinema