If there's one consistency in how a studio can find success at the box office, it's to churn out a horror movie of virtually any kind. While 2017 had just as many horror movie releases as subsequent years, the genre proved itself to be a force to be reckoned with, as some of the year's best horror movies earned massive amounts of critical praise and piles of money.
One of the most interesting elements of 2017 horror releases that stands out is that virtually every season had huge hits, starting in January and extending all the way through the end of the year. Releasing a horror movie in October isn't a requirement anymore, with top-tier thrillers resonating with audiences for the last 12 months.
From all-new concepts to adaptations of familiar properties, horror scored some huge hits with tales of the apocalypse, cannibals, the supernatural and Satan.
Check out our picks for the top 10 horror releases of 2017!
The early months of the year are often considered a dumping ground for films, regardless of their genre. Much like many of his films, M. Night Shyamalan's Split shocked audiences not only with its narrative, but also by shattering the myth that only disappointing movies hit theaters early in the year.
In the film, a man with a fractured psyche (James McAvoy) kidnaps multiple young girls in service of a monstrous entity he claims is coming. Bouncing back and forth between the personality of a young boy to a middle-aged woman, the man ultimately unleashes this evil entity from within him, forcing the girls to plot their escape before they can become sacrifices.
McAvoy's performance in this film cannot be understated, as he attacked each personality with a horrifying ferocity, making each character feel as frightening as the next. If the actor's performance alone wasn't powerful enough, Split also revealed itself to be a continuation of 2000's Unbreakable, poising the upcoming sequel of both of those films, Glass, to be one of the most anticipated horror releases of next year.
Much like Split had done the month prior, Get Out completely blew expectations out of the water with its blend of humor and horror from first-time director Jordan Peele, cementing itself as one of the most talked-about films of the entire year.
A nerve-wracking experience for anyone in a relationship, Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and his girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) head to the suburbs for him to meet Rose's family for the first time. Adding to that tension is that he's unaware how her family will react to their interracial relationship, no matter how she tries to quell his apprehension. Chris quickly realizes something isn't right, ultimately unraveling the family's secret agenda that draws inspiration from The Stepford Wives and Night of the Living Dead.
Few filmmakers this year have masterfully manipulated audiences in the ways Peele did with Get Out, a feat made all the more impressive by the fact that this was his directorial debut. The film would regularly shift back and forth between scenes of pure terror to scenes of hilarity, amplifying the unexpected nature of the experience.
When taken at surface value, Get Out is one of the more thrilling experiences a moviegoer could have had this year, and when the social commentary about racism in our society is added in, it's no surprise that the film is one of the most celebrated movies of 2017, sitting at 99-percent positive ratings with nearly 300 reviews on aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes.
From the grit and grime of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre to the psychotic serial killer Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs, cannibals have been a staple of horror films for decades, making it difficult to reinvent the subgenre. In the case of French film Raw, writer/director Julia Ducournau injects style and sophistication to this coming-of-age movie featuring a flesh-eater.
Following in her sister's footsteps, Justine (Garance Marillier) pursues her passion for animals by enrolling in veterinary school and quickly realizes the intensity of her curriculum. Also like her sister, Justine is a vegetarian, carrying her passion for animals into her dietary choices. A fateful experience results in Justine sampling human flesh, awakening dark desires that she realized she had been repressing her whole life.
Horror has often served as a grisly opportunity to create metaphors from human experiences, with Raw seemingly drawing inspiration from a sexual awakening one undergoes when one leaves their family behind to become an adult. Bigger themes aside, Raw delivers an incredibly stylish experience for audiences with gruesome scenes of violence that manage to be both disturbing and romantic.
Horror audiences have always been interested in post-apocalyptic tales, whether they be of the supernatural variety or if they were the result of a terrible disease. Most films focus on society's descent into chaos, while the success of It Comes at Night comes from how it focuses on the horrors one family faces in the relative safety of the wilderness, forcing them to question what makes them human.
