You just can't plan for everything. And one such thing you can't plan for is the undead catching the flu. Who knew it was possible? And it was the reason for our delay of our top horror films of 2017. But...without further delay...
Our top 10 list of films for the year comes with the usual disclaimer; all of these movies may not actually have been released in 2017. Because of our jumping through hoops to see what we can, some movies were released in another country or on the festival circuit in 2016, while others have yet to hit the open market until 2018. 2017 is a fluid number to represent recently released movies we saw this year. So keep that in mind.
10. XX – Anthology films tend to be a go-to for me, no matter how obscure or low-budget. They offer plenty of opportunities to see a home run. The lower the budget, the less likely you are to see something special, but at least you aren’t dragged along for an hour and a half on one poor story. In the case of XX, all 4 are fantastic, in great part due to the expansive subject matter covered. One is a traditional horror piece, another is an intense psychological horror story, another a horror comedy, and another a darkly emotional tale. It was one of the best anthology films in years.
9. The Girl with all the Gifts – Even the best zombie movies today find it difficult to be 100% original, but this film gets pretty dang close with its personal storytelling, great cast and decent apocalyptic concept. The anatomical nature of the zombies vaguely resembles The Last of Us, but the “zombie reforming” twist is what made this movie one-of-a-kind.
8. Annabelle: Creation – This is a sequel of a spinoff. And I went into it with that prejudice. I didn’t expect anything from this movie. And while it’s gotten to the point that there is a mold for James Wan’s style, the mold is effective when done well. This film is an example of when it is done well. And I liked the story, too. It wasn’t as good as The Conjuring 2, but there were some great visuals and moments that made this movie remarkable. I thought it was just riding the wave, and that is partially true inherently, but the quality of the horror and story felt like it was beyond a mere cash-grab.
7. The Devil’s Candy – Few movies this year in the genre moved me like Devil’s Candy. Not since The Babadook do I feel a movie conveyed emotion through the vehicle of horror like Devil’s Candy did. Ethan Embry gives a great performance, but Shiri Appleby and Kiara Glasco really define the family dynamic that drives this film’s soul. The always reliable Pruitt Taylor Vince does a fantastic job. This film gave me the peaks of hope and the valleys of hopelessness throughout its runtime. Such an impactful film in the genre and perhaps a bit underrated.
6. Trench 11 – This was my favorite film from Telluride Horror Show this year. The horror elements played perfectly into a microcosm perspective on the soldier experience and sentiment of World War I. It did a lot with a small budget and accomplished some solid horror moments.
5. The Babysitter – This traditional horror comedy was one of the most superficially entertaining horror movies of the year, and sometimes that’s all you’re looking for. That isn’t to say it wasn’t a quality production. Everything was good-if-not-great from top to bottom, it just wasn’t designed to blow your mind or deliver something consequential. Still, it was one of the films I recommended more commonly to others.
4. Split – Despite its controversy of being offensive and insensitive to certain mental disorders (personally, I feel like the issues are exaggerated for a fictional piece), Split was a master class in psychological horror. Shayamalan found his storytelling groove again and McAvoy gave a career performance.
3. The Void – I have to give props to the film that delivered the best practical effects this side of IT on a budget that was a fraction of the size. This is what I was hoping Harbinger Down would be a couple of years back. The acting isn’t great as it works off a moderate script, but the story is decent and we get plenty of gruesome effects along the way. The Lovecraftian-esque tale does a pretty good job of delivering exactly what I expect from a style that is hard to translate to film.
2. Get Out – Easily the most praised horror film of the year, this film deserves the accolades it got, and probably more. Its commentary on our current social state as a country was effective, balanced with some unsettling scenes and quality comedy. The writing and acting carry this film, and it makes us very excited for what Jordan Peele has for us next.
1. IT – Sometimes remakes are cursed from the beginning because elements of the original set too high of a bar. That was the case with IT, in particular Tim Curry’s performance as Pennywise. And while I wouldn’t say Bill Skarsgard outperformed Curry, he did a good enough job that the film’s improvements in almost all other categories made it a remake that far out-did the original adaptation. Take the remake and adaptation variables out of the equation. This was the best horror movie of the year. It was frightening, it had charm, the effects were great, it had original elements while paying proper homage across the board. It was what a remake should be, but also what a Stephen King adaptation should be. There was a lot this film did to prove these concepts can be done right and excel.
Honorable Mentions: The Endless (This director duo is becoming famous for their effective minimalist horror, and this one was no different, but the traditional horror is definitely minimal), Alien: Covenant (It improved on Prometheus, but still lacked the magic of the original films), The Shape of Water (one of my favorite films of the year, but it doesn’t hold the necessary criteria to hit the pure horror mark).
This was an incredibly successful year in horror fiscally. That bodes well for the future of our genre. The generally low budgets of horror films encourage even the most penny-pinching of studios to give them a shot. Hopefully, this will bring about more original and high-quality films. Here’s to a great 2018!