Horror fans have been blessed in recent years with a bountiful harvest of their favorite genre. In fact, Rotten Tomatoes recently determined 2016 was one of the best years for horrorever. I would argue that 2017 has already produced a crop equal in quantity and quality. From zombie children and dancing clowns to killer aliens and other unwanted guests, here are 10 of the best horror films of the year! Hopefully, you can find the right one for your viewing party this Halloween.
1. The Blackcoat’s Daughter
Synopsis: Two girls must battle a mysterious evil force when they get left behind at their boarding school over winter break.
Why Should I Watch It?: Osgood Perkin’s directorial debut is a moody character piece that methodically takes shape. This is filmmaking by degrees as a creepy chill registers on the barometer long before the shocking scenes begin. The minimal cast turns in some fine work as mysteries are explored and answers lurk just out of focus in the corner.
Synopsis: It’s time for a young African American to meet with his white girlfriend’s parents for a weekend in their secluded estate in the woods, but before long, the friendly and polite ambience will give way to a nightmare.
Why Should I Watch It?: Daniel Kaluuya (Sicario and Black Mirror) gives a star making performance in this twisted collision of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? and The Stepford Wives. Jordan Peele, of Key and Peele fame, proves he’s a writer/director to be reckoned as he blends comedic scenarios within a truly American horror story. This is one of the year’s most talked about films and you should definitely join the conversation.
Synopsis: A scientist and a teacher living in a dystopian future embark on a journey of survival with a special young girl named Melanie.
Why Should I Watch It?: After last year’s Train to Busan I wondered how long we would have to wait for another great zombie film – as it turns out, not long at all. Newcomer Sennia Nanua shows incredible promise as Melanie, one of many infected children who are detained and experimented on in a diseased dystopia. The Girl with All the Gifts does a commendable job breathing new life and new rules into the overrun sub-genre. It packs an entire season’s worth of plot development and character arcs into one pretty, feature-length package.
Synopsis: A group of bullied kids band together when a shapeshifting demon, taking the appearance of a clown, begins hunting children.
Why Should I Watch It?: Pennywise the Dancing Clown already had real estate in our collective nightmares, be it from the 1990 miniseries or Stephen King’s original novel. Now Bill Skarsgård dons the make-up, giving the legendary character a second wind. The terrific ensemble of child actors provide a reason to care in this small town’s struggle between good and evil. It’s other secret weapon is being an entertaining film, first and foremost, all while setting up one big scare after another.
Synopsis: Secure within a desolate home as an unnatural threat terrorizes the world, a man has established a tenuous domestic order with his wife and son. Then a desperate young family arrives seeking refuge.
Why Should I Watch It?: There have been numerous apocalyptic films in recent years, so it take something truly special to stand apart. Set on the fringes of society this familial drama runs as taut as it is tense. It begins with a tragedy that hangs over the rest of the film, establishing a sense of dread for one of the smartest horror films in years. Writer/director Trey Edward Shults was already on my radar after last year’s unique thriller Krisha (also distributed by A24); I can’t wait to see what he brings to the genre next.
Synopsis: Steven, a charismatic surgeon, is forced to make an unthinkable sacrifice after his life starts to fall apart, when the behavior of a teenage boy he has taken under his wing turns sinister.
Why Should I Watch It?: Greek auteur Yorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth and The Lobster) always dreams up insane premises for his films and this one is no exception. It begins with a graphic shot of open heart surgery, as if to root itself in the real world with real human beings. What follows will lead you to question everything. Weeks after seeing it, I’m still turning it over in my mind. If that sounds like something up your alley, look no further.
Synopsis: A team of scientists aboard the International Space Station discover a rapidly evolving life form that caused extinction on Mars and now threatens all life on Earth.
Why Should I Watch It?: This came out early in the year and never received the audience it deserves (the generic title probably didn’t do it any favors). Regardless, this feels more like a spiritual reboot of Ridley Scott’s Alien than the likes of Prometheus and Alien: Covenant. Once the creature is loose on the ship a series of claustrophobic terrors ensue. If nothing else, Life has one of the most memorable closing scenes of the year – it still sends a tingle down my spine just thinking about it!
Synopsis: A couple’s relationship is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home, disrupting their tranquil existence.
Why Should I Watch It?: Full disclosure – this is undoubtedly the most divisive film on this list. Darren Aronofsky’s experimental allegory left some people booing in the theater and left others proclaiming it a masterpiece. This is a slice of existential horror that starts as a slow burn before building to a raging bonfire of emotions. If nothing else, it’s worth seeing one of the biggest risks taken by a major studio (Paramount) in quite some time.
Synopsis: When a young vegetarian undergoes a carnivorous hazing ritual at vet school, an unbidden taste for meat begins to grow in her.
Why Should I Watch It?: This is not one for the weak of stomach. Reportedly, some viewers fainted during a screening at the Toronto International Film Festival. Horror fans might consider that to be a “badge of honor” and will immediately flock towards Raw. If you’re still not convinced, note that this is a clever take on the college experience, from hazing rituals to redefining your lifestyle(s). This directorial debut left me hungry for whatever Julia Ducournau serves up next.
Synopsis: Three girls are kidnapped by a man with a diagnosed 23 distinct personalities. They must try to escape before the apparent emergence of a frightful new 24th.
Why Should I Watch It?: Slowly, but surely, M. Night Shyamalan is rebuilding his reputation as a storyteller and a household name. The narrative unfolds tactfully as we learn key information about the main characters. James McAvoy landed an actor’s dream role and there is much enjoyment to be had watching him work. I’m not going to spoil it here, but Shyamalan may have pulled off his best twist yet with this one.