An unknown disease has eradicated most of society, with anyone who catches the virus being given a death sentence. When a family finds refuge at their personal cabin, they adhere to strict protocols to ensure their safety. The arrival of a stranger seeking help throws all of these protocols into question as the family must decide if they should put themselves at risk to help others or distance themselves from this new family, practically issuing them a death sentence.
It shouldn't come as a surprise that one of the more successful post-apocalyptic films of the decade focuses on the survival of humanity instead of the cause of the catastrophic event, seeing as The Walking Dead explores similar concepts and themes. It Comes at Night, however, tells a much more insular tale that is so tightly wound that the audiences finds themselves analyzing everything each character says and does to find holes in their story.
Not only is It Comes at Night an entertaining thriller, but it also calls into question how we all approach other people in society, whether we make ourselves vulnerable to potential pain and disappointment, or we close ourselves off from the outside world to ensure personal safety while also depriving ourselves of some of life's greatest joys.
One of the best horror releases of 2017 has also appeared on lists of the best horror of 2015, as The Blackcoat's Daughter (originally titled "February") debuted on the festival circuit two years ago before eventually finding its release. The wait was well worth it, with the film delivering a horrifying tale of obsession at a girls' boarding school during winter vacation.
Unable to spend time with their family, two girls spend a week together in a nearly empty school, with one of them starting to spend far too much time in the facility's basement. Meanwhile, we see another girl seeking the help of a family to get closer to the school, as she doesn't have the resources to make the commute possible. The tension mounts with both groups of characters, building towards a terrifying twist when the details of all these characters' journeys are revealed.
If you're hoping to see a film full of jump scares and monstrous creatures, you'll want to pass on The Blackcoat's Daughter, as the film emphasizes dread to affect its audiences. We see glimpses of the terror that lurks in the narrative's core, yet the filmmaker allows us to fill in the gaps of the story, creating a very effective story of delusion that delivered one of the most compelling final frames of the year.
More often than not, remakes and adaptations of well-known properties go on to disappoint audiences, due in part to the difficulties of improving upon the original. In the case of IT, this year's adaptation of the Stephen King novel managed to both pay its respect to the source novel and 1990 miniseries, but also take the tale to new extremes.
A group of kids in Derry, Maine realize that their town is being plagued by a supernatural entity that emerges every 27 years to terrorize the town's young residents. Not wanting to go down without a fight, these friends, dubbing themselves the "Losers' Club," confront the presence head-on in hopes of putting an end to these horrors.
This year's IT has the advantage of a much larger budget than the miniseries, as well as a longer running time, as the story was broken up into two different parts. This allowed director Andy Muschietti to develop bonds between these young kids in ways the miniseries couldn't, making you grow much more attached to them. Another advantage is this film's R rating allowed it to depict the full range of Pennywise the Dancing Clown's sadistic behaviors, while the miniseries had to adhere to stricter censorship.
The film hits a majority of the original novel's narrative beats, making for a satisfying update on the seminal story of a creepy clown. Actor Bill Skarsgard had a big challenge in front of him when trying to live up to Tim Curry's performance from the series, successfully delivering a character that felt familiar to the clown in the story while also being different enough from Curry's portrayal as to not draw comparisons.
We weren't the only ones who thought IT was one of the most entertaining horror films of the year, as the film has earned nearly $700 million worldwide, with a sequel coming to theaters on September of 2019.
This year saw the release of Alien: Covenant, a prequel to the original Alien, which many audiences had hoped would capture the survival horror of the original film. The installment in the official franchise might not have satiated fans, but Life proved to be a thrilling and entertaining sci-fi horror film in its place.
A group of researchers aboard a space station manages to accomplish the unthinkable and prove conclusively that there is extraterrestrial life in the universe, bringing on board what appears to be a primitive creature. Given that it's a horror film, things don't go quite as expected, and the creature demonstrates its violent survival instincts, escaping its containment unit to explore the ship and kill crew members one by one.
