The Movie Sleuth's Top 10 Horror Films Of 2017

2017 has been a banner year for the horror genre, with films breaking box office records and also receiving awards recognition. Four horror movies managed to earn more than $100 million domestically; Annabelle: Creation, Split, Get Out, and It. We saw old franchises return in Jigsaw and Leatherface, despite being met with mostly poor receptions. 2017 also had one of the most divisive horror films ever in mother!, which enraged audiences and critics more than The Last Jedi did. Below is our carefully compiled list, collectively voted on by The Movie Sleuth crew.  

10. The Girl With All the Gifts - Directed by Colm McCarthy

The Girls With All the Gifts is a post-apocalyptic zombie movie made with a lot more nuance than is usually found in that sub-genre. Taking place after an infection has caused death and destruction around the world, the film follows soldiers, a scientist and a teacher as they flee a military base looking for safe haven. In their possession is a brilliant infected girl who still has all of her mental capabilities. This is a smart film with very good performances (from Gemma Arterton, Paddy Considine, Glenn Close and especially Sennia Nanua in her feature film debut as the title character) that consistently surprises throughout. The Girl With All the Gifts breathes new life into the zombie film and certainly belongs on any list of the top horror films of 2017. 

9. The Blackcoat's Daughter - Directed by Oz Perkins

I saw this film in early April this year, but eight months later, the visuals still sit on the edge of my mind’s eye. This story has an interesting progression and construction as it tells the tale of two students in a Catholic boarding school. The school is getting ready to close for a break. Kat, the younger of the two students is played by Kieman Shipka); the older of the two, Rose, is played by Lucy Boynton. Lauren Holly and James Remar co-star. The film’s religious themes were very critical to how and why the characters react the way they do. Director Oz Perkins uses flashbacks to fill in a lot of the gory and gruesome details, and the snow, representing purity and cleansing was a very interesting season to choose to shoot the film in. Of course, it was filmed in Canada, so the snow might just be coincidental. The film was exhibited at TIFF in 2015 and was picked up by A24 this year for distribution; something they are exceedingly good at doing The film is now streaming on Amazon Prime . . . . if you dare.

8. The Void - Directed by Jeremy Gillespie

The independently crowdfunded horror film is hardly anything new, with many game players in the film industry making their directorial debuts through homegrown financing. But with the Astron 6 filmmaking team’s The Void, a kind of 80s Lovecraftian smorgasbord of everything from John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness, Stuart Gordon’s From Beyond and a dash of Ken Russell’s Altered States, this may well be the first psychedelic horror film of the crowdfunding era to be catapulted into the mainstream. Boasting a startlingly inventive bevy of practical prosthetic effects, hallucinatory montages and a solid cast of characters including Kenneth Welsh channeling Twin Peaks’ Windom Earle, The Void is at once a throwback to a bygone era of surreal apocalyptic horror and a testament to the lasting value of old fashioned prosthetic grue.

7. Hounds of Love - Directed by Ben Young

Ben Young's Hounds of Love is one of 2017's best surprise. Taking a unique approach to the serial killer drama, Hounds explores the humanity of monsters, taking the viewer into unspeakable corners of the human soul. Emma Booth's award-winning performance as one half of a pair of sexual predators is unforgettable. Featuring an amazing soundtrack and some of the year's best cinematography, Hounds of Love is not to be missed. Currently streaming on Hulu. -KJ

6. The Killing of a Sacred Deer - Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos

Yorgos Lanthimos' The Killing of a Sacred Deer is the most unique horror film of the year. A complex morality play, Deer explores the unforeseen consequences of one's actions. Threaded with the DNA of Stanley Kubrick's The Shining and influenced by the myth of Iphigenia, Deer is masterclass in tension building. Barry Keoghan's (Dunkirk) supporting term as a menacing teenager at the heart of the mystery is absolutely terrifying. -KJ

5. mother! - Directed by Darren Aronofsky

 I saw mother! on opening night with absolutely no idea what I had in store for me. This is the film equivalence of a rollercoaster ride, with a narrative that slowly climbs up a steep hill of escalation before suddenly dropping its hapless viewers down a drop that blasts them with shocking imagery and situations. Jennifer Lawrence is fantastic as Grace, a doting wife who just wants to live a peaceful life which is upended by demanding strangers and her egomaniacal husband Eli (Javier Bardem). Aronofsky wasn’t content to just have a little bit of symbolism, the entire damn film is an allegory, one which operates on several levels. While I wouldn’t categorize this film strictly as horror, the disturbing elements and constant tone-shifting are enough to terrorize anyone. Hold on to your seat, because you are about to get your mind blown. -MK

4. Raw - Directed by  Julia Ducournau

Anaïs Nin once confessed “I take pleasure in my transformations. I look quiet and consistent, but few know how many women there are in me.” However, sometimes this transformation into our true selves can be horrifying as writer/director Julia Ducournau demonstrates. Her latest film Raw takes us on a tumultuous coming of age journey of a young veterinary student who discovers her inner primal cravings after a bloody hazing ritual. Visceral and gory this horror film is not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach. -DM

3. It Comes at Night - Directed by Trey Edward Shults

Post apocalyptic horror is so common place these days that we have all joked about what we would do when the end finally comes. What kind of melee weapon will you choose? Where is the closest gun store? How will you fortify your home? It has become a joke to us because we have seen the themes around the “end of days” played out again and again on the big screen. However, It Comes At Night does not play lip service to the usual apocalyptic clichés. Writer/director Trey Edward Shults shows us that in the end the monsters that live inside of us can be more dangerous than the monsters from which we hide. He exposes the destructive power of paranoia and how it can turn good intentions to evil. As Fredrick Nietzsche wrote, “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gave long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.” -DM

2. IT - Directed by Andy Muschetti

Stephen King adaptations are a dime a dozen but every so often, one of them is a true knockout, one that will be considered an all timer. Andy Muschetti’s adaptation of IT is that knockout. Seven young outcasts in Derry, Maine, are forced to face off against an ancient, shape-shifting evil known as Pennywise 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 and defeat Pennywise. Featuring strong performances from its cast of kids and Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise himself and some memorably terrifying set pieces, IT works not only as a horror film but as a Spielbergian film about coming of age in a small town. -LO 

1. Get Out - Directed by Jordan Peele

It is often said the source of comedy is darkness and anguish, finding room for laughter in the worst possible places. But who would have thought Jordan Peele, the right hand man of comic duo Key and Peele and co-star of the kitten caper comedy Keanu, would re-emerge as arguably the most incisive and trenchant social critic as horror film director of the last ten years? Enter Jordan Peele’s Get Out, the year’s most talked about horror film about an interracial couple and the cultish mentality of the white girl’s parents, which invariably picks up thematically where George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead left off as a critique of casual racism through the prism of the horror formula. Think of Brian Yuzna’s Society without the body horror, instead substituting gross out gags with patronizing platitudes that mask bigotry with smiles. Furthermore, it’s very easy to make a film about black and white racism. It is quite another to make a horror film about the gray area lived in by those wanting to “help” who ultimately only throw more gasoline on the fire. -AK