5. It Comes at Night
Trey Edward Shults shied away from horror conventions for It Comes at Night, which is an unusual tale set after a horrific disease has ravaged the human population. It’s a thoughtful horror tale that maintains its scares while mining considerable tension from the central plot of two families forming an uneasy alliance in order to share resources while civilisation falls apart.
Joel Edgerton delivers a grizzled, complex performance as the patriarch fiercely defending his own family against anything that could threaten them. It’s an ambiguous and creeping story, building to a solemn finale that twists the knife with the confidence of a filmmaker who knows exactly the movie he is making.
The trailers for It broke records on YouTube and it quickly became the highest-grossing horror movie of all time, without adjusting for inflation. Bill Skarsgård has the courage to step entirely away from Tim Curry’s memorable Pennywise in order to produce a completely different take on the menacing clown. It’s the rarest of things in that it’s a true blockbuster horror movie, which takes serious risks in telling its dark story in a way that’s tough, but palatable for a wide audience.
Stephen King’s story is told with plenty of comedy and the interplay between its young cast members ensures there’s emotion behind the characters. Sophia Lillis is the standout as the sole female member of the Losers Club at the centre of the film, though Stranger Things actor Finn Wolfhard certainly makes an impact with his childish banter. The inevitable sequel has a hard act to follow.
3. Gerald’s Game
It might not have received the publicity of the year’s other Stephen King adaptations, but Gerald’s Game is a remarkable horror film with real scares. Oculus director Mike Flanagan makes the most of the freedom afforded by a Netflix release to craft a movie that uses internal monologues and hallucinations to illuminate the struggles of a woman left alone and handcuffed to her bed when her husband dies of a heart attack during a sex game.
Carla Gugino’s central performance is a delight and it comes into its own with one of the most shocking moments of movie gore from the entire year in the final act. The extended coda, which has attracted criticism from many, actually deepens the story a step further and gifts Gugino a final line that really emphasises the themes of female empowerment.
Cinema experiences like mother! don’t come around very often. Darren Aronofsky’s cabin fever horror explores themes of religion, fame, creativity and the environment while creating a film of muscular physicality. It’s capable of inducing heartburn with its disorientating and downright brutal tone, as well as Jennifer Lawrence’s heart-breaking central turn and Javier Bardem’s mercurial leading man.
This certainly isn’t a film that everybody will enjoy but, for those willing to go along with it, mother! is a completely unique big screen horror experience. It stays with you long after the credits roll and nests in your brain for days.
1. Get Out
Here it is, the best horror movie of 2017. Jordan Peele made his debut as a feature writer-director with this hugely accomplished tale of racial prejudice behind the liberal facade of suburban America. Daniel Kaluuya excels as the young black man who finds himself embroiled in a terrifying conspiracy when he goes to meet his girlfriend’s white parents. Catherine Keener is a standout as the tea-stirring psychiatrist, while Allison Williams manages to flip her character perfectly.
Peele brings a perfect combination of genuine terror and slyly satirical comedy to Get Out. The scary set pieces are horrific and the script is packed with socially aware quips. It’s also a film that rewards rewatches, with Easter eggs and hidden meanings lurking below the surface.
Of all of the horror movies released this year, this is the one that stands a chance at winning the genre the awards recognition it has been starved of since Silence of the Lambs. It has already nabbed prizes at the Gotham Awards and has been a fixture in screenplay categories across the board. Get Out deserves all of the credit it has received and many more besides that.
Tom Beasley is a freelance film journalist and wrestling fan. Follow him on Twitter via @TomJBeasley for movie opinions, wrestling stuff and puns.