Far from a unique or original concept, Life followed the mold of countless other alien horror films about a group researchers trapped on a space station whose only hope for survival is making it back to Earth. While it might not have been incredibly original, the production value and the talented cast delivered on all of the promises of its premise, with moments that were thrilling, violent and surprising.
Life ended up secretly being the Alien film that many audiences had hoped they were getting with Covenant.
While movies like IT and Life were able to utilize large budgets to accomplish impressive effects, The Void pulled off a thoroughly entertaining film full of impressive special effects on a budget that was a fraction of those larger studio films. For those horror fans who prefer their effects to be practical and disgusting, The Void delivered on a variety of levels.
After a man stumbles out of the woods in front of him, a cop takes him to the local hospital, which is undergoing renovations. Shortly after their arrival, a group of cloaked figures descend upon the hospital, whose motivations are unclear, yet violent. The few people at the facility soon begin to realize the extent of what they're about to be subjected to as they learn a cult has invaded their community with intentions of unlocking a doorway to another dimension filled with immense horror.
For some genre fans, IT might have scratched their itch for late '80s nostalgia, while The Void tapped into another realm of horror that is near and dear to many fans' hearts. From the nightmarish surrealism of filmmaker Lucio Fulci to the terrifying blend of supernatural and fantasy of author H.P. Lovecraft to the thrilling intensity of Assault on Precinct 13, The Void blended some well-known influences into a satisfying cornucopia of terror.
Zombie movies are a dime a dozen, as they merely require a little bit of makeup and some slow shambling to convey the ghouls, which can be both a blessing and a curse to horror fans. Rarely does a new zombie movie come around that offers a new approach to the concept, yet The Girl with All the Gifts delivered just that in its post-apocalyptic dystopia.
The zombie outbreak is in full effect, yet not every victim is affected in the same way. For pregnant women infected by the virus, their fates may be sealed, but their offspring are born as hybrids that may unlock the key to stopping the invasion. The spread of the virus may be somewhat contained, but a group of researchers is forced to bring a unique girl who may be the key they've been looking for through a variety of dangerous and unprotected areas, building to a sophisticated yet surprising conclusion.
Compared to a variety of recent zombie films, The Girl with All the Gifts stands out, yet it accomplishes this through the way its borrowed elements from some of the all-time best zombie films. One key to the film's success is the ways in which society has seemingly learned to cope with the creatures, going so far as to develop a topical cream that masks your scent from the zombies. Additionally, we never see the whole scale of the infection, but rather only focus on the English response to the threats, allowing for more interesting character developments and avoiding the exploration of the wellbeing of the world.
Part Day of the Dead and part 28 Weeks Later, the film is full of fantastic performances from the core ensemble while delivering both familiar narrative beats with shocking reveals.
Arguably the most unsettling horror film this year is one that most people weren't even aware was a horror movie. Filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos' last film, The Lobster, was an absurd romantic comedy set in a dystopia, leaving many dumbfounded as far as what to expect from The Killing of a Sacred Deer. The director managed to shock audiences once again with this disturbing tale of revenge.
Dr. Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell) appears to have it all, from a successful career to an adoring wife (Nicole Kidman) to promising children. He also has a strange relationship with Martin (Barry Keoghan), the nature of which is unclear at first. Once his children are afflicted with a mysterious, debilitating illness, the reason for Martin's presence in Steven's life all becomes clear in this dark and twisted story of payback.
Loosely based on the myth of Iphigenia, Killing of a Sacred Deer's overwhelming dread is inescapable. Audiences are left wondering not only what is happening to Steven's children, but also what he did to deserve this plight and how Martin is directly involved. The performances are subtle and powerful, building to a crescendo that is one of the most depressing sequences put to film this year.
Far from an enjoyable watch, Killing of a Sacred Deer is one of the most affecting films of the year, and likely one you'll never want to see again.